Over the last few weeks of a winter that seemed to go on as if held in place by a giant pause button, I found myself in a bit of a hole, feeling the weight of routine dullness and fear that having come this far, there was nowhere left to go. As well as the winter that seemed determined to hold out against the tiny flourishes of spring, it was also a sense of despair at surveying the yawning gap between surviving a catastrophe and moving on to rebuild and create something new.
What does it mean to thrive?
I know getting this far is an achievement, but still feel anxious about my capacity to shape a new life. The sense of devastation can be overwhelming at times, but as the sadness over what was eases and softens, there’s a new sense of struggle, a mix of fear and frustration, over where things are at. I don’t want my future to carry on in this in-between dream.
What’s also new is a shift away from feeling I have to do it alone. Grief was uniquely solitary, shutting you out even when you aren’t physically alone, while the healing and recovery taking place in recent months has also required solitude. But a growing need to break out of isolation, painful in the face of intense loneliness, is giving way little by little to a process of warming mirrored by the cascading signs of a spring that was held at bay by the cold for so long
New friendships, new experiences are beginning to emerge with the flounce of colourful, delicate blossom. Sitting watching the sunset with new friends in a park overlooking the city, a breakfast in the sunshine with a group of women I like and admire, time at the allotment, sunshine on my back while weeding, surrounded by good people, conversation, laughter and glorious food. This weekend I felt grateful for these warm Flourishes of life, just as I did in the week when a friend and her daughters stayed and cooking, eating, watching films, chatter and laughter filled the house.
To return to the question of what it means to thrive, I can see that other people are entirely necessary to it. I’ve always valued female friends, and while I was grieving often turned to them for support and wisdom. This side of grief the importance of different communities of women is coming into greater relief.
I recently started volunteering at a women’s space – and am fascinated by what seems to be taking place as the women there draw on the experience of being together and develop awareness not only of what they gain from being part of it but also what they have to give and contribute. The women who go there are described as ‘vulnerable’ but every day there they seem to change subtly, growing a little more confident as they experience themselves as active and purposeful, seen and heard. And as I enter this new phase, I’m finding that being there is helping me to see myself differently too, to enjoy the expressions of life among them and other women I am coming to know, which seem, naturally, to cheer on my search for my own.
And in these dreamy spring days of new possibility, I wonder about long-held beliefs that I somehow imbibed from who knows where, that success was predicated on somehow storming the citadels of male power. What would happen if we began to see these spaces as something in themselves, not simply refuges from the challenges we face in that world, but creative spaces where we can begin dreaming up alternatives?