This was the very simple, yet all-knowing question I was asked on the day our lockdown started in SA…”Nicola, can you see the next step?” As some of you know heightened anxiety is part of my personal journey. Something I’m aware of is that when I start feeling a sense of hopelessness about something, I know that I need to reach out and connect as it can so quickly take me to my own personal space of mental lockdown.
My answer to the question was “Yes, I can see my next step”. With that comes an admission of acceptance that there are things I can control about this massive PAUSE I find myself in and there are a lot of things I can’t control so I need my choices to reflect this understanding.
The busyness of day to day life is almost a lot easier to handle than this sudden pause and quietness. When I had my breakdown almost 10 years ago now I remember how it felt as though my whole world had come to a grinding halt and I was having to think of how to fill each minute, let alone each day. It was very hard then to see the next step. But slowly but surely the steps started again and even though I just wanted to go back to the normal I knew because it felt safe, I found myself on a path which led me to a ‘new’ normal which was so much better than I’d imagined, and during each step I’d taken I was able to add a whole heap of resilience and a new found gratitude to my day to day.
Today I chose to go out in the pouring rain (having lived in the UK one learns come rain or shine you get out…) and do some gardening. I’d started pottering around the most unkept part of our garden where the weeds grow freely and somewhere in the back of it there’s a little insect hotel which Denton started but you’d have to know it’s there as it’s hidden behind the bushes. I’m not even sure what lives there either and maybe it’s best not knowing. We’ve spoken about putting a little path through to the insect hotel and to be honest it’s never been high on our list of things to do.
I digress slightly to say I’d bought some very nice stepping stones from the nursery to create a little path through my roses during this lockdown period and have been planning it for a while. It’s going to have little square blocks for the edge of the path and then the bigger squares for the path and then finished off neatly with some pebbles. All of that is still waiting to take place even though I have everything I need to get it started and to create in my mind the ‘perfect’ path.
In the meantime, when I started pulling out weeds in the uncared for part of the garden there was a beautiful piece of old slate stone which had been put in the bed as a potential stepping stone for a path one day. So, we placed this particular piece of slate in position to be the start of the path and then decided that we’d have a look around our garden to see if we could find a few more pieces of stone just lying around. And we have. So, the following day after weeding and pruning I cleared the space for the 2nd stone which we put in place. And so, each afternoon this has been continuing where Denton and I spend time pottering in the garden and place one more step to our path.
It was only as I was clearing the space for the next stone today in the rain that I suddenly realized that creating this unplanned but very special little path has helped me see the next step each day. Each day means that I find a stone for that day using what I have, knowing that I’ll be able to come out again the following day and look for the next stone…I’m not trying to finish it as quickly as possible and while I’m creating the path I’m also seeing what’s in that particular little patch for the day and moving plants or thinking about how I can re-arrange things. This humble little path may be leading to the insect hotel or maybe around the mulberry tree but it’s something that just started to take shape on its own and now I realise just how special a path it is, wherever it may lead me.
My hope for you is that you find something that is helping you see the next step and with that comes a whole lot of self care, gentleness and most importantly a sense of hope. It’s not about the path looking perfect and who knows where the next stone for the next step will come from, but one thing I know is that the next step is waiting to be placed and I know I will find the next stone.