snow angelAs I type these words, the world beyond my window is blanketed by snow.  There is silence in the house, save for the hum of the refrigerator, the whisper of warm air rising from the grates in the floor.  I’ve laid in groceries, mopped the salt and grit from the entryway, put tulips in a vase on the table.  The shoveling and snow-clearing can wait. There is no place to go, nothing to do but chop and roast some vegetables later for dinner.  Time slows. Edges soften. I feel a weight in my heart slowly begin to lift, my breath settle back into a deeper rhythm, my own sense of myself returning.

For a week I’ve been struggling with some old, familiar demons.  The fear of not being enough.  The need to protect my tenderest, most vulnerable feelings from the harsh light of day.  Self-doubt.  Regret for things said and unsaid in a relationship I cherish.  The wish that I could feel less, hurt less, and slough off more.   A piercing disappointment that try as I might to shape my life, there is and will always be so much that’s beyond my control or understanding.  The realization that I’m not quite as good at non-attachment as I like to think I am.

“The root of all suffering,” the Buddhists say, “is the desire for things to be different than they are.”

So simple.  So true.  But knowing it is so doesn’t make the wanting and the wishing go away.  And an intellectual understanding of melancholy does little to ease the sadness that is, I suspect, simply part of being alive, an essential ingredient of our muddling, hopeful humanness.

Yet, if growing older is teaching me anything – anything that makes me feel a bit more at home in my  emotionally porous and decidedly solitary soul – it’s that I can survive my own feelings.  Instead of numbing them, I can allow them the full measure of their power — dark and chaotic as that power sometimes is.  Instead of turning tail and running in the direction of busyness or distraction, I can remind myself to be still, uncomfortable as stillness may be.  Instead of masking sadness with anger and pretending I’m mad, I can let tears fall and acknowledge that I hurt.  Instead of pasting on a stiff upper lip and insisting that I’m fine, I can gather up my courage, invite a trusted friend into my murky corner and concede that, for the moment anyway, I’m not fine at all.

And slowly, the emotional weather changes.  I know better, finally, than to think I can make myself stop feeling a certain way, any more than I can wish the snow to stop or the sun to shine.  But eventually the sky does clear.  Always. Sadness gives way to equanimity.  Hopelessness is nudged aside by quiet, unexpected joy.  Gratitude turns grief a different color.  Feelings go away because others come along.  The trick, perhaps, is simply to keep the flow going.  To watch and feel and wait and trust.  To judge myself less harshly and to welcome all my feelings as reminders that I’m still alive — alive and fully engaged in the endlessly challenging task of being human.  Which is to say:  I’m doing the best I can, and giving myself permission, again and again and again, to love and receive love in return.

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Thank you for continuing to write and share your thoughts and photos, Katrina. Embrace your snow day. Hopefully soon, we will miss the chilly weather!

  2. Mary Stevens says:

    Last week your post helped me to stop resenting the long, cold winter and instead to embrace its beauty. This post has touched my heart in so many ways. Your words are so familiar to my soul. Thank you Katrina.

  3. Oh my – this is amazing. It’s as if you’ve opened my heart and mind and written about what’s going on in there… wow. I’m re-reading Albert Villoldo’s Four Insights – taking a couple weeks each to really focus on the 16 practices he details – and I’m on non-attachment. Thank you for the gift of your words.

  4. I love the line “I can survive my own feelings.” You could be describing my life above. Mid-life has made me unable to sleep later than 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning, and by evening I’m so tired that everything puts me in that self-depracating state, feeling every slight and wound from the day. And even though I know I feel that way because I’m too tired, I still just feel it so deeply that it is discouraging. So I’m going to hang on today to the idea that I can survive my own feelings. Thank you.

  5. Life has been teaching me this lesson, too. I am learning to lean into every feeling I have, to cherish the good ones, to acknowledge those that aren’t quite so good without being ashamed.

    I like your thought about “keeping the flow going.” It is important to keep moving, to be open to new emotions as they arise. “To watch and feel and wait and trust.” Wise words :)

  6. I think this is my favorite post of yours, ever (which is saying something). I relate to every word. Your porous and decidedly solitary soul? Yes. All the ways you wish you could feel and react and hurt less? Yes. The gradual softening and settling into your own self, when alone, quiet? Yes (and never enough). Thank you for being such a kindred spirit, for reminding me, so powerfully, that I am not alone in this oft-dark and chaotic world. xoxox

  7. Patricia Battaglia says:

    The phrase that made me sit straight up and breathe a deep sigh of recognition are the words “my emotionally porous and decidedly solitary soul”. They cut right to my heart and clearly describe my emotional condition with kindness. As I settle into myself armed with the insight this new insight has afforded me, my sighing has given way to soft breathing and I feel at home in my emotionally porous self. In addition to leading to heartbreak, my porosity has left me open to much wisdom and led me to read your lovely words.

  8. This came at the perfect time for me and a close friend with whom I will share it right now.

  9. jennifer gasque says:

    Katrina- as I read this I wondered if you are familiar with Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection? If not, I think you will really be interested in her work and in her book, maybe even her online class.
    I love reading your writings. They are so raw and true.

  10. “I can survive my own feelings.” I think you know how much this sentence meant to me. xoxo

  11. I love when I read something and it’s exactly what I need to hear, exactly when I need to hear it. This was simply beautiful. Thank you for writing it and sharing it.

  12. Isabella McDonald says:

    Love kelly Corrigan. Watched all her youtube videos.

  13. Thank you for putting into words what I hope to grow into: turning toward my feelings instead of running away from them. Letting them be, maybe even loving them a little. Beautiful post.

  14. So grateful for your sharing. I am struggling also this week, with similar fears.
    I remember my mantra to myself, a question: Is it fear or is it Truth?
    Sometimes that helps.

  15. Wow. I needed this. Especially this:

    Yet, if growing older is teaching me anything – anything that makes me feel a bit more at home in my emotionally porous and decidedly solitary soul – it’s that I can survive my own feelings.

    Only lately have I become aware of all the ways I try to numb my feelings -and how many ways are approved by society – and the biggest realization is wow, these feelings don’t kill me. I am humbled by what I am learning at 41 – what I wish I knew at age 16 or 25 or 33.

    I think we must come into the world with a certain thickness of skin and there isn’t much we can do about it except accept the gifts that come with sensitivity. Thank you for bringing your feelings to the light. xoxo

  16. Can’t thank you enough for giving me a little push forward…..for making me feel connected…..

  17. Your words, my thoughts–how can you know? Because you remind us that we’re not alone in this inner turmoil–thank you. “Instead of masking sadness with anger”–wow, that grabbed me. Let me give myself permission to give and receive love for the balance of today and beyond.

  18. Linda Rosenfeld says:

    Perhaps it is the weather, being cooped up inside for long periods of time, that makes us weary. It gives us pause to question ourselves, our thoughts, and our feelings. One of the things I have learned since turning sixty recently, my father taught me before he died. Appreciate what you have. Someone always has it worse.
    Treat each person with the respect you wish to be treated with. Keeping your feelings in can give you a heart attack. And even with this miserable weather, find something beautiful to concentrate on. Thank you for the gift of Spring and the lovely flowers and recipes. I shared the photos and baked some chocolate chip cookies. Now, I’m ready to take on the world.

  19. I needed to read this tonight. Thank you, Katrina. Thank you for finding the words that sit in my throat and weight me down.

  20. Charlyne Ashford says:

    I feel like you are n my head and heart, and couldn’t have described what you said in a better way. Thank you for putting my feelings on paper:)

  21. Benoit Talbot says:

    Being able, on and off, to live my life accepting it as it is… I love that!!!! …but it unfortunately has been the center of arguments with my partner. The other thinking that I don’t care at all about this and that… i never had the counciousness of that before…. thank you soo much!!!

  22. Reminds me of Pema Chodron’s books–and it’s sage advice. But my very human brain cannot get beyond your description of your day–it’s been decades since I’ve had a day–nowhere to go and nothing to do but get dinner ready. It sounds heavenly. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Beautiful and thank you for sharing!

  24. Wow – what I needed to hear on what has been a very emotional day. Thank you.

  25. Ah yes, an “emotionally porous and decidedly solitary soul”. Words that resonate deeply. Thank you for this.

  26. I am so glad to have found your blog (thanks to A Way to Garden). I’m a mom to two elementary-age boys and look forward to perusing your older entries as a chance to learn from all of your experience.

  27. Dear Lovely Katrina:
    Thank you for your courage to go ahead and share — always trusting that something in your journey will resonate with another and encourage them along the way. You have such a beautiful soul. I hope you smile to know that I took you along (well, your reflections in Gift of an Ordinary Day, anyway) this past weekend on an overnight trip out into the winter woods/mountains because I knew that your words and images would be the ones to feed my own wintery, white soul. Thank you. Thank you. May you receive the love and grace you need for this soul season. With love, Melody

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