When you assess your own life, consider it with the eye of a gardener. Underneath the surface lies rich, fertile soil waiting to nurture the seeds you sow. ~ S. Goodier
It’s a pretty normal day. All is running smoothly and as planned. Outside the sky is blue and the birds are singing. But still … for one reason or another you carry a deep heaviness in your heart, a sort of black hole that slowly and secretly sucks up all of your vigor, liveliness and contentedness, leaving behind an empty shell.
What can possibly be wrong with you?
Many of us experience spontaneous bouts of melancholy, unhappiness and depression throughout our lives. While some come and go quickly like black winter clouds, others continue to hover over us for long and suffocating periods of time.
If you have experienced or are experiencing this, you may be feeling a sense of confusion and hopelessness in light of the myriad of theories out there to explain your dilemma. From repressed childhood issues and suppressed emotions, to existential life crisis’, there are many complex and exhausting avenues to explore.
Recently I’ve been struggling with this very problem myself. In my own experience I would describe the experience as a sudden and oppressive tidal wave that leaves you with the feelings of apathy and dullness and bleak inner heaviness.
For the past few months I have dreaded these unannounced periods of gloom. Only the other day did I really stop, ground myself, and ask why I felt the way I did. And this article is a reflection of what I discovered.
The Maternal and Paternal Self
Nurturing. Call it an essential evolutionary function, or a pivotal spiritual force, but undisputably nurturing is an essential component in life. It constitutes our “Illuminated Selves” and exists on the opposite end of the spectrum to our Shadow Selves which Sol explored the other week.
When I stopped to question why I felt so miserable and dreary I realized one great thing: I wasn’t actively nurturing or taking care of anything in my life. No pets, no children … the problem, I realized, was that I was not fulfilling that motherly and maternal side of myself.
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of us have maternal or paternal sides – it’s built into our very biology. The ability to sustain, nourish and rear something is not only a great honor, but a great source of inner pride, happiness and fulfillment in life. Understandably, when we neglect this kind, sensitive and attentive side of ourselves, we feel as though something is missing. And if we’re unable to figure this out for ourselves, some level of depression or unhappiness is likely to ensue.
So if you’re feeling the blues at this moment, try to answer this question: Are you nurturing anything in your life at the moment? If so, does it actually fulfill you?
What to Nurture
This was the question that I asked myself: “What can I nurture?” And the next day I set to work planting herb, vegetable and flower seeds in a variety of old plastic pots in my backyard. Let me tell you, the feeling of sowing and slowly raising and nourishing a modest army of plants is quite beautiful and comforting. At this very moment I’m much happier that I was a couple of months ago, and I attribute this to the nurturing of plants and the fulfillment of my maternal side.
But what about you? Below you will find a variety of ideas to fulfill that maternal or paternal side within yourself:
Set up a chicken coop in your backyard. This way you get to nurture something and eat something as a result (I’m talking about the eggs!)
Consider adopting a stray animal from a local animal shelter.
3. Become a Gardener
Create a herb or vegetable garden. You will benefit from both eating fresh food, and nurturing something useful.
4. Start Small
Buy an indoor plant that you can tend to and sustain.
Consider the possibility of becoming a baby-sitter if you don’t have children of your own. This will allow you to feel responsible for the well-being of another human being.
Become a volunteer for a community initiative. Many volunteering positions revolve around taking care of other people, animals or things.
Become a foster parent (or an actual parent). A big decision to make, but one that many people find fulfilling.
8. Choosing Jobs
Consider working towards, or working in, a job that allows you to cater to your maternal or paternal side, e.g. nursing, daycare, midwifery, horticulture, veterinarianship, counseling, etc.
Although nurturing something outside of yourself is a good way to fulfill different parts of yourself, it’s always important to keep in mind that true, long-lasting happiness can only come from within yourself.
If you have any thoughts or experiences to share in regards to this article, I’d love to hear them below!