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I tell myself first.

The most exhausting conversation I have every day is the one I'm having with myself. 

In high school, during the height of my social anxiety, (no one would have guessed it), I went to see the church counselor.  She gave me a worksheet on "self talk" and I thought it was psychobabble and blah, blah, blah till the cows came home from God-knows-where.  

Lately I've been ruminating on the depletion of energy I feel not just from my physical body, but from my spirit, my soul – the lack of warmth.  The depletion isn't from what the season is taking from me. The depletion comes from not accepting the invitation the season is offering me, the invitation to hear what I have to say. (see my latest guest blog here)

The wind outside is howling at a -25 degrees and the snow is building it's case against our man made measures of safety with equal tenacity.  Winter pulls the blanket of grey sky over us from November to March or April, or May.  It is a forced rest.  Summer lets us frolic late into the night carefree; winter has us in our comfy pants after dinner and begs us to stay in.  For the most part, this can be a romantic gesture for the first few months until after the holiday chaos dies down.  After we recoup in January, it's mental hula hoops until Spring.  We are pushing through the self-talk day in and day out.  We are seeking warmth where we sleep, where we drive, where our skin hits the air and in what we drink or eat.  The warmth sooths us and in order to receive it, we must be confined.   

While I squirm in this confinement, anxious and claustrophobic, I wonder if this forced rest is unknowingly soothing me.  It reminds me of Temple Grandin.  Temple is autistic and she can't tolerate the touch of another human being so she builds herself a contraption much like the one they use to hold cattle still in order to brand them.  It constricts their bodies into submission.  Initially they fight the restraint and then they settle into it. It calms them.  For Temple, this contraption simulates a human embrace.  When I have a migraine, I ask my friends to place their palms on each side of my temples and then apply all the pressure they can – a human vice grip.  It brings relief for a bit and reminds me of what it's like to feel well if only for a minute.  Our friend "Hopey" has Angelman Syndrome.  As a toddler she loved it when we would hug and squeeze her really tight.  It made her giggle uncontrollably, she found the compression to be more than comforting, it was delightful.  From the confinement of a womb to the swaddling of a blanket, we want to be held. As an adult, it's like sleeping pressed against the cushions of a sofa on nights when the queen size mattress feels vast and empty.

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The winter is unpredictable; we think ahead about the layers required, the confinement needed to resist the elements.  The winter forces us to do what we hate doing most, listen in the stillness to the self-talk that is relentless.  Each season offers us different escapes and we adapt physically (as it demands our attention) but we resist the emotional adjustments knowing that in fact, winter is patient; it will wait for us to accept the invitation to use our inside voices.

On days like this, when the self-talk is loud and screaming for attention like a toddler who can't use her words, I sit and I write them out.  I sit inside watching the snowflakes drift aimlessly in complete surrender to the wind while the plow truck aggressively moves it from its resting place.  The flakes are harmless in the air and a nuisance when they land. 

In the confinement of winter let yourself take in each thought with "curiosity and interest" then decide where it should land.  This season is a gift, a sabbatical.  If you resist it, you resist the healing that is for your good and inevitably shortchange the exchange of summer, which offers freedom of light and flesh.

Sit with me today.  Find the warmth.  I'm telling myself these things first.  

Meet you here next week.  

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by Shea Petaja

To be brutally, bordering on offensively honest I would like to say that the gratitude status updates during the month of November leading up to Thanksgiving felt like pollution on my feed.  I didn't read any of them.  Perhaps I doubted the genuine posture of those posting, or felt annoyed by the bandwagon effect, or even more horrifying - it revealed the ungrateful and (can I admit jealous?) person I really am.

This fall has been one of letting go.  The memory of learning to let go brings me all the way back to high school.  I was letting go of someone in my life and it felt like a forever sever.  I was fist-clinched-pissed and my dad said to me, “Better to hold things loosely Shea – that way when it’s time to let go, God won’t have to pry your hands off of it.”

White knuckled love.

It's been painful to be grateful for what I have been given when I'm being asked to give  back.  The internal prayer when I force my eyelids open in the morning is this, "Dear God, not today." Upon praying this prayer a few weeks back God said to me (in the way I think he speaks), "Shea. A year ago you didn't have half the problems you have today. When will you have enough to say 'thank you'?" 

Got it.

My prayer has morphed into this, “Dear God. It could be a lot worse. Thank you for the problems I have today. I think they will be enough.”

Here's to hoping that God has a sense of humor and a heart for cynics.  I’m convinced that the more we are given and the larger we cup our hands open in gratitude the more we will be required to give back. 

We will never be empty handed. 

We will always be full even if it requires letting go.  

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