I went outside yesterday. I go outside every day, but what I mean to say here is, I went for a walk on the Greenbelt here in Carrollton. I needed to breathe some trail air. I’m an outdoor person. As a child, one of my favorite places to read was in a giant Bradford pear tree my grandmother had in her backyard. *When it wasn’t in bloom because I have allergies and they stink. If you know you know*. In college, when I wasn’t in class, a meeting or band practice, you could find me walking around campus enjoying the beauty and majesty of the landscaping. Grad school was no different. My almost weekly trips to the botanical gardens were a time to reflect and reconnect with myself. To keep me grounded and in tune with my higher self.
I haven’t been doing that lately, and it’s been telling on me. I’ve been battling so much this summer. The ongoing sociopolitical upheaval, the global pandemic, and the “normal” vicissitudes of life have taken a toll on my mental health, and where art was once my refuge, it became an albatross. I wanted to create, but could not find the muse. There was no beauty to be found, no light to draw from.
The trail had been calling me to come and visit, but I’d refused. Mostly because I like to stay inside my Self when I’m in nature. That’s how I commune. I don’t want to have conversations with strangers, or answer questions about why I’m out on the trail, or where I live or what I do. I just want to sit and think, maybe write or sketch, talk to Spirit, and let my soul rest a bit before I get back in my car and come home. Sometimes, that’s not possible because invariably someone will want to say hello and chat.
The point is to get grounded. To give my Self a break. A chance to quiet the voices and calm the nerves. To revel in how small I am compared to God’s creation. To find connection to something higher than I and allow that to nourish and replenish me. To breathe fully and freely, without having to give anything in return. To just be.
I think it is necessary and important for us to have these moments. To just be. To get quiet enough for that still small voice that competes with the louder voices of criticism, guilt, and shame to minister to us from a place of love and compassion. So often we have to be “on” all the time. We are parents, partners, producers…we have to allow ourselves moments strung end to end wherein we are people. We owe it to ourselves and those that came before us to rest, replenish, and breathe. We’ve seen generations of our elders fall victim to disease and malaise resulting from chronic debilitating stress and overwhelm. Even the strongest of them, succumbing to the weight of loads they carried the only way they knew how, even though they knew it was breaking them down. We don’t have to do that.
I used to be one of those people who had to meditate everyday. I spent hours every week in quiet surrender to my breath, and would come out of it feeling like new money. I have learned to find that peace and calm in new ways: cleaning my house to Anita Baker (finally. And aren’t we all overjoyed that she has ownership of her masters?), or James Cleveland. Dancing to some Parliament or Megan Thee Stallion. Walking on a trail with birds and insects telling their truths. It’s all the same to me. It’s all healing.
I’m not going to sit here and say that one trip back to the trail was the cure all for everything that’s been ailing me. That would be foolish. What I am saying is, when is the last time you had a chance to get still and reconnect with you? When is the last time you put on some good music and had a solid cry, or danced around your house, or caught a vibe while cooking? I’m not afraid of what’s happening outside of me, but I am, now more than ever, aware of how I manage what’s going on inside. By my estimation, creating and maintaining those moments of joy and respite will allow my creativity to flourish. I want you to do the same.