Composting

I was inspired to write this blog by Debbie’s question, “Am I alone in enjoying lockdown?” I started writing a reply, and then realised what I wanted to say in response could be the basis of the blog post I’d been planning to write about Mental Health Awareness Week.

I have enjoyed it at times Debbie. I’ve enjoyed the permission I’ve felt to not be on the move all the time. I’ve enjoyed moving slowly, pottering around, being more present, experiencing spring time gather itself and explode with life and colour in a way that I’ve not paid so much attention to in the past. I’ve enjoyed not feeling a sense of guilt about not being as sociable as other people seem to be.

But I’m not enjoying it much right now. I’m not enjoying the feeling of waking up and being caught between the part of me that doesn’t want the day to start, and the part that believes the best way to tackle my resistance is to get up and get going. It’s a familiar feeling of tension and anxiety, of being torn between “giving up” and “getting going” that has been present throughout my life in times of stress and difficulty.

It’s not that I’ve had enough of this “break” that lockdown has provided. I have a strong sense that I do not want my life to go back to the way it was before, with it’s hustle and bustle and sense of constant urgency, and also a sense of not being quite ready to join others in fully embracing the new freedoms offered by this current phase of restriction easing.

I’m a counsellor. My emotional life is very important to me. My journey as a counsellor over the last eight years has taught me ways to stay more present with my feelings and emotions, to listen to them and ask them what they have to say about the choices I make, about what I need to feel good, to feel safe, to thrive; what they have to say about the direction my life is taking, what I need to hold onto and what I need to let go of.

It’s an emotional time right now for so many of us. With some of the strong emotions that are coming up for me I’m noticing a release of tension, a change in my state of mind, and with it the possibility that I could make some changes and find a healthy, fertile new normal when this chapter comes to an end.

A bucket of worms, from the aptly named Worms Direct, arrived at my front door this morning. They’re going to help me compost my food waste. I think the composting process is quite a good metaphor for where I’m at right now, where many of us are at, caught between the world as it was and the world as it will be, unknown and uncertain.

Composting is a slow and messy process, kind of an unpleasant process. It’s a process in which stuff breaks down and rots away. It’s a natural process, an organic one. A transformation takes place, one that turns a waste product, something we have no use for anymore, into something that is life giving, life enhancing and full of potential. We need fertile soil in which to grow ourselves and the society we want to live in, and we can create this fertile soil through a process of composting.

My life was often too busy for me to notice the parts that it was time for me to throw on the compost pile. This “break” has provided an opportunity for me to peer into the refrigerator vegetable drawer of my life and see what’s in there that is ready to be composted.

While the NHS doctors and nurses, the carers and the key workers have been sacrificing themselves, physically and emotionally, on the front line of this struggle, the work the rest of us are invited to do – this gentle and sometimes not so gentle process of reflecting and composting – seems no less important to me, if it means we are able to carry forward into the next chapter of our lives a clearer sense of what is life enhancing, for ourselves and for our communities.