Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat In Difficult Times
by Katherine May
Published November 2020 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered. 

A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May's story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas. 

Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.

My Thoughts: 
"Everybody winters at one time or another: some winter over and over again."
I'm can't recall who recommended this - one of my blogging friends. Thank you to whoever it was who brought it to my attention. This was another of those books that was the right book at the right time. But even if I had read it at another time, it is still a book that had much to offer to me, as a person who has wintered over and over again.
"There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open up and you fall through them into somewhere else. Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on. Somewhere Else is where ghosts live, concealed from view and only glimpsed by people in the real world. Somewhere Else exists at a delay, so that you can’t quite keep pace."
Chapters are divided by winter month names but they are really time that May has wintered. I got so wrapped up in her personal story that it took me a bit to settle into the ways that what she did could be used to help others learn how to get through low periods in their lives.  
"Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds. Some winterings creep upon us more slowly, accompanying the protracted death of a relationship, the gradual ratcheting up of caring responsibilities as our parents age, the drip-drip-drip of lost confidence. Some are appallingly sudden , like discovering one day that your skills are considered obsolete, the company you worked for has gone bankrupt, or your partner is in love with someone new. However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful."

As much as I enjoyed the book and felt I'd learned a lot from it, I didn't realize just how much until I went back and copied the many sections that I had bookmarked. I'm going to keep those notes handy. I know I'll come out of this period but I know, from experience, that I will have another period. It might not take something as traumatic as losing a parent, but it will come. Next time I will be better prepared. I will know that what I need to do is to allow myself to feel wintering as a need. "It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience to commit to healing them the best we can." We need to understand that we need to allow ourselves to take care of ourselves during this time and to embrace it. 

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