Personal Writing,  Writing Retreat Reflections

Surviving the slump

This morning, I woke up in the dark and didn’t give it a thought. I opened my eyes and effortlessly stepped out of bed. I had things to do, and being afraid of the dark had no place in my “schedule.”

I made tea, found my writing wrap and trudged out to the edge of the gravel road to talk through yesterday and watch the sun come up with whomever was up early with me and on Facebook.

And then I trudged to the other end of the yard, down a grassy, tree-canopied lane to a sun-kissed field of soybeans and the glorious payoff.

If I parallel my time on this retreat against Dr Marry’s first two-weeks of getting sober, the weeks he spent in the hospital, I can see that yesterday was my “detox” day. At almost the exact same number of hours as he slipped into a kind of terrifying madness because his cells were screaming for alcohol, their oxygen for a number of years at that point, I slipped into a murky fog, adrift in a boat with no oars or rudder and no north star to theoretically guide my way home.

At one low and listless point yesterday, I called Dr Marry and asked him if he would come see me. Ever (now) rational, Dr Marry hesitated and said, “dd, do you really want me to come?”

I thought about it and said, “No. I mean yes, but no. You’re right. I need to lean in to this feeling and walk through it. And if you come, it will only delay this disruption to my rhythm, which is absolutely what I need to have happen.”

In case you needed proof of how much give and take we now equally share, this is a perfect example of what comes from having a partner who is present, invested and not consumed with the third leg of the stool.”

So I hung up the phone and just sat with my uncomfortability. I didn’t judge it; I didn’t admonish it. I just allowed it to swirl around me, acknowledging it for its presence but not giving it permission to consume me.

I finished Braiding Sweetgrass (simply stunning) and read a number of interesting articles. I drew up a 10-day miracle challenge for myself. I love that I can try something like this during this time, something that would be more difficult to make time for in my “normal” life.

I went for a glorious four-square mile walk and listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert. I confidently waved at the men in the few trucks that went past me over that hour because these four days have taught me that it’s long since time to throw away the irrational fears that keep me from living up to my most human-centered capacity.

I picked up little trinkets along the way–anything I found interesting. They weren’t seashells from the beach, à la Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but the sentiment was similar.

[The mind] begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind; what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor. Perhaps a channelled whelk, a moon shell, or even an argonaut.

But it must not be sought for or—heaven forbid!—dug for. No, no dredging of the sea-bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea. Gift from the Sea 16-17.

Today, I have shaken off the miasma of yesterday’s slump. I’m shedding a skin composed of demands from external factors, some which are simply the reality of life and a demanding job but some which are self-imposed and easily dropped. That shedding is a process, like peeling an orange. The skin rarely comes off in one long peel, and even when it does, there’s pith and seeds to pull away from the sweet fruit before it’s ready to be consumed.

Yesterday, I wanted to go back to what I knew, to what was comfortable and safe and easy. But today, I am renewed in my commitment to peeling away the outer layer and the lingering aspects that are hanging on and holding me up. Today, I will labor on, getting more and more comfortable with this new rhythm and pace and continue to seek out the unexamined.

Patience and faith, indeed!

Read Day V: How do you get from here to there?

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *