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Seasons of the soul

Every contraction is naturally followed by an expansion; every time you feel your heart shrivel, be confident that it will blossom in turn - Rumi

This Rumi quote has really touched my heart this morning. It is so true. I have been through this pattern many times.

There have been seasons when my heart has been contracted. By depression. By the pressures of life. By separation and divorce. By the relentless struggle of being a single parent of kids with extra needs. Simply by exhaustion.

Now I am in a time of blossoming. My heart is full. I am in love with life. As I settled to pray this morning, as is my custom, I began by pouring myself a cup of tea. As the tea poured from the teapot, the temperature in the room and the play of light from the window combined to create from the steam rising from my tea, a thing of exquisite beauty. Curls of steam. Masses of them. None lasting more than an instant. All beautiful. I just sat there in awe, until the last wisps of steam had gone. Slightly sad that it was over. Stunned by the beauty of the life we get to live.

Life is full of moments like this. Moments to be savoured. When condensation forms jewel like on a glass of water or a beam of light creates glitter from the dust.

There have been other days when nothing has felt beautiful. Nothing. When I’ve dragged myself out of the house, because that’s what you’re meant to do when you’re depressed. Walked into the sunshine, seen the bright morning blue of the sky, the swans on the canal, the blossom on the trees, knowing that here are things that could bring joy. And yet they do not. I am wasting this moment of beauty, I tell myself. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Because the darkness and the pain within won’t let me go for long enough to enjoy it. Or I’m just too spent to find energy for appreciation.

On days like that the steam from a teapot would dance unnoticed. Actually, let’s be honest, on days like that, there would be no steam from a teapot. There might not even be steam from a mug with a teabag in it. If you imagine depressed people making pots of tea, you probably haven’t been depressed. Because when you are, dragging yourself into the kitchen to boil a kettle and pour water on a teabag or a pot noodle can feel like a labour of Hercules.

But today the steam dances and the sound of summer birdsong is a delight and I can think philosophically of the seasons when it has been otherwise. When I have felt my heart shrivel. Today, I can reflect that it wasn’t so much shrivelling as re-organising. Sorting through pain and grief. Digging out the dry rot of some unhelpful emotional habits. Habits that were a brief necessity and a long term hindrance. My heart was busy. There was quite a lot of sorting to do. It didn’t look pretty, but then, when you’re doing a big clear out things generally get messy before they get better.

Now, I can honestly say that the house of my heart is feeling like a nice place to live. I am remembering the bit in the Bible that boldly declares:

…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us... — Romans 5:3–5

There have been times when, if someone quoted that at me, I would have been tempted to offer some colourful suggestions about what they could do with their Bible. But today it feels profoundly true.

Today I will drink tea and smell roses and smile.

This blog post was first published in Catherine's blog on Medium

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