• Sandy Reynolds

If it makes you happy...

Coming out of the pandemic is as close to having a clean slate as I think I will ever have. I can decide what to add back into my life and what no longer works for me. I've been thinking about a concept I learned way back in the early 1990s when I worked with a spiritual director in Regina, Saskatchewan. She introduced me to the concept of consolation/desolation.

This teaching is founded in Ignatian spirituality. Desolation includes things like habitual irritations, bad memories, resentments, fears, anxieties, etc. It includes anything that drains your energy and leads you to feelings of despair. I’m guessing lockdown, pandemic-based fear and anxiety, and being cut off from our normal routines and community resulted in many of us experiencing negative feelings of desolation.

Consolation, on the other hand, is a feeling that lifts us up. They are experiences that provide creative energy, refresh us, and restore balance. And that probably explains why many people gained weight during lockdown! Warm banana bread consoled many of us.

I had a long talk with a good friend sitting on a patio this week, Yay! We can do that again finally! She suggested that in addition to the work I am doing to address people-pleasing, there is another life experience that many women struggle with, and it is around managing relational energy. Some of us are empaths or highly sensitive people (HSP). We pick up the energy of other people just by being in their presence.

We talked about how certain people, even people we love and care about, can drain our energy. As people-pleasers, we can find our energy continually drained if we don’t have healthy boundaries. And even when we have good boundaries certain people can drain us energetically.

It’s no surprise that today I had another conversation with a woman who was talking about how exhausted she was after spending two hours with an acquaintance. It left her feeling completely drained for reasons she couldn’t really pinpoint other than to say, “it’s like she needed my energy to fuel herself.” I’m sure you have had similar experiences.

Right now, as we emerge from the collective Covid cave, we have a wonderful opportunity to pay attention to what is giving us life and what is draining us. I’ve already had a few conversations where I’ve reset expectations that things will return to normal. I don’t plan to fill my calendar with all the things I was doing before. I liked having more breathing space.

Over the next few months, take some time to pay attention to when you feel really energized and when you feel depleted. Be an observer of your life. Is there something that needs to change - even for a season?

For me, I know it is less scheduled time in front of a screen. I’ll still be creating and writing because those things console me. But I won’t be focused on deadlines or living up to anyone’s expectations.

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