I'm thinking of birth a lot this year. There was of course, the coming of Braeden this past August. There was also the birth of myself as a mother. There are many births one can experience. As I think of birth I think of its predecessor: CONTRACTION. This isn't just a post about labor contractions. There are also many contractions one can experience.
Winter is contraction.
It could be argued that Winter Solstice is the biggest contraction of them all. Everything sucks inward for the big push in the Spring. It is cold. It is dark. Life goes dormant. Before modern amenities, it was a harsh time. Winter was something to be survived. Therein lies the honoring of the Solstice. When the Solstice arrives, it means contraction has peaked. For Mother Nature, it's time to PUSH. Birth and contraction are part of making Spring. They're part of making Art. They are part of making anything.
Can you relate to contraction in your life? Maybe it's in your career. Your relationships. Maybe you have writer's block. Maybe you are ill. Maybe you are broke. It could also be said collectively we are in contraction right now. Pandemic. Race tensions. Economic breakdown. Climate breakdown.
Contractions are by definition, painful. They force our attention. They demand all our energy be funneled. Contractions are not fun. Yet they are integral to birthing things into the world we've been germinating inside ourselves. It is because contractions are so important, I find it tragic our culture teaches us a tremendous lie about them:
When you're in contraction something is wrong.
You can look at the Self Help Industry to see this lie being perpetuated. "Are you in contraction? It's because of A, B, and C, and if you pay for this book/webinar/series, you can get X, Y, and Z to fix it." If you're in deep discomfort, never fear, someone is around the corner to give you what you were "missing" for the right price.
I think the truth is simpler and less capitalistic: Contraction is a sign you've done so much right. It's a sign the thing you've been creating is ready to be born. When things start getting painful in an area of my life, I know something beautiful is coming. This is also of course, how a human birth works.
Here's something fascinating about humans births. Many parent friends will know about this, but I hadn't heard of it until I became pregnant.
It's called Transition.
Transition is the period right before the baby arrives when women experience a psychological "snap" so-to-speak. It's often marked by irrational thoughts like: "Put it back. I've changed my mind. I'm going home. I don't want the baby anymore." Some women will describe feeling very certain they could reverse the whole process. They are ridiculous thoughts, and they come at the peak of contractions.
Braeden arrived via C-Section, so I didn't experience classic transition, but I had an oddly similar set of circumstances. The morning of his arrival, we got to the hospital thinking everything was normal. We found quite suddenly things were amiss, and I would be ushered into surgery within the hour. I felt relatively calm as they prepped me, but as I walked into the O.R., I saw the operating table surrounded by dozens of bustling nurses. In that moment, I had the most unexpected and powerful thought: I could run.
I considered how far I could get if I simply turned around and ran out of the hospital. I played over in my mind the doors I'd need to push through, how would I get the keys from Jason... that's how literally I considered RUNNING.
This is Transition. It's the most intense part of the birth process. It's the Solstice.
I'm fascinated by Transition. I find it deeply comforting to know it's not a sign of weakness to want to give up right before something big and beautiful arrives. It's part of the natural way of the land.
This shift in understanding has transformed my artistic life. (Well... my whole life.) Transition happens in all areas, and when it does, it's not a sign that you've messed up as we're so often taught. Rather, it is a sign you've done the work. You've incubated something. You've nurtured something. It lived inside of you growing for weeks, months... YEARS. Now that thing is ready. It's going to be born. A new career. A new relationship. A new city. A new artwork. A new business. A new state of mind. A new perspective. But in order for this thing to arrive, your job, your relationship, your body, your mind, possibly your whole life is going to CONTRACT. Things are going to fall off. Things are going to hurt. And the kicker is that contractions take time. Sometimes a lot of time. Contractions suck. We sweat. We cry. We heave. We feel as if we are breaking. All of that is part of the deal.
But here's the one thing that isn't part of the deal. It's why Winter Solstice can so powerfully serve us as artists right now. It reminds us to never, ever think contractions are because you have messed up. Your pain is not due to a mess up, anymore than winter is due to Mother Earth messing up. It is simply part of the creative process.
If you're in contraction right now, you're on the precipice of getting to hold the thing you've been creating in your arms very soon.