In a couple of months, I’ll be going to a gathering where the theme is “Sea Change.” The title reflects the big changes going on in the world and what many of us are experiencing personally. As Stephen Stills once wrote for the Buffalo Springfield:
There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear
Sea change is a great metaphor that begets other metaphors as we navigate the great, liminal transitions in life. Whether these transitions are societal, like the late sixties or fall of the Berlin Wall, or personal, they can disorient and disturb us as we lose what we thought we knew and can’t see a destination ahead. Like when we lose a job and have to find a new career. Or lose a spouse and start living independently. Or lose our external professional identity and move into second half or “third act” of life.
Popular literature extolls the importance of having a strong purpose and set of values during transitions. Both are useful. But I find that when the seas get really stormy, clinging to a raft of concepts like integrity, contribution, or creativity doesn’t do it for me.
I prefer dark chocolate.
What anchors you in the midst of a sea change when you need to come back to yourself and find your bearings?
It doesn’t have to feel high and mighty. in fact I get a lot of solace, and grounding, just sniffing into the nostril of my horse. (A heavenly grassy smell fellow horsewomen understand.)
Here are a few of my anchors…(I hope you’ll share yours!)
Simple routines. I get up in the morning. Have tea. Write. Feed horses. Eat quinoa. Day after day. Very boring. Very wonderful.
Relationships. Not just any relationships, but that special group of people who keep you tethered to a strong positive sense of who you are. My husband is my rock. And then there are a few “foul weather friends” who understand the storms and don’t judge.
Small pleasures. Sniffing my horse. (Maybe you prefer diesel.) Cutting flowers. In high seas, I’m looking for pleasures that take very little effort but return much.
A quick look back. Sometimes it helps to look at a photo or remember a good time when I felt myself to be on more solid ground. Even when I know I’m not going back.
A tour of the senses. “Be Here Now” is a great adage but hard to hold on to when you’re being buffeted. What helps me more is listening to the sound of my feet crunching gravel, smelling the fresh rain, hearing the crows taunt the raven, and noticing the first dandelion of the year.
Meditation. This can be sitting or walking, or I may turn what I’m doing into a meditation (like singing, in private, to my horses.) Anything that allows me to rest into myself. Not doing. Breathing. Feeling gravity. Allowing. One caveat: it’s tempting to turn meditation into a “to-do,” but when you’re in high seas that defeats the point.
Doing something that requires concentration or imagination without asking myself too many questions about my purpose in life. Editing a podcast.
Doing something that requires little concentration and can be done in a disoriented, zombie-like state. Sorting socks. Weeding dandelions.
As I do these things, maybe my sense of purpose in life will come back to me. Or maybe I’ll ride out the storm. And decide the next action to take.
Or maybe the high seas will subside and the new shore will come into view.