Autumn is upon us, bringing with her the rainbow of seasonal decay, the heat of oversized sweaters, and the warmth of tenderhearted boyfriends. My facebook feed tells me it is the season of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, of playing in leaves, of yoga pants and apple cider and kissing in corn mazes… but I know an Autumn who is smokier than that.
My Autumn is the season of lethargy, of reflection, of preparing for the storm. She is the Autumn of hope, of one last hurrah, of the promise of another year ahead. She is my favorite season for her crispness and for the whirlwind of her contemplative beauty. She is radiant and haunted all at once, and I see my own spirit reflected in her confusion and unfolding.
The pace of my writing has cooled with the weather. Some days, even if my writing is just one clumsy word surfacing after another, there is a gentle knowingness that I Am Writing. I am putting the pen to paper. I am flicking my middle finger to Depression if only for a moment. I am showing up, even if the words sound clunky. I am useful, even if no one ever sees the writing. I am graceful and positive. I am thriving in my Autumn.
Alexandra Franzen has an imagination-jolting list of unusual writing prompts on her website, and when I feel creatively blocked I circle back to this list and find something unique to write about. So for anyone else who struggles with depression or stuckness, seasonal or otherwise, I invite you to follow along with me in responding to one of her prompts:
What does fear feel like in your body?
Here is what I scribbled in my journal –slightly edited for this post, but mostly raw:
For me, fear feels frozen and breathless in my body, as if the moment were trapped in the amber encasing of time. Sound stops. But beneath the stillness is a quivering anxiety, a faint metronome of Oh My God… Oh My God… Oh My God… growing steadily louder.
Fear hits my chest first and encases my ribs in a concrete tighthold. Then my stomach churns and aches, and one by one the other pieces of my body start to feel the fear in their unique ways. Fear feels like the eyelashes that cascade from my fingers, like the hair follicles that bleed when I push too far.
Fear feels like my reflexively clenched jaw. I think of a yoga teacher of mine, I think of her white curly hair and goofy jokes and impeccable alignment, and I think of the way she tells us to relax our tongues several times during each class. By relaxing our tongues, we start to loosen our jaw muscles without even realizing it.
I think of my former ballet teacher standing next to me at the barre and instructing me to loosen my jaw, to let go of the tension and anxiety if I wanted to fully step into my dancing power. I think of my 14 year old self questioning why he was focusing on my jaw when surely there was something in my arm placement or arching lower back that he could have corrected. Now I understand.
I think of the years where the fear trapped in my face muscles meant that it desperately hurt to smile. My smile is the big kind – I have no interest in smiling halfway, in shielding my teeth, in grinning coyly for the camera. I was forced into these little half-smiles due to the tension in my muscles, and one decade and many healing modalities later, I am so grateful for my ability to smile fearlessly.
We can let go of this fear in our bodies.
We can sit in our fear and describe it, play around in it, understand it…. but ultimately the goal is to send fear on its merry little way, off into the horizon where it can be transformed into Light.
No matter the season, no matter our mood, that spark of power and purpose exists in our heart and is waiting to be noticed. We can relax in the knowingness that we are bigger than our fear, that our fear is merely a passing cloud.
We can take a step back and say “Oh, how interesting! I am feeling anxiety – look at how it burrows into my body…” without identifying fully with that anxiety. We can believe in our own bigness.
We can use our imaginations to envision the best possible outcomes of tricky situations, and we can feel the fear in our chest slowly deflate like a beach ball. We regroup. We wrangle our hopes and energy healing and fellow human beings together in a braid, and we forge ahead.
One step at a time. One word at a time. One vulnerable piece of public writing at a time.
Love and Drifting Orange Leaves,
What does fear feel like in your body? How do you regroup yourself and help it to deflate? What does Autumn mean to you? Share your wisdom in the comments section!