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Wintering - by Kate Baily.

I have been reading a brilliant book by Katherine May called ‘Wintering’ and it’s got deep into my bones like the cold and damp itself. I have heard many people say that this year they are starting to understand the winter in a different way. Women in our community have been reporting the rebellious act of keeping things simpler, others have had ‘pretty chilled’ Christmasses! Someone said they had never been particularly interested in the Winter Solstice but that this year it felt more relevant.

I have always loved the jaunty passage of time from autumn all the way up to Xmas and then landed with a terrific thud on my ass after Boxing Day - Yuck- this no man’s land of grey and durge and the Christmas Cheese friend round my middle. I feel like bloody Henry VIII. One more piece of Toblerone and I swear I’ll have gout.

Something has shifted this year. Something has allowed me to stop. Not a hard screech but a slow, shifting down through the gears over a couple of weeks, my post-covid fatigue has had me in training for some rest with no option. But I have wanted to take its wisdom with me , this ability to rest and hopefully restore. Restore what? I don’t know. I won’t know until I have stopped and allowed the uncomfortable chasm of not-doing open up.

What I have realised: Sleep is good. Sleep is really good. BUT when I am creatively processing or have eaten too much of the afore mentioned cheese I cannot sleep very well. I need the loo, I’m thirsty, the husband snores. I read in Wintering that before we lived in such overly and falsely  lit times people had different rhythms. They would often wake between 1.30am and 3am. And would use this time for reflection, sex or even visit neighbours ( That would not go down too well round my neck of the woods or would it?) This time was used for the endeavours that had no place in the hard working waking hours. It was called The Watch.

I realise I have been experiencing The Watch for a while - since Covid really in late October and instead of fighting it , I listen to Yoga Nidra on my app or sleep music , then a friend told me yesterday that before she goes to sleep she asks ‘ Show me what I need to understand tonight.’ And trusts her dreams and subconscious will make it known. So I do this last might and the answer comes back to me at 2am ‘Write.’ Just write. It doesn’t have to make sense, or be on point or be marketed neatly or be ‘on message’ ( whatever that is).

For me sobriety was the welcome mat to all the possibilities to creatively engage with presence in my life. It did not feel like that at first - I think it can’t - too much of the sheer muscle power of habit change to be concentrating on. All the conscious uncoupling with associations from alcohol with fun, abandon, changed states, music, dancing, relaxation. Which I did have to uncouple and then learn to do sober - and guess what - they are better sober, we can do them sober and that feels like a superpower. But it felt like it was a long hard pruning before the new shoots of life appear, but appear they do. Yes , they really do. And when they do they are so freaking green with the fuse that drives the green through the flower or whatever the Dylan Thomas quote is that you NEVER saw green like it!

But I digress. I am not yet in the business of creating … I am resting and stopping. I realise I have become like a capitalist on my own ass or operating a battery chicken farm on myself - produce, produce, produce … it has to have something to do with sober stuff to be valid. It has to not into an instagram square or be a fucking reel to get clicks.  I realised I must just write and that is recovery right there - just to get back to the well spring, the source. What you did at the very beginning.

I also have observed that it doesn’t take much of a rest before the juices flow or there is a renewed vigour. As women we must go with the cycles. We must rest and restore. What did you do at the beginning? What worked, what lit you up? What if you know? What if you didn’t care? What if it’s OK? What if it’s enough? What if it’s all enough, always enough. You in this life. Your unique and yet common path.

This is the no-mans land, the introspective winter, as Angela Carter called it - A sickroom hush, which seems apt this year. You are not supposed to have all the answers , you can’t. You just need to get a bit still, spend a bit longer in bed, keep warm. I said to a friend on a winter’s walk this week, I have a deep need to strip everything back to the bones, to see what is still real and what isn’t.. and that’s what winter does in her brutal glory. She does it for us and we just need to go with her a bit. Remember your WHY, remember you needs, hear the whispers, hear your limitations and that maybe sometimes you just need to respect those. It’s Ok and it’s enough. Sober and enough.

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