HOW TO BUILD A LIFE RAFT
I tried to write my first newsletter of 2022 for two weeks and it just wasn’t happening. It was supposed to be about simplicity and gentleness and reflecting on what we want to carry with us going forward. It was supposed to be uplifting but the truth is, I’m feeling pretty defeated at the moment.
At the very beginning of January, I participated in a planning workshop for the year ahead and it brought me into sudden and unexpected contact with how much grief I have for all the things that keep being taken away. The Covid context has given me the time and means to launch new things, but has also been a big barrier to seeing them grow. It’s like a big old palm in the face of expanding my practice because finding new clients means meeting new people out in the world and that just isn’t happening at the moment. Also the studio where I provide screen printing programming and services needs to keep restricting access for reasons I completely agree with, but it still sucks. I don’t want advice, or possible solutions, or ideas on how to pivot. I am not pivot positive right now. I just want to grieve.
I’m not just sad for the loss of “work” opportunities but because these opportunities are places where I feel connected and like things matter. It’s so easy to lose track of what matters when it doesn’t seem to stick around. I’m tired of the work it takes to do my work. I just want something to stay the same for a few minutes. I also want to know how to drive so I can drive away and go lay down in a forest and forget about my belongings and live in a cave with my cats. I think I’m too soft for this in reality, but the urge exists. All the urges that exist for me right now are about the hush of the wilderness and fire and cold air in my lungs. My solitude is making me crave even deeper solitude. My grief wants no distractions.
I don’t want to “spin” this or craft it into an opportunity for lessons about suffering. That is not where my hope lives right now. Sometimes I wonder if the spiritual project gets co-opted by the productivity narrative and the search for “gifts” is just another way we contribute to the machine plodding forward toward more of the same. My hope lives in being as quiet and slow as possible and letting myself be sad.
In a process of reparenting ourselves, there comes a time, or many times, when we finally feel safe enough to hold things that have been too hard to hold. Things that felt too dangerous or unbearable. We create the conditions where those old hurts are able to float up to the surface and if we keep doing our jobs, we tend to them as they arise. This grief feels both new and old (as I’ve learned is often the case for me) and all I can do is ask what it needs. The answer might be as simple as a sandwich.
When I was a child, my father’s best friend, Skeetz, owned a restaurant in downtown Kingston called Sunflower Kitchen. One of my favourite things to eat there was cheese, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts on homemade whole wheat bread. It remains a perfect sandwich in my opinion.
I recently came the closest I’ve come to recreating this childhood version by making my first soda bread using The Great British Baking Show judge, Paul Hollywood’s recipe (obviously). This bread is simple, fast, and richly satisfying. The first slice of my baby loaf was slathered in butter and devoured. I also got a sprouting jar over the holidays and grew my own alfalfa sprouts so the next two slices of bread were topped with cheese, tomato, and a mountain of sprouts. This sandwich ticked so many nostalgia and nourishment boxes. It also reminded me how simple gestures of meaningful care can be profound. This is hope.
I can’t escape to a wintery wilderness tundra at the moment, it looks like it came to me instead. So I’ll snuggle up on my day bed with my cats under a favourite blanket from my Dad’s house, a Sunflower Kitchen sandwich, and a good book. I call this situation my “life raft” and it’s the gentleness that my grief requires.