I’ve been noticing once again that the themes of my spiritual life really do tend to fall into synch with the themes of the seasonal holidays. These past few months of harsh, cold winter have been like a trip into the underworld — and the coming of Imbolc has been like the return of my inner sun, rising to meet the springtime sun on the horizon.
First, I’d like to say a bit about the winter.
Those of you who don’t know me personally probably didn’t noticed much of a difference in me over the past few months. When I’m around other people, especially people I don’t know well, I tend to keep my troubles to myself and bring what good cheer I have to the forefront. So at most, you may have noticed that I wasn’t being as actively cheerful as usual.
Really, though, my troubles went far beyond a lapse in my good cheer. I don’t know which came first — the chronic fatigue flare-up, or the low spirits — but often the two go hand in hand.
I found myself less energetic, more achy, more prone to related symptoms such as irregular sleep patterns, light-headedness, moodiness, and an inability to focus. This, in turn, diminished my ability to work at my “day job,” much less the independent projects I hold dear.
Going to work would exhaust me thoroughly, even on a slow day, and I would spend most of my free time recovering and resting. Then, just when I was starting to get back enough energy to work on the projects closest to my heart, it was time to go back to work again. This lead to a vicious downward spiral of frustration, depression, and despair — which do not mix well with the significant physical discomfort associated with an increase in chronic fatigue symptoms.
So, for a while there, I lost myself in frustration and self-pity. I was still more than happy to cheer other people up, because helping other people to see the bright side in life is always a pleasure for me. But aside from scattered moments of joy that I found with the help of my friends and my spiritual path, my life took on a very despondent, almost desperate tone.
I was tired, I was sore, I wasn’t making progress toward my goals, and I felt like I was a victim of a society that didn’t care enough to let a poor man rest for just a month or two while he catches his breath.
But you know what? I have friends who respect and love me, and I have a spiritual path that inspires, educates, and transforms me. If I didn’t have any friends, and if I didn’t have the Goddess and God to guide me, I might have just stayed in that desperate place, believing that my life had spiraled beyond my control on a fast track toward failure. Instead, when Imbolc rolled around, bringing its lessons of the return of the light and the power of the inner sun, I felt something shift inside of me.
And what a shift it was! The shift that took place in my inner landscape over the course of February was even more dramatic than the shift in the weather. When I awoke to a beautiful frozen Carbondale on a cold Tuesday morning, it was as though I had woken up in another world. The foot of solid ice prevented me from going to work, giving me an unexpected four day weekend with which to rest my ailing body and search my ailing soul. It also gave me a very visible and powerful outward opponent to struggle against, challenging me to summon a strength and courage from within that had all but died down to cold embers over the course of the winter.
Now, as the ice thaws and the weather shows the first possible signs of spring, I too am thawing and shining. But I still have my work cut out for me.
My renewed enthusiasm and attitude is already improving my health dramatically, but since I do have a serious chronic condition, it will take more than just enthusiasm and attitude to restore myself to full health. I will have to adjust my habits and channel that enthusiasm into the right balance of exercise and rest required to improve my health and fitness. Opinions on chronic fatigue / adrenal syndrome are mixed, but I feel that with time and the proper attitude and action on my part, I will be restored to full health. I’m already healthy enough to hike, to dance, and to ride a bike, so that’s a good start!
My enthusiasm has also given me all sorts of renewed inspiration for the projects that I have lined up for the spring and summer. But first, I need to finish catching up with my “day job,” and I need to decide what projects I will work on in what order to make sure that this welcome flame of enthusiasm doesn’t burn me out again.
So, there are still many challenges ahead. In fact, I might say that I have more challenges ahead of me now than I did during those long and difficult months when I contented myself with wallowing in my own misery and defeatism. But the good news is that I love a good challenge, and I can feel myself rising to meet this one.
When I was feeling downtrodden and desperate, I kept looking for some sort of “deus ex machina” — the arrival of some unexpected opportunity or some guardian angel that would swoop down into my life and save me from the exhaustion, the poverty, the stagnation, and the despair. But instead, what I received was a quiet, simple, humble voice reminding me of the closing lines of the Charge of the Goddess:
“If that which you seek,
you find not within yourself,
you will never find it without.
I have been with you from the beginning,
and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.”
In other words… look within yourself for the strength and inspiration that you need to succeed in your life’s journey. You are a divine being, and the magic that you’re searching for — the power to change your life and change the world for the better — is already deep within you. All that remains is for you to find that inner sun and let it shine.
That was good advice when I first read it, and it’s still good advice today. I’ll have more to share soon… in the meantime, though, I’ve got to get going, because I feel inspired to go out into the world and shine.