October. The month I always associate with transition, with a sinking into the Dark of the Year. Most people associate “dark” with bad, or negative…and don’t get me a wrong, I’m a girl who loves her sunshine (how I’ve ended up in Oregon for the past ten years continues to amuse me…well, except when it’s February). But the Dark of the Year is a time of introspection, a time to slow down and let things settle, and to honor all those Ancestors who came before and shaped your path.
Unless of course, you’ve just started midwifery school.
Then…well…good luck in finding anything that resembles Slow. I feel like I’ve spent the past three weeks running around. Running, running, running, almost always arriving short of breath. Alas, not literally, but mentally–from one class to another, one topic to another, struggling to find a way into being rather than just doing.
October is also perfect month to rekindle a regular tea break…so as we settle into this month’s chai, I find myself wanting to savor even more the rich warmth of the mug in my hands, that first waft of spice that invites us to take a breath and settle. I want to linger in the nuance of it all and really look you in eye as I try to craft a response to the question, “So, how is midwifery school?” that reveals more than just “It’s great! I love it!”
How do I describe the bone-deep satisfaction of finally being able to delve into the things I’ve been wanting to learn for the past several years now? It is great–I do love it! But diving deeper than that, I’ve also been grappling with this tension, a balance of the joy and pleasure of learning with the immense responsibility of what it means to become a midwife. It’s been hard to trust in myself these days, that I have enough (knowledge/experience/stamina) to make it through.
As I inhale another breath of complexity and feel some of the day’s tension relax a bit, I find myself wanting to share how hard it’s been to settle into a new rhythm. The four weeks I had in between my RN year and the start of midwifery school were jam-packed with travel, a conference, the NCLEX, and then more travel with friends. I started a new part-time job as an RN at an abortion clinic the weekend before school started. And then school started and a few days later I dropped my husband off for a three-week Europe extravaganza. Although we’re in the middle of week 3 of the term, I have yet to feel like I can describe the flow my day or week.
Pausing for a moment to be present for another sip of chai, I’d think about an image from a new tarot deck I found recently, The Wild Unknown. Last night I pulled the “Daughter of Wands” (Page of Wands for those familiar with the more traditional tarot deck). The card showed a beautiful young snake, on the brink of shedding her skin. Nestled in her coils in a single branch, with blossoms. The image speaks to a major transition and spiritual transformation…and it resonates deeply in this moment.
It’s not so much that I’m shedding an entire identity…but I’m more conscious of old habits that perhaps no longer serve me well. In actively trying to let go of some of the building stress and anxiety and old ways of coping, space is shifting for the midwife that I want to be: calm, grounded, and present with each person I work with. This is the time of year when I find myself wanting to sink into that space of introspection both critically and lovingly…and to be able to bring some ritual to the letting go and invitation to let new habits form.
The suit of wands also speaks to the pursuit of one’s passion, and to intellectual growth. I see these aspects of myself growing as well, as I navigate how to effectively advocate for my learning needs in class. The passionate advocate in me is never far from the surface and I almost always have something to say about the way a class is taught. The challenge is learning how to communicate those observations productively, so that they yield benefit for my classmates.
As my chai turns cold (too much talking, not enough drinking!), I want to share a link to a blog post that has been sitting in my heart for the past month. Michelle writes so beautifully of Susan Wicklund’s book This Common Secret. I first read this book about four years ago and it simmered for a long time afterwards. I thought a lot about the ways in which Dr. Wicklund grappled with how to do her work as an abortion provider while maintaining the safety of her family…and Michelle’s reflection on Dr. Wicklund’s struggle struck a chord:
“There is so much emotion in This Common Secret, a story that we should rally around and say, yes. Me too. This sounds like me. I do not encounter nearly the level of personal targeting and harassment as providers like Dr. Wicklund, Dr. Hearn, Dr. Parker , and Dr. Tiller, before his assassination, encountered. But we do need to stand up and make them feel like part of a community of providers. Abortion providers are, by and large ostracized from the medical world just as much as abortion has become isolated from the rest of women’s reproductive health care, and this is where abortion and providers are vulnerable.
This book left me with a feeling that cannot be squashed. That we are in this together. That we must rebuild a community of all those working in reproductive health and abortion care, not just for our own sakes, but to make this whole community safer and stronger.”
Finishing those last spice-concentrated drops at the bottom of the cup, I’d ask us all to reflect on the ways that we are building community in our lives. How do we individually nourish ourselves so that we can continue finding the energy to do the work we are so passionately called to do? How do we hold ourselves accountable to slow down and not get caught up in old habits that might hinder our ability to commit for the long-haul? How do we nurture that sometimes infinitesimal bubble of self-trust as we build our clinical practice and way of being as future providers? How do we make room for Slowness in our lives when it feels like the rest of the world is moving at 200mph?
Wishing you all warm and cozy October with lots of tea and little pockets of Slowness to pair with the ever-present whirlwind of life. See you in November, unless you’re headed to Minneapolis for the second annual Nursing Students for Choice Activist Summit, in which case, I’ll see you in a few weeks!