I moved to a new house recently. I noticed that one of the first things I did was walk through the house several times a day (and at different times of day) checking the views from each window. Which faced North? South? Which windows had the best view of the trees in the yard? Where was the sun and where was the shade? Was there privacy or did I feel as though the neighbors had a view into the house?
I chose a bedroom that was at the front of the house, on the second floor with a lot of morning light and a lovely shade tree close-by. I can hear birds because they frequent the tree. There is hyacinth and an old grape arbor that border the grassy knoll between my front yard and the neighbor's above us on the next block. If I have my window open, I can smell the flowers and the grass when it is freshly cut.
As the weather has allowed, I have puttered in my yard, getting acquainted with it. I have moved some existing plants and flowers around, and added some new plantings to the front yard, in hopes of attracting more birds and butterflies. Not only does poking around in the dirt relax me, but creating small inviting spaces that are a joy to the senses is one of the ways I express my creativity.
All my life, wherever I have lived, I have always found spots outside where I can retreat and feel safe, where I can watch the world around me; I remember making a fort (a "hiding place" of sorts) under a large white azalea bush when I was 7, and laying on my back looking through the mass of leaves and flowers at the bright filtered sun. I loved the pure sound of the birds high in the surrounding trees, and the hum of the bees pollinating the flowers all around me. Creating comforting outside spaces was a way in which I learned to soothe myself.
This has turned out to be a lifesaver for me...
Growing up in an alcoholic family left me feeling fearful, hyper-vigilant, and unable to relax most of the time ( I wished I was literally invisible at times) -my nerve endings felt raw and as though they were close to the surface of my skin.
This pervasive feeling followed me into adulthood. Before I learned to make the "family of origin" connections, I began soothing myself with alcohol. I was following a familiar family pattern that had far-reaching destructive consequences. Eventually, (before things spun completely out of control), I was ready to make a life change and thankfully, was able to implement several of my strengths (humor, creativity and playfulness) to find healthier alternatives to self-soothing. I look forward to continuing creativity in small ways that bring great calm and simple joy.
If I can do it, I am sure you can too!
Casey Roake Peddicord, MA is a Counselor and co-partner of CenterPointe Therapists, PC.