When my kids were little, I saw a lot of advice about filling your cup first. This is about how kids are needy all day long and that can get exhausting quickly, especially if nobody is really watching out for your needs in turn. So, like you put the airplane mask on yourself before helping others, the advice goes that in order to be a good parent you need to think early, often and strategically about meeting your own physical and emotional needs.
I think this is good advice. But in 2020, I started to see a related line of thinking going around. Did you notice how so many people seemed to be grumpy, withdrawn, demanding or otherwise at the end of their own ropes all the time? It makes sense, of course, but it also feels surprisingly hard in the moment. In a way, it’s felt harder than the big, obvious things going on in the world – the way that almost everybody has been struggling at the same time, so sometimes it’s hard to know where to turn for help. Even professional support services have often been exhausted. Nobody is feeling extra patient. Nobody seems to have a lot to give.
There’s a lot of reason to feel hopeful going into 2021, but I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this particular problem. Even if certain things improve a lot soon, this will not be the last time that a lot of us are going to be facing difficult things at the same time, and I think that this is something that we, collectively, should actively prepare for.
I’m thinking also about how this can’t be a new phenomenon. It continues to take some of us by surprise, but the number of times and places throughout history in which everyone must have been totally overwhelmed at the same time is…possibly bigger than the number of times in which they weren’t.
Religion is, I think, a traditional answer to questions of this nature. The ace of cups demonstrates the way that the universal cup of spirit is always overflowing, for whoever is able to tune into it.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, of course, and I have a lot more questions than answers about all this.
I think one more clue is about nature, though, and the deep relationship between nature and spirit. Like universal spirit, nature is always there. While nature isn’t always exactly safe, it is entirely impartial – and safe or not, it has a powerful ability to balance out our personal energy.
You know those practices like drawing power up through the earth by visualizing a tree with deep roots, or grounding excess energy by putting your palms on the ground? Whether you use that kind of tool specifically or not, there’s evidence that time in nature is a great way to fire up your parasympathetic nervous system and allow the impacts of stress and trauma processed by the sympathetic nervous system to start melting away.
Interestingly, this feeling of deep relaxation is one that we often experience when spending time with trusted, supportive humans – and, of course, that’s very important. But when supportive, attentive care seems to be in short supply, we might do well to remember that the world doesn’t end on our side of the hedge. Not all of our ancestors, loved ones and community members are concerned with our very human perspectives, and some of those cups are still overflowing.