You read that right! If you haven’t been following along on Instagram I launched our first episode of the podcast this last week. If you haven’t checked it out yet you can hit the image below to head to Apple Podcasts or you can head to this page to find other ways to subscribe and listen.
Later this week I will cover here what is ahead for Fresh Exchange in 2021 but first I wanted to share this first episode because it is such an important episode and I believe a helpful practice for your days ahead. While we wander through the current state of our culture and world being challenged by a pandemic but as well as racism and climate change all knocking on our door. I believe just like any hard time in life we can find a grounding and direction we had no idea we were even capable of when we are exhausted. I hope you find the copy that I wrote for this episode is helpful even if you find that listening isn’t for you.
Before we jump into this convo though I want you to just take a deep breath. Breathe in and fill your belly. Hold it for a second and then release all of it. Repeat and continue repeating till you feel your body’s ease.
This month has been a lot to process and still is. Though without question the shifting to a new administration has felt like a shift in energy. The work ahead of us feels so intense and like a massive climb, we have to conquer. In fact, so much of the last year or few are still part of what I am processing. Little bits of work daily to parse together being human right now. It’s heavy, but gosh I also see the light. I actually see a lot of light. I believe we are rising into the light but in the darkest of the days right now. In fact, I think about how in the summer we live in this state of complete bliss not knowing we are entering the darkest days. Every day in the summer we lose light. But then…we enter the depths of winter, which are the darkest days of the year but the thing is winter raises us into the light. Every dark winter day adds a few more minutes of sunlight. If you don’t live in a northern area these shifts in light are less drastic, but there are there and I think so often how they correlate to where we are right now in our culture and what we are experiencing. When we are in the darkest moments we have to remember we are rising into the light. That is how it works. Life moves in a cycle, not in a linear way.
I continually have used winter as my guide during this time in our culture. As a northerner, we are currently in the throes of winter. Though the weather has been mild this year. I have endured a varying level of winter in my lifetime of 34 years. In fact, I even spent a portion of my life running from winter because of its discomfort. I didn’t want to embrace the shifts it demanded in my life. Then I realized that winter is essential to know the beauty that a hard winter brings. I realized how winter may be the most important season because of the way it strips away the fluff and fullness in the woods and truly reveals to us the very thing that is the framework and bones of what creates the natural spaces in our world. We see the places very clearly that are ugly and need work when everything is stripped away. It is a time of refinement of rebuilding and digging in to do the work that can feel ugly, painful, and hard. Preparing us to reveal our new self in the brighter days.
I picked up the book Wintering by Katherine May in December and just finished it. It touches on this very idea of seasons of winter in our lives. In the last 5 years, I have practiced perceiving when I meander my way through various seasons of my life. I am not just talking about the physical seasons the natural world rhythmically goes through. I am talking about the ones in my personal world. And without any hesitation, I can tell you we are living through a VERY hard cultural winter right now. To deny it is to deny the very snowstorm raging our my window this last weekend and choosing to wear sandals and shorts instead of snow boots and snow gear. We must commit and step into the realities of where are.
At the beginning of February, I will do a whole episode about how I have learned to thrive in winter, but I think a few things are really necessary to know about living through hard winter when you live in the north. I apply these lessons continually when I have found myself in moments in my life where I am deep in a season of winter. These lessons have been learned in my childhood and in my adulthood about how to enjoy and live into a season many like to swear and curse at. I see it completely differently. A hard moment has nothing to do with the moment but more about us. Here are just a couple of things to know and do when we wander through a winter.
- Embrace the Season: You cannot deny the season you in. Everything must adjust. You prepare for winter and you pull out the gear to keep you warm. If you don’t do it your days will be uncomfortable and unnecessarily challenging. The sooner you embrace it the better.
- This is a timeless about outward and more about inward: In the winter the light of our fires and the dark outside draws us inward to our homes. Our focus becomes more about what exists inside the walls of our homes and less about what is happening outwardly.
- Winter shifts your day to day: How I live in winter is dramatically different than in the summer. My routines are different. I sleep more. I rest more. I am slow. I have more side projects. I eat differently. I drink differently. All of it! The only thing really the same about winter to summer is me really and the general rhythm of our day with two children.
- Lastly, winters don’t last forever: They end. The light returns. The garden does grow. As I said winter BRINGS the light. Summer brings the dark. It sounds odd but looks at a light cycle map. Nature teaches us more than we give her credit for.
It is easy to struggle in winter. I have moments. But after now 3 winters I have not left Northern Michigan I can tell you that the more winter I live the more I long for it. The more I understand the lessons and work that is not possible in any other season of life the more I learn to crave the winter. Is the work of winter hard? OH YEAH! I find some of the darkest parts of myself in the darkest days of the year, but I stopped fearing that and instead of realizing that facing them is part of my humanity and part of being alive. To have darkness is an opportunity to see the light and to know which way to grow.
I say that because I can bet we are all a little weary right now so having a conversation about goals or intentions can feel like “Megan come on reading the room” but let me tell you I promise you will walk away feeling a sense of purpose and perspective for this year that I know I needed and I would dare to assume you do as well.
Before we get started, I know you guys want to talk about my garden.
Just as I grow my garden to feed my family and myself I also grow it to cultivate and feed my soul and no real good soul work starts without recognizing where we are and where we hope to land next. So my garden cannot take shape till I have a clear intention for my year.
I think how I plan my garden will surprise you. So much of it is intuition and less of this simple system. But that is for the last week of January’s episode.
So let’s start by talking about intention.
For me, the intention is the definition of the undercurrent in our year. Every river has an undercurrent that drives it no matter how steady and clear or mucky and wild the surface of it is. Think of yourself the same. When you stick your hand into any river or stand in a body of water, there is a motion that exists under the surface. Sometimes strong. Sometimes gentle, but it is there. Always there. This is where we are doing the same things with our life. We are setting our undercurrent. The things the year will hold we cannot predict but we can direct the current that lies under the surface.
How do we define that though? For me, it is a simple word with a less simple answer. I ask:
What am I most longing for in this year?
First I begin by reflecting on my past and less on just the accomplishments (though that is important) but where I emotionally started the year and ended. Last year I defined my intention as strength. My desire and longing were to rebuild my physical strength. After having 2 babies in the last 5 years I was ready to focus on building my strength in a direction that felt it embraced my next chapter in life post carrying babies since I felt we would be done with having more children. I had been a college athlete and my physical strength and the things my body could do and even honestly look like was a point of pride for me if I am my most honest with you. I also felt ready to understand a deeper strength in my emotional self as I wandered through learning to be a mother to two children and making the pass-through to a new version of myself. I never could have predicted the year’s events and how often I leaned on the word strength. We all felt the weight that 2020 placed on our shoulders (we still feel it!). Everything slipped out from under all of us and left our world’s untouched. And as my life demanded a strength in me so did my garden. The new garden spaces and a chicken coop required physical perseverance to physically build new spaces and strength in enduring the growth it took.
What I walked away with within 2020 is a new understanding of who I am in my strength as a woman. I had experienced strength in my 20’s that showed me my physical abilities. Then in birth and carrying 2 babies I endured another superpower strength in myself that I still cannot believe sometimes. This year though showed me the strength I never knew I even possessed as I meandered through the stress of the early pandemic, accepting new roles, letting go of what I knew, learning to grieve losses of the collective and for myself, the journey was intense, but so many days I already know I will forever be deeply thankful for the strength 2020 taught me. I see how to be strong in new ways I also realize physical strength is just as dependent on my emotional strength. I see my body image and the strength it holds in new ways. I have a gentleness for my body. But my longing there? The longing I had had less to do with strength and more with control. I wanted control over myself. Makes sense after so many days giving up myself to others, but what I learned in a loss of control bc of a pandemic is that there lies something better within the strength and that control doesn’t solve much.
Toward the end of 2020, I read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness book, which I highly recommend and she talked openly about how strength is a “strong back, soft front, and a wild heart.” I felt 2020 taught me the way I possess a strong back and a soft front and how I can continue pursuing that in myself, but the wild heart? I realized I hadn’t gotten to it yet. To say I had would be a lie to myself. I kept meandering on this.
So my 2021 intention began forming right then. I needed to become in tune with my wildness as a woman. I needed to find belonging in myself that living in a full household had never allowed me to possess and own as a woman. Work. Marriage. Kids. Work. Had all defined my belonging. Social media had defined where I belonged. but I had never found belonging in who I AM and solely in that. Phew! What a task. Thanks, Brené!
Brené calls this belonging the wilderness in her book (which I highly recommend and a quick read). So I have been exploring this idea already and realized I was longing to come to embrace the depths of my own wildness. Something I had never really done. I was longing for myself. What a weird thing, but it is so easy to allow the noise to muddy that connection. I realized the more I meditated ( I am an active meditator btw so don’t think I have some impossible routine in my life) the more I found that for years because of my career in blogging and influencing I had lost touch with what allowed me to belong to the world and myself. Heavy stuff. I acknowledge this last month that I found belonging many times in the likes, the numbers attached to page views, and more. These seemed to acknowledge I was worthy. Ugh. But the truth is they mean absolutely nothing. I know my deepest longing is simple: I want to belong to myself. I want to be in tune with the very depths of my nature in who I am. To not question and or withhold it but possess it with every inch of who I am so as a result it allows others permission to do the same.
We will discuss next week how the word wildness and wild will come to play in my garden, but I have to start with setting that intention in myself before I know the work that lies ahead.
Now your answer to the question of your longing is going to be different. It should be and I spent a lot of time in my head plus I have the emotional practice of doing this question in my mind for the past 10 years now. And there is a chance you may even need to take this year of 2021 to just daily practice asking yourself what am I longing for this year. The practice of asking is a big step! I still struggle with it somedays. How can I listen more deeply to myself in this process? That alone is a strong intention to tune into your intuition.
I wanted to start here because I think we live in a world where we take the world’s definition of success so easily. I think if we have learned anything in 2020 it is that the world is a broken gauge of success in so many ways particularly with the use of social media such a HUGE part of our life. Instead, I want you to feel permission to ask yourself what is my longing right now? Not just a surface longing but keep digging into it. For instance…I am longing to see my friends….why are you longing for that? Because I miss them and I miss connecting. What is it about connecting that is creating that longing? I desire a deep connection to being with a few people in my community who help me feel grounded. As I said, the question seems simple, but digging into the answer isn’t always such. It can reveal some very honest things that we are either comfortable with naming or fear for whatever reason. Vulnerability even with ourselves isn’t easy. I know. But if you are struggling even with just the idea of digging into a longing in yourself maybe that’s the undercurrent you need. To allow yourself to slowly everyday inch into the comfort of being vulnerable with yourself. Phew, that’s a lot of work on its own right there.
The thing is when we are able to identify that longing the result is we are closer to offering the world our whole self just a little better…even in a time like this. We will bring something to the table no one else can. We will offer ourselves grace and in turn, find space to both have strength and grace for others.
There is no better time to tune into that intention and longing we need than in the depths of winter when all feels stripped away just revealing the very bare branches of ourselves of the needs of our deepest longings and desires. Winter is about finding comfort amongst the discomforts. I suggest leaning into it.
Gosh, I hope this offers you permission and perspective in this year ahead. I hope you walk away today with space you didn’t know you had.
I cannot wait to have more of these talks this year! If you enjoyed it please share with friends you think would love it too. Hit subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s chat about my 2020 garden recap and what I learned as well as what I am planning for 2021.
If there is anything you would like to hear me cover in the podcast shoot me an email or comment below.