Don't you just love that March is the only month that's a verb? I do. This time of year I need a little jolt to get me out of the doldrums of winter and catapult me toward springtime. Yesterday I spent part of the afternoon opening up my sun porch and even though it's still a bit chilly, the bright sunlight and melting snow are harbingers of warmer weather.
It's about time.
Every year I hit a low point at the beginning of March. I'm tired, frustrated, grouchy, and basically need to spend more time on my own. (I've often said my alone time is for others' safety, especially when coasting toward the vernal equinox.) It's more than cabin fever. More than itching to ride my bike or hike the trails at the park without fear of slipping on the ice. It seems this time of year usually provides the culminating lesson of everything that's come in the twelve months before, and in the light of brighter sunshine, I find myself sifting and sorting through baggage that's been hanging around in the darker recesses of my psyche.
It's time once again to clean out the closets - and in more ways than one.
While running errands over the weekend I was standing in line at Target while a mother and daughter were talking behind me. The mother asked her child to bring her a gardening magazine from the rack nearby.
"Aren't these beautiful?" the mother said, pointing to the cover.
The young girl grimaced. "Ick...I don't like those."
Then mother gently replied, "You don't have to like them to think they're beautiful."
Their conversation sparked my curiosity, so I asked, " What are you looking at?"
The mother showed me a lovely basket of colorful tomatoes and peppers in all different shapes and sizes.
I smiled. "They are gorgeous, aren't they?"
The girl wrinkled her nose.
"I don't really like peppers," I said. "But I can appreciate their texture and how they accent the other vegetables."
"It's really a work of art," the mother said. "This helps tide me over until I can get outside."
"Are you a gardener, too?" I asked.
"I try," she replied. "I'm not sure how good I am at it, but I like to see what will happen."
"I hear you," I nodded. "I can't wait to get my hands back in the dirt."
That's more true than ever, for this winter I've been digging around in my internal dirt way too long and it's time to take that energy elsewhere.
Last year my friend, Sue, gave me a bunch of cacti. I've never grown them before, so it's been an adventure keeping the prickly plants alive all winter long. I can't seem to find the right feeding schedule, but they're forgiving and keep growing, so I can't complain. They don't either. Plus they've taught me the very valuable lesson of keeping my fingers where they belong whenever I approach them with a watering can.
When I lived in Big Sur, stinging nettle plants grew in nearly every garden bed at Esalen. Pulling them up one by one was a task no one wanted to do, especially without gloves. But like the stalwart I am - sometimes to my own detriment - one afternoon I attacked a whole bed of them (sans canvas protection) and spent the next few days suffering in agony with swollen fingers and palms. I will never forget the experience of trying to pick up a fork to feed myself with a hand the size of a small baseball glove. Still, I was well aware of what I was doing at the time, and looking back on it, I realize I was unconsciously punishing myself for staying in a situation much longer than was healthy. Pulling up every single one of those stinging nettles brought me back to reality - fast. It was a not-so-hidden way of getting my attention...and thankfully, the lesson stuck.
Nowadays when I find myself entrenched in a situation in which I want to grow, but the other person or the circumstance wants to keep me small, I think back on that afternoon in Big Sur and ask myself, "Is the torture of sitting on that cactus worth holding on to what little you have?"
Ultimately, the answer is always a resounding, "No."
In the end, I get up off of that thing and move forward.
This month as I march onward, I find myself recognizing metaphoric cacti in every aspect of my life. The niggling passive-aggressive behavior of others. The upcoming significant changes that will directly affect my home and neighborhood. The nagging pain in my lower back. The nagging voices in my head. And yet, I don't have to like any of these things to know they are serving a purpose, even if I can't see it right now. I can appreciate the texture of my ever-changing feelings and thoughts on my way to higher understanding. The anger, the frustration, the unrequited desire for closure can all be set aside as I learn to let go of that which I cannot change.
For I've also learned to shake off the sorrow by going upstairs to my yoga studio and dancing.
There's a recent study which reveals that dancing reduces stress and depression. It increases energy and serotonin levels. Dancing improves flexibility, strength, and endurance. It increases mental capacity and allows new neural pathways to form in the brain. In fact, dancing has been proven to be the leading form of exercise in terms of creating overall physical, mental, and emotional health and vitality. And most of all, it's a heck of a lot of fun.
I, for one, know James Brown was right when he encouraged all of us to "get up offa that thing...and dance 'til you feel better." I'm not sure how good I am at dancing, but it doesn't really matter...because I'm always curious to see what will happen afterwards when I groove back into my life.