This fall, it’s been hard to stop habits I know are bad for me, even after telling myself I will. I buy flowers and light scented candles for my kitchen, put on new clothes, but the mistakes I make and doubts I have repeat themselves. I’m looping the same anxieties in my head as last year. I’ve dug myself the same holes in the past and I hope to dig myself out again. I watch the sun set earlier each day. I start sleeping better, then worse, then better again. I’m forming words like the paths in my mind, merging together feelings I’m afraid to voice.
“Women have been sitting in circles for hundreds of years,” my coworker said back in early September, before autumn weighed as much as it does now. She’s right, and we’ll keep doing so for hundreds more.
Mid-September on the couch at work, a woman gave me a hug and asked about my higher power. Upon learning I’m Catholic, she showed me a bracelet someone she knows gave her: a Mother Mary pendant surrounded by pink, red, and silver beads. Women pass love between us; Mary lives in that house with those women. My insecurities swirl like milk in my coffee on rainy mornings, and the women around me bring them to a stop, grounding me.
Late September, I attended an LGBTQ+ Christian poetry reading. After, I went to my friend’s house for tea; three bisexual Christian women sat on a different couch, talking of Mary and the rosary. Our Mother helps me see God in myself and the women around me: resilient and unafraid to claim holiness that’s rightfully ours.
I ask for what I want more often now. I do things I want to even when I maybe shouldn’t, like taking a vacation to see my cousin, making friends with strangers on the bus late at night, and asking girls out. I’m talking about things I wouldn’t have mentioned a year ago. I’m thinking about the implications of things I do, consume, and participate in, and the weight of things like my carbon footprint, my student debt, and the time and energy taken up by both.
My roots dig deep into the earth, desperate to keep me steady when I doubt, shake, and slip. I watch election news, climate strikes, and worker strikes through October and November, doing what little I can to play my part in uprooting and shaking systems. People stand together, arms around each other’s shoulders in prayer and protest. In the weight of it all, we’re holding each other up as best we can, even when some pull away. We weave prayer beads in and out of our fingers, our fingers in and out of each other’s.
Early November in Baltimore, visiting my cousin, I realized I haven’t been feeling as grounded as I’ve been trying to convince myself I am. Anxiety keeps me from speaking my mind when I should; then I’m crying and overthinking everything again, on a couch far from home. When I return home, it doesn’t fade. My house is too quiet; my friendly upstairs neighbours moved out while I was gone. Like my anxieties, I keep my cat inside longer than I should.
I’m finding comfort in repetition, like the decades of the rosary. My fingers slip over each bead, just as my mind slips in and out of sleep on cold, anxious nights that leave the grass frosted in the morning, my head foggy as the Vancouver air. God teaches me to lean on my holy Mother, my friends, my family, and the crisp fall air around me. These are the roots that sustain me, even in darkness. In my worst hours, I replay memories of recent nights holding hands with Anna across the table at Steamworks, walking up Robson with my arm linked in Canice’s, hugging Jocelyn for the first time in months, and long, vulnerable conversations on my couch with Kate. Close friendships sustain warmth. On cold, anxious nights, my cat’s at the end of my bed, sustaining the same.
Sustainability is making space for mental health, taking the time necessary to do the emotional journeying required. It’s refusing to get into an argument, or letting go of conversations that aren’t worth it. It’s forcing myself to do laundry more often and walking home slowly on the rare days it’s not raining, counting my blessings. I’m grateful, despite that I worry about my luck, opportunities, and friendships running short. Slowly, I’m teaching myself not to worry so much about holding onto them and to let them stay where they’ve rooted.
Recognizing the shifts in myself and those I care for is required for a more sustainable existence. I’ve realized how much I hold in, how much trauma I have left over from past circumstances, and how much weight I carry with me, even when I travel far away. Anxiety keeps me worrying about the things I say and don’t, and that’s when I don’t feel grounded. Again, I have to remind myself that the people I love aren’t going anywhere, and that I can trust them even when I have doubts.
Sustainability means having faith in consistent closeness to the people I love. It means being bold enough to talk about things that would have kept me silent a year, or even a few months ago. Living sustainably means meeting people where they’re at, emotionally, mentally, and physically. This includes myself.
I’m still healing from things I didn’t know I was healing from. Maybe spending much of the fall in anxiety is building the resilience necessary for my soul to truly become calm and strong. Now, in late November, I’m beginning to worry less about some of the things I don’t have figured out and more about love, where I’m carefully spending it, and what I’m getting back from it.
When we’re stripped down to our most vulnerable, people want nothing more but to love and care for each other. Months, even years later, we’re all still sitting in the same circles and on the same couches, sipping tea, dehydrated from crying. We’re teaching ourselves what it means to be connected and grounded, and what it means to truly trust in ourselves, our higher powers, and the people around us. We’re teaching ourselves what it means to call somewhere or someone home.
I’ve called this place home for two years here now, and I’m still grounding myself after being away from it recently, physically and spiritually. I’m reconnecting with myself and with what it means to live and grow here in the familiar cadence of Vancouver’s rainy fall. I’m finding the grounding I’ve been seeking, and I’ll continue looking. As with most things, it won’t be one set, obvious, or linear answer.
- About a month ago, I was a guest on an episode of Queerology Podcast. If you’d like, you can listen to it by clicking here, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
- The song Resilient by Rising Appalachia has influenced this blog post and my outlook on life the past few months as I was writing it. I highly recommend this song to anyone seeking strength, or just beautiful music.