In 2014, I sat on a low wooden bench nursing my 6 week old baby boy while wet plaster strips were laid across my face to create a mask. The final activity of the Rise Up and Call Her Name program, a women’s spirituality curriculum by Elizabeth Fisher that I’d been guiding over the course of an entire year, I had shown all of the women in my living room how to make masks and now it was my turn to have the mask material applied. My back was sore and I felt tired and lonely within my plaster shell. As my face faded from view, the women began to talk around me as if I suddenly wasn’t there and as my lips were covered, I became voiceless and closed in, shrouded and silent. When the plaster dried and I emerged again, I saw a dear friend sitting in the recliner drinking tea. While I was not sorry to have finished my commitment to the group and to have closed out the year-long program, I was suddenly awash with a deep longing for rest, a deep longing to be the one in the chair being brought tea, instead of the one to lead the group, baby dangling from her breast, tugged in a million directions by questions and needs.
This moment, this snapshot of maternal priestessing, has recurred for me many times over the last few years, a wondering of why I could not permit myself to be the tea-drinker instead of the hostess, the person to enjoy instead of the person to teach, the person to rest instead of the person to create experiences.
This past January, at the beach, I made a list of what I hoped the year would hold. It was a declaration of intent, in a way, a list of statements about what I will do, the things that I wish to experience. One of the things I wrote that surprised me was: I will rest like I’ve wanted to rest since 2009. Wait. What about 2014 and the masked moment? No. In November of 2009, again feeling worn by demands and duties, I’d experienced a life-changing second trimester loss of my third baby. Before his death-birth, I had been longing for rest, feeling scattered and fragmented, pulled by the sometimes competing needs of my first two sons, my job as a college professor, and my volunteer responsibilities teaching at homeschool co-op, running a support group for breastfeeding women, and answering help calls for lactation support.
Rest doesn’t come easily for me, though I sleep well and almost always for eight hours a night. I joke with friends that I regularly experience what I term a “crisis of abundance”—there is always so much good work to be done, always so many interesting things, so many good ideas, so many worthy causes, so many important tasks, so many meaningful moments to absorb. I’ve written here at FAR about my efforts to slow down, to interrupt old patterns of illness and recovery, and I do build devoted daily time into my life for reflection and personal nourishment—I practice yoga, keep a journal, use my oracle cards, pray outside under the rising sun—and yet, the sense that I need rest recurs.
This year, in a pandemic, the issue of fatigue and depletion becomes even more heightened. In an article written for the Lapin International blog, David Lapin writes: “The way to treat depletion is with restoration, not with relaxation. While relaxation is a passive state of “not-doing”, restoration is a deliberate, active choice of activities different from your routine activities, which add energy instead of consume energy.”
When I read this, something clicks deep within. Perhaps I do not need to rest. Perhaps what I need is restoration. Rest is the antidote to fatigue. Restoration is the antidote to depletion. Most people in the world are experiencing some level of depletion at this point after nine months of pandemic conditions and diminished emotional, physical, energetic, and financial support systems.
Consider an empty glass of water. You can rest it for as long as you will, but rest won’t replenish its contents. Similarly, your body and mind are just containers. Your emotions, your intellect, and your spirit are the contents. You can only give emotional, intellectual, and spiritual output when your container is overflowing with content. This means you always need more emotional, intellectual, and spiritual input than output. If you continually draw from your content, you quickly become depleted. People with this overflow are the people we find energized and energizing. On the other hand, depleted people who need others to fill them are often the individuals who drain us!
The western capitalist model that encourages continual growth without replenishment and steady production and output regardless of personal or environmental limits, is not the model I wish to emulate, not the model I wish to live from, and indeed, is a model I’ve consciously and conscientiously stepped away from in my own adult life. In goddess-centered spiritual traditions, we look for inspiration, guidance, and examples in the cycles and systems of the earth herself to help us understand our own lives. When we look to the earth, we see that she teaches us that unchecked growth is not sustainable, that a fallow time for the field produces a more bountiful harvest, that continual blooming without fruiting or seeds or not normal or healthy, that there must be a time of withdrawal before there can be a time of renewal, that we must nourish what we plant or it will not thrive, and that life moves in cycles of production and restoration.
As is true for anyone involved in retail, this time of the year is the absolute busiest time for our small, home-based business. The outward direction, the energetic pull to go, do, be, more, more, more, is at energetic odds with the inward call of the “descent” time of the year, the turn of the Wheel towards darkness, the fading of the light, the withering of the plants, the fallowness of the fields, the cold temperatures that encourage withdrawal and hibernation. Each November, I feel the call of what I term “cave time.” I keep myself going instead though through the rush and flurry and the increasing questions and ideas and needs from all directions and then finally, in January, when we reach the beach again, the time for exhale finally comes. Each year, however, I wish to have a different experience of winter. I do not wish to cut off the abundance of this season for our business and yet I do not wish to deplete myself into exhaustion in service of it either. I know what I need. This year, we decide to close the shop for four days at the end of November, even though we are busy, even though shipping is unpredictable, even though people are waiting for replies from us, even though there are outstanding orders.
During these days off, I create for myself. I sew tiny books, I journal, I write a new poem of declarations for a new year, I draw with colored pencils, I unearth my magical Goddess of Willendorf rubber stamp and wildly stamp dozens of bookmarks with colored inks, her beautiful rotund form shining from the center of each. And, we walk. We walk down the road and through the trees to a small stand of natural growth pine trees that overlook a deep gully between two hills. A tiny creek bubbles here, emerging from the hillside and then running for a few short feet before disappearing again, water sinking below the rocks to emerge at an unknown location somewhere further along the ravine. The day is sunny and warm and we lay on our backs in the pine needles, eyes closed, basking in the sunshine and with the smell of pine in our lungs. The ground is firm and warm beneath us, the support we feel is always right beneath our feet, even when we forget to notice it. There is the sound of a red-bellied woodpecker at work, a frog in the softly singing waters, the soft touch of moss and the rough rasp of pinecone against my fingers. I find I can breathe easily again, my heartbeat is steady, my eyes are soft and grateful. I let myself soak in the sun and pine and when I at last rise to my feet again I can feel that something within me had been restored, replenished, and renewed.
The antidote to depletion is restoration and so I found my way to the pines and stones and let them hold me whole.
A Blessing for Restoration
If it all feels relentless and exhausting,
breathe and let that breath be easy.
If it feels like you can never be enough,
stretch out your arms
and let yourself be here
a person on this earth
at this time.
If it feels like there is never
pause and rest,
letting the chains around
your mind and heart
dissolve under the sun.
If you are full of passion,
let it be strong and biting,
hot and rich.
If you are full of sorrow,
let it leak out of your eyes
and wash you clean.
If you are confused
and wondering why,
soften your shoulders
and let your body have her own way
for a change.
If you are tired,
If you are hungry,
If you need love,
reach out to hug the world,
Let your revolution unfold from within,
let your restoration be your resistance,
let the meeting of your own needs
be the sweet song of revival
and the caring for yourself
be the seeds of change.
Let a sweet breath of gratitude renew you,
let a determined wave of acceptance enfold you,
let the soft balm of your own loving presence
replenish you home.
May you dare to declare yourself
as whole and here,
held and heard,
worthy of your own time.
Permit yourself this revolutionary act of noticing
right where you are.
May you be wrapped in wonder and wildness,
may you trust the tender fibers of your own truth,
and may you let them carry you through this day.
Molly Remer’s newest prayerbook, Whole and Holy: a Goddess Devotional was published in November. Molly has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and more at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, Sunlight on Cedar, the Goddess Devotional, She Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, Feminism and Religion, and Sage Woman Magazine.
Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Embodiment, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Mother Earth, Narrative Essay, Nature, Seasons, Spirituality, Women and Work, Women's Spirituality, Women's Voices