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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

Digging Holes

Nine of the people I love

Earlier this week, I completed a draft piece about my life between 1990 and 1994, when I was in my early twenties.

I had been working on this chapter segment for a couple of weeks already, throwing different parts in, taking them out, putting them back again.

I'd looked at photos, old newspapers, Avon Catalogues.

I had written notes, drew pictures, and created lists.

I'd watched the storms outside. Willy Wagtails shaking off the rain and pecking at my front lawn looking for worms, while inside I dug around, creating holes of my own.

I was searching for a way in, the elusive idea which said to me "here I am, I am what you've been looking for." I didn't find it until Tuesday.

I realised early that day, specifically 3 in the morning, that I had been more like my tiny feathered black and white friends than I thought. I wasn't really making any holes at all. Just poking at the ground with my finger, shifting the topsoil aside with my hand. I had been worried about what I might find.

So I stopped what I'd been doing, picked up a shovel and thrust it deep into the ground of my memory, leaning all my weight onto it, scooping and throwing, until I'd dug a huge hole. One that was large enough for me to stand in and not see sunlight or the sky. One that buried me in thoughts, covered me with emotions, taking me back to a time when my life, and those I loved, was charged with trials and challenges, miracles and hope.

I wrote for nearly fourteen hours that day, finishing just before 5 o'clock. I forgot to eat lunch. I barely noticed the comings and goings in the house. And when I typed the final sentence I broke down and cried.

The next day I woke heavy, a lingering feeling of lament and sorrow. I knew I needed to do something different and so I opened a set of meditations I'd been sent by my friend, Laurie Steed, earlier in the week. I took a self-compassion break; a guided 5-minute meditation. It was restorative and regenerative. Like stopping to make and drink a coffee, only much more potent, and longer lasting.

My experiences are not unique. And there are people in the world who have, and are, experiencing greater difficulties than I ever have or will. But that's not relevant here. We all have our lives to live and our challenges to meet and to become a better human I feel it's important to acknowledge your suffering, as it is for you, and to be compassionate and kind to yourself.

I'm glad I stopped poking and started digging. I am happy, and proud, that I cried. People heal in different ways; writing, creating art, listening to music, reading books, time with loved ones, group therapy, counselling, movement, tears, laughter. I recommend them all. I practice them all, as much as I can, including now the inclusion of self-compassion breaks.

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. Kristin Neff and Chris Germer


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