I Had A Mini-Melt Down & The Trees Saved Me
I’m tired of holding all my s**t together. (5 min read)
Tired of working from home with teenagers entering their 6th month away from school and pretty much most of their friends. They are tired of each other, their Dad and me. And I’m tired of them.
I need solitude. I need to be able to wander freely through my home without anyone demanding something of me. I need my much-loved family to be spending more time out of the house than in it, so that after the place has been tidied up and cleaned, it stays that way for more than 20 minutes.
I am exhausted cajoling my nearly 14 year old to get outside and be physically active. That despite his height gain and growing self-awareness, perhaps he doesn’t really know what’s best for him if he thinks swopping one horizontal plane for another, alongside switching to different screen sizes, day in, day out is good for him.
I worry about my daughter starting secondary school without any of the ‘normal’ transition activities, knowing virtually no one. I’m stressed thinking about how she’ll cope being thrown in amongst the older kids – boys – as she starts to adjust to her developing body. I almost don’t have the capacity to consider what their return to school might mean for possible risk of Covid19 transmission as a fear of unintentionally infecting their grandparents has been with me ever since lock down eased sufficiently for us to picnic in my parents back garden.
At the same time I feel guilty of even thinking I can’t cope. I am so grateful no one in my family has been ill or died. My husband’s work is going well, and so is mine – when I can get my thoughts back on track after the umpteenth interruption requiring my conflict resolution skills. I grimly laugh through newspaper reports of women’s work and career prospects, as well as work life balance, being more badly hit than men’s by the pandemic and have been known to mutter under my breath ‘welcome to my life’. And this is with a ‘hands-on’ parenting partner who cooks, cleans and sews his own buttons back on.
So when, after an awful nights sleep, with the sleeping bit over by 3am, I found myself sobbing by the washing machine, I knew something wasn’t right. It’s all very well wanting to be that dynamic, motivated, purpose-led entrepreneur creating a powerful network and community for ‘women in sustainability’, but emotional wipe outs don’t really lend themselves to constructive working and meeting deadlines.
So I’ve retreated to my spot in our nearby woods. The blackbirds and a thrush are still singing and one busy squirrel is minding his own business up and down a nearby branch. The magnificent beech trees here must be at least 200 years old and they bear the signs of recent storm damage, with snapped off branches lying nearby. But where the light now reaches the forest floor, it is easy to see how readily the waiting saplings will seize the opportunity to grow upwards. I ponder my own ‘storm damage’ that the past 5 or so months have wrought and finally acknowledge all my mixed up and conflicting feelings as they bubble up into my conscious mind.
One of the books I’ve actually managed to finish in lock down was ‘’The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, how they communicate’, by Peter Wohlleben. Looking at one damaged tree reminds me of how that tree would still be supported by it’s neighbouring beech trees, sharing resources through their extensive underground network of roots and mycorrhizal. In being so focused on trying to ‘be there‘ for my husband and our kids during this strange and up-ending time, had I let myself be truly supported, or had I made myself push on through, finding solace in too much coffee and cinnamon buns?
I lie down on my back and close my eyes. I decide to commit all my worries, my stress, tiredness and overwhelm into the forest floor. I let it sink down and imagine it all being received and absorbed by the nature all around me. I let myself acknowledge Mother Earth. She knows I’m tired and exhausted, knows also that I’m one of her powerful feminine warriors, awake and active in my purpose of helping to re-balance the feminine in the world. I ask for her healing so I can rise and persist in my work.
She who connects draws from powerful roots – Rhian Sherrington
As I lie there listening to the woodland’s sounds, letting myself rest, I dismiss the pull to get back to my desk (‘But I’ve got so much work that needs to be done today’). I can hear the bees making the most of a nearby sunny spot and looking up, I realise the breeze is disturbing the canopy above, dislodging leaves, which float slowly down to me. We are at summer’s end and a new season is on its way. How can I ensure I retain the peace I am now feeling and a growing sense of renewal?
I realise there has been a thread flowing through my other lock down readings*. A collective acknowledgement of how depleted women become when they cut themselves off from their source – the restorative, powerful energy of the Divine Mother, our living earth. We might be the feminine embodiment of that energy but we don’t all allow ourselves to be sustained and connected to that ever-flowing well of life force.
I’ve connected to that source in different ways for many years now – Qi Gong, meditation, mindful breathing, prayer, or as I am now doing, lying on the earth, consciously connecting. But somehow in spite of my knowing all of this, those practices that have sustained my connection previously have slipped, worn away by the realities of being a working mum in lock down, constantly juggling, always on call. I quietly vow not to let that happen to such an extent again and in that moment realise I need to share what I’ve jotted down.
I’ve not written about my spiritual beliefs here before and it’s a little bit new and unnerving. But I am inspired by what I see around me. That as well as becoming more confident calling out sexism, racism, inequality, climate and ecological destruction, we are also witnessing a shift in awareness that the transformation we are calling for in the world cannot be led solely by our intellect or changing behaviours. That this transformation is also a spiritual one as we remember we are all part of a loving energy holding us together, fully part of nature not above or separate from her.
The current, crucial rise of the feminine and women’s (as well as men’s) role in addressing the imbalance in the world has been well described by others more accomplished than me in this field*. I can only bear witness to the change I see and feel in me as I have incorporated into my way of being, practices that allow me to enjoy a deeper, more intentional connection to the Divine Feminine, Mother Earth, Source (or whatever name you may prefer to use).
As I finish writing this from my mat in the woods, I notice the peace I feel inside of me. The weariness has fallen away and the exhaustion has subsided. I may not have resolved any of my concerns at home or with my work but things feel more in perspective. When I first arrived I was depleted, empty. Now there is hope and a genuine smile for the spaniel squirrel chasing below me.
I once had a poem on my wall by Susan Polis Schutz that began with the line ‘Come into the mountains dear friends’. I’d like to end this piece with the following, inspired by her…
‘Come into the woods dear friend
Take no one with you but your true self.
Lie down upon a bed of moss
And feel the Divine Mother’s embrace.
Notice the breeze release old leaves
And let go of all pretence.
Hear the buzzards call
And come back to yourself.
You are most loved and supported. ‘
Rhian Sherrington, Founder, Women in Sustainability Network & Coach
*Lock down readings & Inspiration:
Janet Conner: Prayer Artist – Many articles on her blog on Divine Feminine
‘Women Who Run With Wolves’, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
‘The Healing Power of The Sacred Woman’, Christine R Page M.D.