This week at Vivid, our theme is sustain. We ask the question, what sustains you?
Reflecting on sustenance, I am drawn to consider what changes for us energetically at midlife. When choosing an image to symbolize this week’s theme, this hearth with its glowing coals spoke deeply to me.
Have you learned how to build, and sustain, a fire? I grew up in a drafty 100 year old farmhouse on the austere and beautiful New Brunswick coast. My father was one of those rare people who actually made his living as a poet, and he lived his life as a poet too. We lived in a world of symbols; our mundane life was mythic. Gardens, apple trees, starry skies and fragrant hay lofts, these realities were but shimmering surfaces behind which glowed the archetypal realm. Our old house was heated entirely by wood. Furnace, cookstove, fireplace, all required the daily building of a fire.
Some of my earliest memories are of watching my father build and tend the fires. As with all things, he treated this as an art both mundane and spiritual, and he communicated the wisdom of the fire-tender to me, with actions and quiet words.
This is what I learned. Most anyone can start a fire, but to build and sustain one is an art. Some people resort to accelerants, which cause the fire to burn fast and hot, and to expire quickly. But building a fire that lasts requires care, patience, and strategy from the beginning. If the hearth is laid properly, the fire can be lit from one match. If the resulting fire is tended properly, it can burn through the night with only a few logs; it can keep a whole family warm and safe through the dark night.
And so it is with our inner fire. And it is a rare woman among us who gets it right from the beginning. It seems like an almost universal human frailty, to burn fast and hot through the first decades of life, and to only begin to deeply consider how to sustain our fires as we step into our later decades, often depleted and a little burned out.
In order to sustain ourselves through the second half of life, we must learn new skills. We know a fire can be re-lit from embers. This is our task at menopause. Many of us go through several years of feeling exhausted, uncertain, depleted, and lacking in passion. We find that we need to develop new skills, new self-nurturing habits, new ways of being in the world, in order to rebuild our energy and rekindle our passions. We must begin to learn to sustain ourselves with deep self love.
What has changed for you? How will you rebuild your inner fire? What sustenance do you need?