If you’ve read the About page on this blog, you already have some idea of why She Dwells came into being: this is a place where I hope to help women think through the big transitions in their lives. Those shifts can take on many different forms. Sometimes they involve an obvious change (of career or marital status, for instance), but sometimes they’re more subtle. Learning how to live my life as an adult orphan is a big shift I’ve been making over the course of the past two years. I’m just finally making peace with the fact that both of my parents are gone.
All those big transitions have something in common, though: they require a bit of dwelling.
My mom used to caution against this. You can’t dwell on it was her go-to advice for dealing with adversity. That was her way of saying what lots of people say in those moments. Shake it off. Move on. I’d like to suggest that moving forward isn’t the only way of making a transition. In fact, before you start moving on, it’s a good idea to sit and think for a while. To dwell in that moment of transition. To consider all the possibilities, before you choose a new direction.
How many times have you made a decision in the heat of the moment and later regretted it? The decision to cut my long hair very short after a bad breakup comes to mind. I wanted to signal a clean break. A total transformation. An all-new me. And I certainly did–but I’m not sure the many years of growing my hair back out were worth making that statement.
Dwelling, in fact, gives you time to move from irrational, but sometimes unavoidable, pain and anger toward something more productive. Call it a fresh perspective, or the wisdom of experience–which can’t be gained until you’re actually finished with the experience. And who knows how long that might take.
Perhaps more importantly, the decision to dwell puts you in control. You’ve heard the phrase Bloom where you’re planted? I’m not a fan of that idea. Plants don’t get to choose where they end up; someone else makes that decision, and they thrive only when the choices made on their behalf are good ones. You, on the other hand, get to decide where you will dwell–mentally, emotionally, and yes, physically. Those aren’t always easy choices. But wherever you put your attention and energy, that’s where you will bloom and grow. Not in the places you’ve been told to move on to, but in the places where you’ve chosen to settle in.
Here’s an example: I have a friend who experienced the stillbirth of a child several years ago. Time and again, friends and family members told her it was time to move on from her grief and loss. They said it was unhealthy to hold on to her sorrow, to let herself feel it over and over again, every day. But in fact, doing exactly that allowed her to connect with a non-profit group that supports mothers of stillborn children. There, she was able to use her experience as a way to help other moms cope with their experience. Had she focused on moving forward, rather than honoring her need to dwell in that moment, she might never have found her way to the group of women who both needed and supported her. By giving herself time to dwell, she found it possible to grow through her loss.
Now that the semester is winding down and my days are becoming more flexible, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to dwell this summer. I know I want to spend more time making art, because doing that brings me great joy. (The illustration at the top of this post is a piece I created last summer. Last week, I used a software program to play with it and add some text. I’m really happy with how it turned out.) Still, art is one of those things I often push to the bottom of my to-do list, in spite of the fact that it almost always leaves me feeling happy and centered. Why not make it a priority?
Because the laundry has to get done, and dinner has to get made, and blogs need to be written . . . you all know the million reasons why. But the challenge I’m setting myself for the summer is to be more intentional about making time to dwell in the places where I really want to bloom and grow. That’s the only way to take charge of who I’m going to become.
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