I’m thrilled to share this guest post by Jenny Miner. She wrote this letter towards the end of her re-entry transition from Brazil to the US. In looking back on what she had learned, the reflection took the form of a letter to herself.
My dearest Jenny,
Be gentle with yourself amidst the storm.
There will be times when your tiny boat lurches between the waves and all you can see is the frothing peaks of water crashing around you. There will be times when there is no wind, no stars, and no guide posts… even your oars have floated away. You will feet utterly lost at times. Yet here you are, rowing along.
For the next re-entry-life transition-sea adventure, here are the tools and tips and sailors’ tricks that will help you toil through the storm, and maybe even let the swells of the ocean lull you into rest every once in a while.
Find Your Anchor
Your anchor is deep within you: that place right at your center, between your navel, spine, and pelvis. A sturdy supple tree trunk of deep intuitive knowing. Your anchor also appears as a wild, awesomely powerful old woman, carving out space for you to simply be. It appears as a giant hand caressing and supporting your back, as the quietness of a dream, or as a voice telling you to rest now, child.
She has taken many forms and will take many more. If you lose track of her, look for her in movement, in drawing, in humming and singing, in the tweaks, twinges, and pulls of your belly. Look for her in the expanse of trees and rocks and air and in the soft pillows of moss. She will be there.
Withstand the Whirlpools
When you encounter a whirlpool that draws you down to the depths of your own soul in a cruel spiral of self-criticism, unforgiving, and just plain meanness, you need to ask for help. You can’t do everything on your own, and that’s okay. You need to see a friend to have a reminder of how great you are. They won’t understand everything, but just by being there with you and witnessing you, they will ease your pain.
In whirlpool situations, you need to haul your anchor out and drop it down into the sea forcefully. Find it however you can, find the wise wild woman and lay in her lap for a while. She’ll remind you that you’ve survived many a whirlpool, because eventually they shoot you back up right through the center and you go flying on to other waters.
Keep Your Boat Shipshape
Proper boat maintenance is of utmost importance—if you’ve got a hole in your boat, you will sink fast and go nowhere. Oars should be inspected, ropes maintained organized, the deck scrubbed clean.
This means incorporating the many activities that make you feel good, whatever those happen to be. Recently they have included dancing, capoeira, drawing, playing music, singing while bike riding, smelling the jasmine on the sidewalk, looking at the moon, putting your toes in the mud, lounging in trees, journaling… it doesn’t really matter what it is, just do it.
Remember that caring for your boat contributes to the whole operation; it contributes to the job search and the inner changes. Even just on its own, it’s work that takes you forward.
Stock Up for Your Soul
When your food stores get low, either from rats or mold or barrels of jerky fallen overboard, gather your stores back up. When you feel like the job search and logistics of life is draining your creative energy, when you see your sparkly glowing creative juice dribbling down the drain—STOP and gather it back up in any way you can. Without this fuel you cannot paddle, you cannot be effective in anything. You must feed your soul!
Yield to the Storms
Storms, swells, thunder will come. Bathe yourself in the rains of sorrow and loss; tap into the lightning energy of anger; feel the salty sting of rejection; and stay with itchiness of not belonging. Let the storms of emotions—however unpredictable or seemingly illogical—let the storms blow through. Relish the opportunity to feel deeply, to be fully present on the deck of the ship, paddling your heart out and facing the elements. Take deep full breaths, welcome the tears, and let the storm fuel you—in dance, in art, in writing.
At long last, when you’ve reached calmer waters and you can bask in the sunshine, give thanks. Thank every version of yourself that showed up when it needed to and forgive yourself for not completing the journey exactly like you had planned. Go back and express the gratitude you couldn’t express fully at the time, recognize every guiding star that helped you navigate, every person that helped you paddle and pull the ropes.
Because for all the truth in the deep loneliness you felt along the way, there’s also truth in the fact that you were never really alone. You had help the whole way through, a whole crew, supporting and rooting for you.
So, to my crew—thank you.
Bio: Jenny lived in the small city of Petrolina in the sertão of northeast Brazil for over two years. While there, she worked at public universities creating English language programs and was part of a semi-fictional band called Os Bodes Aquáticos (The Aquatic Goats). She loves incorporating her interests of dance, music, and art into language learning and intercultural exchange.