The River

Lately I’ve given myself over to a pull I’ve resisted for a very long time. I’m floating in a calm, clear river, carried by the water’s flow and whirls and moods. I don’t know where I’m going, and for once, that doesn’t bother me.

I’m uneasy about the apparent lack of ‘doing’. My closest are too. But I’m learning to trust that I’m doing something very important and very profound, just very quietly. The action is taking place inside and I feel the searching, finding, growing and healing happening in cyclic swells.

I wonder whether it’s wartime, British pragmatism that taught us we ‘must keep going’, ‘mustn’t grumble’, ‘stiff upper lip’. The immediacy of the danger and disaster has receded and yet we still frantically propel ourselves while squashing our instincts into a too-small box. I’ve found myself telling so many distressed friends that it’s ok to stop, be still, withdraw and nurture. To lick our wounds. To create a safe cocoon for a little while. We feel so much anguish when we resist this. Then we feel guilt when we yield. We see this as giving up, of not being able to handle everything. I’m trying to free myself and my friends from this mindset. It’s not doing nothing. It’s not hiding from the world. It’s listening to ourselves and caring for our needs in a gentle, comforting way. It’s no less valid step towards health than doing something others would more easily recognise as being ‘good for you’. To hold yourself close with tenderness is not failing, it’s flying.

I think these summons inwards happen when we’re on an unsustainable path. If we ignore these calls, we risk not hearing an important announcement to ourselves. I didn’t know, until I stopped struggling and started floating, that there were so many sharp corners in my life that I had been repeatedly running into. I forged the path I had been on so long ago that I’d neglected to check it was still the one of least resistance. I have changed and that life doesn’t fit anymore, and I can’t force it too. As I float, I can find new paths led by this change, by curiosity and passion, based on my now, instead of my then.

And so I keep floating. Outwardly restful, inwardly calmly observing and learning. I didn’t know how much I was missing about myself, how much I was yearning for things I wasn’t making time for. Somehow, I had stamped out whimsy and creativity. This was the cost of the contortion it was taking to keep charging ahead. To have stilled long enough to make these discoveries is affirming of the decision I made against the concerned resistance of my driven mind. I’ve never felt such lightness and happiness.

The time will come for me to swim again. Until then, the sounds and the smells of the gentle river are a tonic to my burnt out, injured body. I don’t know where I’m going, but trusting my instincts is what is keeping me afloat.

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