Life Disrupted: My Season of Wintering

It was like any other morning. I pulled back the covers, swung my legs out of bed and stepped down, ready to rock and roll. Whoa! Pain in my right hip triggered a nerve to go berserk down my leg, stopping me in my tracks. Without any sudden moves or different twists or angles, there it was. It was October 27, 2021. I’m glad I didn’t know then that three months later I’d still be in my season of wintering: a concept I’ve been unwrapping in Katherine May’s: Wintering:The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.

I understand winter.

My childhood years in central Alberta, Canada were long enough ago to remember ten-foot snow drifts along our country road; skating for weeks on the frozen slough behind the barn; extra work for my Dad to feed livestock and keep milk cows healthy in a steamy barn. As an adult I raised a family with my husband who established and worked in our construction company year-round.

My visceral experience with the natural world of winter is cold and dark, not weak or easy.

In spite of the pain, I couldn’t just curl up in bed and wait for a miracle. I’m wired for movement; in spite of the agitation from nerves gone amok, I had to be doing something. In spurts of activity I moved about my kitchen, preparing ahead for Christmas feasting. And went for short walks in the sanctuary of the woods: breathing deep and sensing my ever-present Creator.

My walk of Faith is also a non-rigid practice of reading Scripture, praying, journaling, and during these last weeks I’ve logged pages with laments, questions, declarations of hope and trust, railings: “God, are you there, hearing my cries?” – along with “thank you!” for the wonderful moments of respite, sensing I am being supported by a Being greater than myself.

I’ve been privileged to also access health professionals skilled in a broad field: medical and naturopathic doctors, chiropractor, acupuncture, physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage: costly financially, and emotionally with hopes rising and falling. I’ve been recommended to try – and have – an arsenal of tricks and tips: belly-breathing, stretching (some contortions of my own design searching for the sweet spot), hot pads, ice paks, rest, yoga, over-the-counter-painkillers, hot morning baths with Epsom salts and essential oils. Their short-term relief have kept me sane. The belly breathing, stretching, hot morning baths with a cold shower finish could become my lifestyle hacks for a more limber body. But not yoga. I gave it another valiant try but it’s truly not for me.

Back to the book.

My daughter Renee and I swap books – as much as we’re able to living two provinces apart – and Wintering was the most recent exchange. Uncannily, it was during winter solstice when we met for family time at Christmas! This book was a ringer, helping me begin a shift from quick, get me out of my discomfort (something nobody escapes!) to alright, this hurts a lot, but I’m okay here. After weeks of grappling to figure out what was causing my pain and how do I stop it; Winteringinvited me to change how I’d been relating to this fallow [bare] period in my life” (paraphrase from book’s flyleaf).

May writes from her own experience and that of her interviewees: categorizing Wintering into eight sections – September through Late March – her personal narrative of lessons for rest and retreat sourced from the natural world – also literature, mythology, and much more. Some parts of her book resonated more than others – i.e. her experience swimming in icy waters, which I tried once. Two minutes is hardly swimming! But it’s my beginning for future ocean dips: not only for pain but a host of other benefits that May shares in her book. If you’re curious, here’s an article about cold water dippers.

It’s taken me time (a crucial part of healing), and reflection during the course of writing this post, to finally get May’s message and the courage to practice it. I can accept unhappiness (for me, an Enneagram Type 7, happiness is a big deal!). I can endure painful hardships of wintering. I can embrace the power of rest and retreat. At sixty-eight, I think I am getting it: life is not linear, life is cyclical.

Where are things today, this last morning in January, 2022?

Minimal pain: no more wild, wacky stuff. More comfortable sleep without aids like heating pad, cushions, ice pak, vial of “just-in-case” pain-killers on my bedside table. I shout Hallelujah for all these blessings.

My healing is still in progress: multi-faceted emotionally, spiritually, physically. In the latter I’m grateful for so many options available and feel most effective has been chiropractic adjustments on my Sacroiliac joint combined with consistent stretching.

A few personal revelations:

  • I’m humbled by my broad expanse of supportive family and friends. Especially my husband Derryl.
  • I mourn shovelling snow, hauling firewood: winter physical activities I’ve taken for granted.
  • Disappointment in how self-absorbed, inward-focused I can (have) become. Yet learning, in my lowest moments, to find grace for my weakness.
  • Empathy for those suffering from chronic pain. “God help me to care and remember more.”

Fear – of not knowing how long, or will this never end – is crippling and tough to fight. These help.

  • I committed to join friends in July, 2022 for a cycling trip in Newfoundland. I set my bike up on a trainer in my spare bedroom for easy, short periods of cycling exercise.
  • my friend Christine shared in Mindful Musings her experience in visually looking ahead – not a fluffy, empty practice but with power for changing reality. One of the most positive people I know, she shared with me the story of her first stroke in this post.
  • meditating on Biblical Scriptures, i.e. Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer
  • a focus on gratitude : music: Brian Doerksen’s lyrics reading: Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every day of your Life . M.J. Ryan shares this practice “Before getting up in the morning, I have asked myself what I could count on that day , both externally …. and internally… just for today.” (adapted from practice by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh: passed away January 22, 2022 at the age of ninety-five.)

Before wrapping up I must acknowledge ‘the elephant in the room”: the enormously difficult world-wide Wintering we’ve had for almost two years. Collectively we’ve tried every conceivable practise and strategy to survive in this season without end.

I have little to add; beyond extending my heart aching for your pain. And a short quote from the end of May’s book (published in 2020) – written from a different context but applicable nonetheless: “….We need friends to wince along with our pain…people who acknowledge we can’t always hang on…to give ourselves a break when we need it and to be kind.”

Stay connected. Reach out – we can make it through the winter.

Love and prayers for your peace,

Karen

UPDATE: Feb 2/22 – Day by day I’m feeling closer to ‘normal’. Thank you to so many friends who have read and cared with emails, comments, phone calls. Sharing our stories and supporting each other: this we can do in every season. xoxo

5 Comments on “Life Disrupted: My Season of Wintering

  1. It’s a pleasure to read this, knowing you’ve journeyed through the pain, I trust! Thanks for tips and resources to help in my personal struggles! Luvya, sis!

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    • Oh Ruth, you’re the best of sisters one could hope for. Thank you for all your texts and prayers – and the card posted in the mail. Much love!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your inspirational journey. I’m so glad you’re feeling closer to normal. I always look forward to reading your courageous stories. Thank you so much for linking my own journey! The more we can share and learn from each other, the stronger we all are! Love You!

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  3. Pingback: Rescripting Life With The Pain – Karen Toews

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