A Visit to the “Root Cellar”

BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON

I was in a funk the other day. Well, it wasn’t a day…more like three weeks. I wasn’t depressed, just out-of-sorts and unsettled. I played the blame game, blaming it on the weather, then on the fact that I pulled my back most inconveniently while doing something that was “good for me.” When it became clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere on that track, I shifted to a more stoical you’re just going through a phase form of self-talk.  At least that was a nod toward self-compassion, right? Except that it didn’t work either.

I understood then that a trip down to the root cellar was in order. Maybe you’ve been there. It’s dark, dank, and messy. It’s also necessary. I spent some time there amongst my old familiars – sorting through the seeds of my discontent, rediscovering some cast aside seeds of joy, and seeking answers.  There is no timer or stopwatch for a trip like this, but I knew when it was time to head back. I simply knew. It wasn’t like flipping an On/Off switch or automatically turning over a new leaf. Because when you do the hard work, it doesn’t work like that. Emerging with clarity and a sense of my funk lifting, I made a few specific choices:

  • I would own what was bothering me. I wouldn’t discount or minimize it, regardless of how uncomfortable it made me feel.
  • I’d try hard not to judge myself for the thoughts and emotions I preferred to deny. I’ll spare you the specifics; I imagine you have your own.
  • I’d reconcile myself with choices made and chances missed. And, most importantly:
  • I’d refocus my energy on what I COULD do something about instead of falling back into that funk. Thank you, seeds of joy!

And then I got moving, literally. I pulled on my cap and leapt outdoors. I looked up with gratitude for the beautiful day and the birdsong that accompanied my steps.

I accessed the song that lives in my own heart and started to hum along with it, right out loud.

To the beat of that tune, I reshuffled things in my heart and identified the four specific priorities I would recommit to. Doing so grounded me and fired me up – what a combo!

And when I returned to my own front door – refreshed and renewed – I decided to celebrate my root cellar triumph by doing some “physical” rooting out:

  • I piled up books from another chapter in my life and put them aside for donation.
  • I reorganized my capsule closet rack to feature the clothes that bring me the most joy.
  • I pulled a few crystal glasses to the front of a cupboard shelf so that I could delight in them every day.
  • I fluffed the somewhat ratty cushions on the veranda and brought out a few magazines to enjoy before dinner.

And so it went. It felt great.

A few days later, I shared the story of my root cellar trip with one of my besties, someone I knew would “get” the significance of that journey. This wasn’t about having an “accountability partner.” It was about acknowledging complexities of the soul that are often left unspoken. And then we sat a while, taking in the beauty of a late Saturday afternoon, enjoying the gurgle of a peaceful fountain, and appreciating the root cellar, knowing that regardless of what we discover there, light and love await us when we reemerge. All we need to do is to reach out for it.

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