November 2020 reflections: Thoughts about work, productivity and creativity during the winter

grass reflections on water over rocks

Happy end of November, folks! We made it through the US elections (I mean, kind of…a transfer of power has yet to occur). Now we enter the dark time of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. This entry is a bunch of random thoughts about work, productivity and creativity during the winter.

Try as I may, I just can’t get every blog entry to flow as a singular, meaningful cohesive piece. This is more about the process than an attempt at perfection. And these reflections are really a collection of personally meaningful photos than a certain idea to communicate.

Production Ebbs and Flows

That being said, the basic point of this article is this: we can sense when someone is working from a place of being full compared to working from a place of giving more than they are replenishing.

Have you ever watched someone who is doing their thing so well? It almost looks effortless. They are creating so much, and at a high quality. It is feels in alignment with a greater part of themselves.

Then have you notice that they start to retreat inwards? Their social media presence becomes sporadic, their work less than it once was. They often say things like I just need some time right now, I need some time, I’m healing, I’m taking a break, I’m processing. This, too, is creating and being in alignment with a greater part of themselves.

Valentina Solfrina and Beth Kirby are two very creative and prolific food photographers I follow who have done just that. And it is so refreshing. After years of putting in regular work, they are unapologetically taking a break.

Christina Pratt has a podcast episode about this very thing called The Return or Filling the Well.

driftwood roots on sandy river bank

Transfer of Energy Inwards and Down

The dark seasons in the Northern regions is one of return. Leaving the bright guiding light of the outside and returning to the single spark of hope within. 

I believe that to at least some extent, most of us will be guided or at least inspired to follow the ways of the season. It may take a little bit of effort to scale back and go inward.

I, for one, adore the dark time of the year more than anything. Winter is my favorite season, by far.

Yes, I love winter and I mood is flying high, but I do not have a lot of energy. If I could, I would spend most of every winter day under covers and doze all day long.

Our biology often isn’t a sufficient guide into the wisdom of the yearly return, because under capitalism we have work schedules that remain the same, no matter what. Some of that is shifting with COVID, and there have always been people who have not worked out of the house in a 9-5 sort of way, by choice or by circumstance. Yet, the 40 hour work week is the standard archetype, and it is unrelenting. 

The last couple of months, I have felt the autumn move into my body and being the same way it moved through the trees and around bushes. Energy from the leaves is drawn inwards and down. Leaves drop and rot on the soil. Energy is stored in the roots, insulated in the earth. Or it is stored as potential energy in seed capsules. If the plant is an annual, the entire body returns to the Earth mother as they die. 

Do you feel the energy transfer within yourself during this time? 

Do you feel yourself dropping all those things that once brought you nutrients but are not up to withstand the cold and dark days of winter? Do you draw those packets of energy deep down and tuck them away to reemerge with the spring sun?

Maybe some parts of us are more like waxy needled conifers. Or vibrant starry moss, which thrives in the wet winters here in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe some parts of us are like tough-as-nails Calendula, who, as their name suggests, bloom during every month the calendar contains. 

Keep in mind, however, that even Calendula kind of hibernates during the heat of the blazing sun. Their production is not the same each year of the month, even they have a seasonality. 

dead chinook salmon on bottom of river after spawning
The Return: Dead Chinook salmon on bottom of river after spawning.
sharp teeth and hooked jaw of dead chinook salmon on bottom of river after spawning

Production during the time of return 

If it were up to me, we would have the option to take a little inwards vacation during the winter. 

I wish that social media algorithms would give the option to take a forgivable “hibernation mode”. Currently, the more active you are the better. This is a grave mistake on our part, because we should take this opportunity to not take the things that don’t work for humans and the Earth with us into the digital age. We should create a more balanced world, not one where we have to be “on” all the time. 

(More than just an inkling of me thinks at least a part of COVID in the grand scheme of things is to present the opportunity to put the breaks on excessive oil consumption via the daily grind via the way we work).

We are not machines. We are animals and we live on Earth. Our bodies ebb and flow with the seasons, and out production naturally does too.

The 40 hour work week is an arbitrary thing invented by Henry Ford in 1926. I say for the 100th anniversary of the 40 hour workweek we overturn it. Europe has. It is possible.

I don’t see us re-writing the rules of labor anytime soon, however. Except for a winter holiday and New Years Day break, work follows its same old rules throughout the winter. It is up to each of us to meet the resting needs of our body and the restoration of our inner spark a little bit, everyday.

Balanced Production – Is there such a thing?

There are many ways to look at this, but to me, production is what you produce within a certain amount of time. Production is work that is aimed at creating a certain result or product. 

For most of us, our need to work a job and get a paycheck is not going to shift. We may also be inspired to produce outside of our 9-5, to create a desired outcome. To do so without overly draining ourselves, I have two suggestions. 

1. I suggest that we balance our personal output with returning to rest. We need to recharge the batteries. Plug into your charging dock (for me that is my bed under covers) and spend regular, repetitive time there to replenish. This is extra, extra essential during pandemic and racism times, too. Our nervous systems need regular reminders that at least for this one moment, we are indeed safe.

2. I suggest that our production comes from our personal core values and from our place of creation, as opposed to production fueled by future goals and external outcomes.

driftwood roots on river bank in late fall
tiny white mushrooms with stripes on mossy logs

Inability to effort – A lesson of chronic illness

One of the challenging things of having a chronic infection that has fatigue and physical dysfunction as my main symptoms is that I often feel like a well person stuck in a body that doesn’t work. I get ideas and inspirations, arising from my heart and vision. 

Then I am faced with the reality that I just can’t work like I used to. I can’t try and make something happen. I can’ crank out a product. I cannot sit in a chair and type for more than 90 minuets in one day – it will make me be laid up on bed for two days and in pain for two weeks.

I cannot find my value in my ability to produce anymore. 

That is very challenging, because I want to contribute, to help, to inspire and to be seen just like anyone else. We can’t stop the desire to express our life purpose. To me, this means I need to find another way. 

So over the last few years I have been learning to approach production from another angle that won’t be at odds with my health. 

The funny thing is that if our culture was more balanced, I would’ve valued how to create without efforting when I entered motherhood. 

I had (and am still having) a very slow (timeless even), hands on, physiologic first few years of motherhood. But yet through all those years I was under the illusion that I would spend a number of years in my domicile and then I would be able to work when my kids went to school. I’d be able to work and produce and be external – and exercise that I am knowledgeable, skilled and worthy as I was earning an income. 

Well, COVID turned that plan upside down. Which is absolutely fine for me – I’m glad to do it.

Turns out that knowledge, skill and worthiness were there all along, even if I don’t have the super successful career or beautifully curated highlight reel to prove it. 

Everyones worth is inherent because we exist. That is never a question. 

It is also too bad that mothers and new parents feel so invisible. 

For people to get ahead, particularly for those who identify as a woman, its almost like we have to pretend to the public that we don’t have kids at all. Like we are maidens who never went through the right of passage of birthing a child or welcoming a child into the entirety of our lives. 

It’s a form of self-denial. This is not to say that we chose to do this just for fun or to get ahead, there really isn’t much of a choice.

Denial of motherhood prevents mothers from stepping into the power aligned with being a mother. Every change of self-hood and rite of passage comes along with a new level of power (that’s why it is a detriment that we don’t have an invitation into adulthood). The more we push that away so we can get ahead just like men so, the more disconnected we become to that power.

What would an acceptance of motherhood look like? National paid leave for 6 months postpartum (at least – that is the minimum time needed to make it breast/chestfeeding friendly for mama/parent and baby). Subsidized childcare. A set of caregiving to help heal and recover from birth for both parent and baby. Switzerland gives up to 20 pelvic floor rehab sessions, and babies get as much crainosacral as they need. Equal pay for women and men.

Being a parent most definitely fulfills the need to contribute, to help, to inspire and be seen – and then some, even if it is not deemed as taxable income. Some (most?) days, I wish I was seen less by my kids. In fact, I take great pleasure when I can arrange the comforter and pillows in such a way that my kids don’t know I’m in bed, hiding from them, to sneak in a warm-up cat nap. (I am real serious about that lying in bed under the covers thing).

I am far from understanding the ideal, least-draining, most rejuvenating path of expression. But I find inspiration from what I have learned about Taoism from being a Chinese medicine practitioner. When I release effort and striving, I feel flow and creation. I feel an awareness of my energy levels and instead of producing regardless of that level, and I respect that level instead of ignoring it.

This is not to problematize “striving” or even working or production. It’s just that we would ideally have more autonomy with our working lives in a way that it is less extractive of our own resources. 

nest in twigs of winter

Creativity as energetic currency 

My ability to produce comes from my personal values and a place of creation rather than chipping away at an outcome though busting ass per se.

First, I dream, then take a step when I am feeling physically resourced. Rinse and repeat. 

To be more specific, I work with backpack guidance. Backpack guidance is a snippet of guidance for the next step of the journey, It is not the entire map. Multi-step maps of a journey in its entirety are useless when working towards our dreams because life changes so much, all the time. It would be like getting all the food you are going to eat for the next 5 years delivered to your door. That would not be helpful. 

What is helpful, however, it to have a navigation system. To know your star systems and a way to connect with them regularly, so you are always on course.

This backpack type of guidance is kind of like that navigation system. It comes from time spent with myself, usually through dreams, visions, embodied medications, journeys to helping spirits, divination tools like Lenormand cards or Astrology, basic hunches or intuition. Guidance also comes from times of being in the moment throughout my day, like doing chores or going for a walk. 

From those Yin, inward states I usually get some sort of assignment to do. I know I got to work on ___. I work on it, then when I am ready, do it all again. 

The path is a slow one. But it fits my life right now. And most importantly, it does not wear me down. 

Creativity is a constant

Creativity is how I become refueled. Through my day, I add in little bits of creativity, which usually involves using my hands. 

The second thing that really fuels me is guiding the play of my kids, which to me is a combination of imagination and creativity in action. 

As an adult it is hard, if not nearly impossible, to play like we did as kids. Our brains are not the same. I simply cannot play with figures or stuffed animals or dolls like my kids do, or like I did when I was little. Adults tend to do playful types of things that we did as teenagers, like listen to music, read, move and dance, dress up, try on different personas, explore and discover, or play through social interactions. 

Creativity is much the same in children as it is in adults, though. We can create art, craft, build, invent all while working with our hands. An idea is manifest through creativity.

Right now I have been into making a dollhouse for my kids out of old wooden boxes. It is fun, although I do feel silly allowing myself to geek out on something so non-adult like.

rocks in sand
bark decomposing

Sometimes we need to nurture the imagination

The other side to playing and creating alongside my kids is that kids need to have examples of how things work. Kids emulate adults. They need to do “work” like cooking and cleaning, yard work, caring for animals and caring for one another. 

Sometimes they need to be taught how to play. When I was a preschool teacher I would notice that some kids were not really skilled at playing, especially ones who were grown up and had strong verbal skills. It was like they emulated the social ways of adults and skipped over being a kid because they were so smart and capable (and some kids are forced to grow up early, and/or are treated as adults). 

One kid in particular was so lost as how to play that she seemed stressed out at recess. She really didn’t know what to do with herself. The interesting thing to me is that because she was so smart and verbal, I would’ve assumed she would have a large imagination. But for whatever reason, it was like she didn’t know how to do imaginative play. 

We talked about play for a while. A few days later, when I felt she was receptive, I told her how I used to play when I was a kid. I explained in great detail how I would turn my bed into a boat and go on a long adventure. I’d pack up my boat with all the things I needed, and make a map to guide the way. 

This is what Robert Moss calls a Vision Transfer. I set the stage for her and enticed her with my enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is very contagious. Halfway through my story, she was jumping in the vision to say how she would do things, and by the end she was off making different parts of the playground her own boat. 

She must’ve practiced it over the weekend, because she ran up to me Monday morning to tell me all about her ship adventures. For the rest of the time I worked there, she and I would constantly draw maps, talk about the places one could go on a pretend ships, and talk about all the things you’d need for the journey. 

Sometimes we simply work too hard

Years ago I called into Caroline Myss’s radio show and asked her how I can cope with all the ideas and inspiration I get but can’t possibly execute. I was overwhelmed with inspiration and under resourced in fuel and time to get them done. She said, “Where are you going so fast? You are not missing the boat. You never miss the boat. You ARE the boat.”

It is so hard to balance it all. And it is especially hard in a society where we have to work so goddam hard just to afford to live. We transfer that same 40 hour plus work ethic to our dreams and side hustles, too. If I just work hard enough… 

I’m not saying we all rebel and stop creating and producing. There’s nothing wrong with working 40 plus hours on behalf of our dreams, but if we have the choice (thats a major if, because we don’t always have the privilege of a choice) let’s try not to overwork at the expense of our happiness or cell tissue.

My wish that we value all work, not just paid labor. The invisible, quiet, silent tasks of everyday like are work, too. Count the meals and the self tending and kin keeping as quality hours of production. 

Count the times inward, the time when we dock the boat and give the crew a rest. Don’t push the crew past their limit. By crew I mean your hormones, your organs, your skeleton and your spirit. Respect the crew and give them the rest they need.

How I create this blog and why

I have kicked myself many times since I committed to writing a new blog entry for each week. I am constantly questioning the validity of a weekly production schedule.

But after about 6 weeks of reflection about this, I have realized that for me, creation is best as a habit. It takes so much energy to get the ball rolling after it’s not been moving, so just keep it afloat. 

Creation is like a relationship. You have to regularly nurture creativity for it to grow, or at least for it to stay alive. 

Sometimes I create things I am proud of, but most of the time I create rough drafts from a sliver of an idea with photos from 7 years ago. I simply do not create the same quality of content all the time. It ebbs and flows, and that is absolutely okay. 

close up of green fuzzy mullein leaves with dew

November reflections 

Reflection is not about trying to achieve anything. It’s really just how you felt and what you thought. 

What was meaningful to you? 

What warrants your acknowledgement? 

Your celebrating?

Your continued embrace and support?

What was your favorite thing? 

Plants on my mind: Nervines, nervines, nervines. Especially heart-related ones, Motherwort, Linden, Hawthorne Berry and Leaf and Flower. 

I am reacquainting with Wormwood, an herb I loved many years ago. Wormwood grew as a weed in Minnesota where I used to live, but it does not grow here, and I have been missing this plant terribly. 

Holy – talk about bitter!

Health topics and herbs on my mind? I’ve been deep in the healing cave this month. As I have been for the past 2-4 years…but this month in particular has brought up a lot of healing of my bones and joints.

What were my favorite nature spots? We went to the river and spotted some dead Chinook Salmon after their spawning. Simply amazing creatures.

white man crouching next to rocky shore of river in late fall

What were my favorite things to eat? Sushi.

What was my favorite creation? Playing doll house designer, for sure. 

Notable dream? 

I had a dream in which:

I entered a different dimension. There was an open air lecture hall in a place that looked very much like Teletubby Land, and although everything was very normal, it was still somehow invisibly infused with Ancient Egypt. A deceased acquaintance was there, looking very well and she expressed that she was very happy and healed. (I was not close to here but I will convey her message to our mutual friends). In a little business district of a small town, I entered a lovely wood-filled child care center called The Phoenix. They taught the teachings of the Phoenix in their Waldorf-like curriculum. Upstairs in a play area was in fact, a Phoenix, and her energy radiated through the whole building. 

Ah, this is exactly why I do this.

This, to me, is the entire point of reflection. In the act of writing this dream for the second time (first was in my dream journal, right after dreaming it) has made the meaning completely obvious. When I had this dream a few weeks ago, I was intrigued but didn’t see the meaning. Even when I read it prior to writing it, the meaning was not evident. Only upon writing it did it come forward. 

What did my kids say or do? 

Riri is so funny. She is a Manifesting Generator and will play all day and night. Although to her it is all very important business. 

She dislocated her shoulder and that was scary, and it was sad to see her in so much pain, but she recovered well. I worked on her arm, neck and shoulder girdle with a LOT of Hypericum oil aka St. John’s Wort oil and Chinese trauma liniment, and with some very gentle movement, it popped back in on it’s own. Iris has been prone to Nursemaids elbow, too, which also responds very well to Hypericum oil and Chinese trauma liniment massage.

This is technically not a true dislocation that an adult would experience, but a subluxation, so it does not require an intense reduction. Childrens joints are lax and flexible, and things can pop in and out easily. However, you do have to be careful that it is healing well, because nerve damage is possible.

I had this as a chronic problem when I was around 3, too. My family knew how to pop my shoulder back in if it were to go out. I have sustained some sort of nerve, Lymph and vascular damage, and have to continually tend to my right shoulder, chest and scapula. Here’s hoping that the use of Hypericum and other herbs can keep the tissues rejuvenation and healing well. I will take her into our functional medicine chiropractor this week, and I may tape her shoulder with kinesiotape, too.

Wolfie is such a nice little guy. He repeatedly give us hugs and snuggles throughout the day. 


Can you believe we are almost at the end of 2020? One more month, my friends.

Stay warm, keep cozy, and drink some yummy tea.

Take good care, 

Celia


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