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Fresh Take: Katherine May on "Wintering" and the Power of Rest and Retreat In Difficult Times

by What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood
December 4th 2020
This week we're talking to Katherine May, author of the tremendous new book WINTERING: THE POWER OF REST AND RETREAT IN DIFFICULT TIMES. Written before the pandemic but perfectly relevant to the momen... More
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and welcome to fresh tape. From what fresh hell laughing in the face of motherhood. This is Margaret and this is Amy. And today we're talking to Catherine May, who is the author of the new book Wintering Here's a Little Bit About Katherine. She's a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her journalism and essays have appeared in a range of publications, including The London Times, Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan. She's a mom of an eight year old boy. She lives by the sea in Wheat Stubble, England. To my saying that right, Catherine, is it wit stubble? You're saying exactly right. Yeah, right. And Catherine is also an avid lover of the outdoors, even when it's cold outside, which Margaret is fully behind in 2020. I'm trying to be. Katherine's new book is Wintering. The Power of Rest and Retreat and Difficulty. Times Welcome, Katherine. Thank you. Hello. Nice to meet you. I want to live by the sea where you live. I've never been there, but I know I want to live exactly where you live. I can't lie. It is very lovely and it's been very soothing this year

. Toe have a C to go to. You know, when everyone else has been missing. There's some holidays and things like that. I'm very lucky. Yes, it sounds like a big budget. Maybe starring like Julia Roberts living by the sea. I don't know. I want to do that. Right? Right. Having your sweater gathered around you against the cold? Yes, absolutely. Oh, yeah. That's absolutely me On, Actually. What's very funny is that this week there is a TV drama being filmed in wheat stubble about wit stubble on DSO. They've kind of come and heip it up. Wit stable. It's like all of the clapboard buildings along the seafront have now got these extra shutters over the doors and kind of cute. See signs they've replaced allow, like plastic lobster quills with, like, woven ones. You know, whatever that movie is, I will watch it twice e am, the exact audience for whatever that ISS I would prefer if it doesn't involve, you know, tragedy. I wanted happy. I want a lot of kissing. I want by

the Z romance. I think it's a detective drama, actually, So yeah, could be quite good. Oh, I love that. Even better, I'll take it. I would prefer romance, but I'll take it So this is a parenting podcast. Catherine and we usually talk about parenting books, and this book sort of is a parenting book, but it's really just ah book for everyone. Margaret and I love this book. We've been talking about it all week and really looking forward to this interview because this book captures the moment that we're all in this pandemic so perfectly. And that was completely unexpected on your part. Is that right? Yeah. I didn't do anything to cause the pandemic. I just want to make that really clear. Are we clear? Has that detective out in which table investigated that fully. Yeah. No, you can't pin it on me. Honestly, I am. It was written long before the any hint of the pandemic could come along, but it has its landed at a time that really speaks to the moment we're in, I think. And that was

I wish I could say I predicted that. But I really had no Can you give us? I find it a difficult, but I keep talking to people about this book, and it's a slightly difficult book to summarize. But can you give us just to start us off so people kind of know what we're talking about? A brief kind of summary overview of the book. Sure, So the book's called Wintering on. It's about our physical and metaphorical winters. So the times in our life when we feel like the world has pushed us out. We're kind of isolated, depressed, locked out in the cold. But it's also drawing on our actual winters, the season of winter, to think about how we can conceptualize that time. I suppose, on how we can get insights from how, like other people, survive the winter, the physical winters in order to learn how toe ride out those periods in our own life when we're struggling. And why do you think that wintering is something we do? I think you make the point very eloquently that we

all have periods of wintering in our lives when we're kind of cut off from the rest of the world for good reasons. A brand new baby or terrible reasons of death in the family. But they're sort of secret and shameful that we perceive wintering is something we have to do alone. Why do you think that ISS Yeah, I think we don't really talk about it. It seems to me that we all end your own winters as if they're this special thing that's happened to us, and we've uniquely failed, and we feel really embarrassed and ashamed about it on. We don't really have a language for talking about them and for really seeing the similarities between those different moments. Because actually, I mean the two examples that you bring up a perfect. It's really hard to talk about how having a new baby and having a death of a loved one could put you in a similar state of mind. But we actually know that they do, don't they? I certainly felt that when I was trying to deal with a tiny baby at home on my own. Yes, it's like time out of time and nobody else is a week with you at two o'clock in the morning. Yeah, and you can feel everything drifting away

from you. I think, Yeah, it's that isolation, that's it. And that the senses the world is moving on without you, which can be a welcome or terrifying feeling that everybody else is doing something that you can't participate in right now. Definitely one thing that really spoke to me about this book. We have a Facebook group and people share a lot of things, and someone was asking this morning, about sort of advice on how to talk to somebody who had had a pregnancy loss. And she said, I know all the things Not to say so don't tell me those things. I want to know what was helpful Thio here, and one of the things that really spoke to me about this book was this metaphor of winter. Hmm seems so useful for a time of mourning. There's a larger picture of times of isolation, but I really spoke to me as it's a season, and it's a time that you are in a very specific state, and that state is your kind of wintering alone. And yet we've

all done it at the metaphor, was very, very meaningful to me, and I think would be meaningful in terms of sharing that experience with people of like, This is winter. This is what it is, and there's an acceptance in that winter metaphor. But there's also a sense that it's a season that it will that there is that spring is out there somewhere, no matter how far off. Yeah, and that's seasonal idea is helpful for two ways. I mean, like on one hand is gonna end, and there is a kind of narrative arc to it. It does finish in terms of grief. I mean, we know that you carry on grieving forever, but that real white heat of grief passes and real life comes back in again. Although you emerged changed and, you know, like never forgetting. But also you can't rush a season, it will take its own good time. And I think that another kind of peculiarity of our modern life is that we think we can hurry everything up if we get it right. Like there's a technique

that maybe we haven't found yet. But maybe there's a book or a podcast that will give us that technique on. Then we probably our podcast. It would be if it was gonna be there for the O. I get your point that maybe it doesn't. It doesn't. And I mean grief is maybe at such a universal experience that we can all recognize this, that you can't hurry grief. There's nothing you can do to mitigate it. It's going to keep coming at you for a long, long time, with loads of different angles on that feeling, that awful feeling of missing someone and someone being absent from your life. And actually the only way to deal with it is to ride it toe, walk alongside it to be part of it and not to try and defer it somehow, I think. And I think going back to the person's question is that I have found through walking with other people in their loss and experiencing my own losses, that that acknowledgement of winter is the key

, I think, to connecting with people in grief, fellow feeling yes, rather than saying, you know, it'll all be OK. Things happen for a reason. God must have wanted another angel. These things that we hear that people are like Please don't say these things that the problem with those things is that it's not It's that the people who helped me the most in times of my own wintering where people who looked at me and said you're in winter and that's hard and that it moves me just to say that out loud. You know, there's something very powerful in acknowledging, and that's what I think is so powerful about the book overall, just acknowledging that winter is such a huge part of it that I think a lot of us try to skip because we want to go right to like, you'll be okay, it'll be fine and not every situation will be fine. And as you said, some griefs are with us and have changed us for the rest of our life and people who have an ability to acknowledge that to you, I found very useful to

may. I think it's really important. And I think we are only just beginning to get back to the point in our society when we can look at grief again and see it for what it is, which is a new, awful, painful loss, you know, and there's no bright side to that, like we can't, you know, draw the Sunnyside out of grief for, you know, draw lessons from it too soon. It's part of our humanity. It's fundamental. Tow us on in a lot of ways. It's very beautiful. It's very pure. But whenever I, you know, hear somebody, yeah, particularly with the loss of Children, I mean sort of saying, Oh, well, I suppose that means that you know X Y or said no. There's not a bright side to this the really empathetic and sympathetic responses to say, Wow, this is horrible for you. Let me be with you while you're feeling horrible. Catherine, can we talk about the events That sort of inspired you to write this book because they are not grief or at least their grief of a sort. Can you talk a little

bit more about your own wintering? Yeah. So this time around because, you know, one of the points are making the book is that we winter in cycles and it comes at us again and again. But this particular time I was just about to celebrate my 40th birthday were my husband fell very suddenly ill with a really nasty appendicitis that left him in hospital for quite a while. While we were, you know, really worried about him on Bond. As he was recovering, I realized that I'd been unwell for quite some time. I've had a lot of abdominal pain, Andi. It suddenly took over on at the same time as that I was in the process of leaving my job because I already knew that I was very stressed and I had to get out. But that time for me collided when I became so ill so quickly that I had to be signed off work for several months. On that those months I was serving out my notice that I'd give it on my job, and that was incredibly hard for me because I felt really isolated from my colleagues. I felt like I'd let them down when I should have been

gradually handing over my role. I felt paranoid. I felt humiliated. I assumed that everybody was talking behind my back on. I was also really worried. My doctor told me to brace myself for a cancer diagnosis. Andi, it turned out not to be, but actually I had pretty much destroyed Ah, lot off my bow by living for many, many years with severe stress on DSO. Once I got on top of that as much as you ever can. Um, shortly after, we had to take my son out of school because he had just stop coping altogether. And we realized that our family life had got to the point where we were just fire fighting every night and every morning to get him to him from school on. I had Thio just push the stop button and say, Right, this all ends. We can't keep throwing ourselves at the world like this. We've gotta take some time out So that's what we did. There's so much in that that we want to discuss. We'll be right back after this break. Amy

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. That's $80 off when you goto Hello! Fresh dot com slash 80 laughing and use the code 80 laughing. Okay, we're back. And Catherine, one of the things that really struck me in those stories and again, it's not a parenting book, necessarily. But there are so many parallels for parents, and this feeling of letting other people down when we're struggling is something that comes up again and again and again for us as host of this podcast and our listeners express it. And it's something that I think again, I haven't really heard discussed in this way of the part of the problem of winter coming is that it puts all this stress on us that like no, no, no. Our job is to be out there doing all of the things, and if we're snowed in, it's not just that we need to deal with our own problems. It's that we're not taking care of everyone else. You'd speak about it specifically at work, and but

I thought that was a really interesting thing that I've heard come up for our listeners a lot. Yeah, I think it's something that comes up with women a lot and mothers a lot. You know, we feel like we should be taking care of everybody. We should feel like we should be on top of things and quite often I mean, when you talk toe women who have really crashed, you listen to them and they will tell you that they were not only taking care of their family and you know their nearest and dearest. But they were often also like getting involved in other people's lives as well. You know, they were kind of dropping around with meals for the person that was struggling down the road, who they barely knew, or they were looking after other people's kids after school or they were volunteering to take over. You know, the local girl guide truth because nobody else would do it, and so they felt like they had to step forward on I think that, you know, women often feel this huge sense of responsibility for everything on bond. End up really, really crashing

, actually. And how did that play out for you? In terms of this Siris of events where your husband became ill, you became ill. Your son had issues at school. How do you extract yourself from that In a healthy way? Well, I'm not sure there is a great way to do it. I mean, I had to just keep looking after everybody, but I also had to find time for myself. And I had toe acknowledge that I was suffering too. And actually, I was, you know, really affecting my own physical health and certainly my mental health. And that meant using the time that this wintering opened up for me. Just thio do some very simple things that were about making space for me to reflect, really and toe tick through all the stuff that was happening until, like, a process it. So I did things like I baked a load, you know, I baked hilariously bad bagels that kept

unraveling themselves. I love that. I used to be a really good baker, but I've lost my touch. I took loads of walks. I learned to swim in the cold C in winter. I just took that small bits of space that I could, you know, I never get big swathes of time anymore. I usedto love going away on retreat. Before I had my son, I used to put myself a little hut in the woods and spend a few days on my own, and that's just not possible for me anymore. But I can actively find time to rest and toe, just be myself for a while and to find solitude. Solitude is really important to me. I think I don't know if everyone shares that. I think other people get renewed by spending time with other people. But I need that time on my own. And if I don't acknowledge that need, then I'm not doing anyone any favors because, frankly, I'm grumpy and horrible to be with. But I'm also just tired and out of ideas. You said something in the book about a tree, and I went for a walk this weekend and

looked at a tree was blown away that I had never realized this, that you look at a tree and it seems dead. It appears dead. And Margaret will tell you I am the dread er of winter on this podcast. I'm like, just gonna hold on away for spring, and it can't come soon enough, but that a tree is, in fact, not dead. It's the buds of its next leaves are present there, there. The tree just knows that this is not a good time to expend that energy. So it's going to hold the leaf buds until there's enough sunshine for them to succeed. And I had never looked at a tree that way, and I had never looked at winter that way. That when the world feels overwhelming, it's time to stop forcing the new leaf buds. It's time to stop and hold and wait for a better conditions, so to speak. I'd never thought of it that way. Absolutely. I mean, that was a huge learning for me was knowing that these little buds on the trees right now and they look really bear. I never noticed that before

. Isn't it funny that you could live a whole adult life and not know something as simple as that? But actually, when you begin to look at the biology of this. All of nature is not pointed towards summer. It's pointed towards winter is pointed towards that point of survival at the darkest point of the year. So the trees they dispose of their leaves when they're not needed anymore so that they can draw in their energies and make sure they're ready for the next year when they come back bigger and better. Actually, Andi, I mean, I spent some time with hibernating door mice, which was the cutest 10 minutes of my life holding a sleeping dormouse. But you know, they are awake for a tiny fragment of the year compared to how long they sleep and they spend the whole time they're awake, getting fat, ready to survive that long. Sleep again on their squishy by the time you know these little kind of dumpling door mice that you can hardly see their little hands because it's absorbed

in all of their squishy brown fat that they've laid on. And it made me really realize something, which is that we can't only live for the good times and we can only make those count. You know, they are not all of human life. And I think we often think that anything that isn't completely joyful and completely perfect is something we've got wrong. But actually the winter is normal for us. It's part of being human. Andi, if we only count the other times, then we are just pretending. We're like wishing away such a lot of our life. There are certain pleasures toe winter, I think, and to personal winters as well as physical ones. I mean, I love the cold. I guess I should declare that I'm a winter lover, Aziz well, but Amy's a harder sell, but I think that idea of life points toe winter is again. It's so useful for myself personally and parents writ large, which is

, I think that this misperception that it is our job to be the joy cruise director for everyone in our lives and to make sure that every day is a, you know, party on the Lido deck and you're doing the limbo. And if you're not, then I have somehow personally failed my duty as the happiness cruise director for the 400 people I know and like you're going to get your card, and it's so it's a pandemic, but I'm still going to make sure we have the elf on the shelf. You know, whatever. The and some people take joy in those things. And there are moments of that. My house is festooned like mad Woman with Christmas stuff because I wanted to cheer myself up. But that is what Christmas is, right? I mean, every year we put up the lights, we put up the decorations to sort of keep the darkness at bay. But I think that reorienting this idea for ourselves and our Children that we had a very terrible tragedy that happened in our town that affected my kids. And counselors came to speak to us

, and one of the counselors said to me, and I've discussed it before because it made such an impression on me. She's like, You would never in a million years wish for something like this for your Children. But at the same time, the lesson they will take from this something so terrible happening when they were very young, it will expand their understanding and make room for more of life for them. That idea really moved me and I think the same thing in this book, which is that holding grief and badness and tragedy at bay, you're missing out. We always say, like, don't do it because someone wrote it in a book. Do it because it actually helps you. And I think allowing ourselves and allowing our Children to sit in that winter and that grief and say This is a time where you are in pain but it's making you stronger in the same way that when you're exercising your in pain, but it's making you stronger, like it's an exercise in a way that is giving

you something you would never have wished for it. But don't miss the gift of it. And that's something I think about a lot in in re actually to my kids, because I think I have an instinct to be the cruise director, and I'm trying to leave more room for like, yes, this does feel bad because you made a really bad choice, and now you're sitting in some pretty gross consequences from that bad choice, and it does feel bad, and allowing more room for winter for myself and my kids is something that I need to work on. I think that's so wise. And I know that I think about exactly the same issues so often to on. Actually, like, we talk a lot about making our kids resilient, don't we? We know that we ought to want our kids to be resilient. Grit is what everyone's obsessed with. We've gotta have gritty kids. Yeah, but for that for our kids to really become resilient, they need to be able to deal with darkness. And if we only ever show them happiness if you as you say, the kind of cruise director, like

if they're only ever being jolly, id along and encourage towards joy and happiness and like essentially looking happy so that we feel better about our parenting quite often that's great. Exactly like they cannot develop resilience. That way is just not possible because the first time they leave our circle of influence and something bad happens to them, they're gonna fall to pieces on guy. Like I talked to my son a lot about this. When I took him out of school, he was only six, so he was very small, but I talked to him a lot about how he's suffering right now, and we're gonna work through this together, and we're going to be sad together, but that actually he's learning such a lot on. One of the things I kept hammering home to him was that he is learning a lot so that he could show compassion to other people in the future to on that he could really help others. And I think that's a beautiful thing to be able to offer the world, actually, Can we talk a little bit more about

that? I'm curious how you and how any parents sort of protects their little ones right now. I mean, a lot of us are going through a lot of grief or worry or you know, all kinds of things. And it doesn't really help that we're having this universal experience because we're all hibernating in our little in our homes and doing it on, and I like the idea of letting my kids in to This is a difficult period. We're going through it together, and I try to do that and some ways and my kids are older, my kids or teenagers. But how do you know? Sort of how much to let your kids into the process and how much to go with what I think sometimes is our natural instinct, which is to be like winter isn't happening. Not in here. Yeah. Yeah, And that is a Really I found that balance very hard to come by because actually, my first instinct was to say, Right, we're gonna watch the Children's news together every day and like, we're gonna make sure we're being really mindful about what's happening here, but in a kind of measured way. But I quickly realized that that was not helping him. A tall he needed to be able to shut

off from all the bad news that was happening because there was a level of insight that he kind of couldn't get on. Quite early on, he an ambulance came past our house and he said, Is that a code red wagon on? I was like, What? Where did you even get that? Like, What is that? Is that something people have been saying at school? But I think in his head, you know this. He couldn't quantify what it would mean. Toe have a pandemic. And I think he was thinking that there would be, you know, like people being shipped away all the time on Guy that made me really think that, you know, we have to protect kids from that 360 degrees news that we all suffer from, too. And so I've been kind of drip feeding him information. But we still mention it every day. But I've reduced his exposure as much as I possibly can because he doesn't need to deal with all the fears that we're dealing with. And I think that's right, because it's developmentally appropriate age wise. And we talk a lot about that. What is developmentally

, what kids handle, basically, and that in that, our job as parents, heirs to kind of be our kids guide and companion through life. We are protecting them from many things, you know, we're protecting them from eating strange, you know, Berries off the bush that don't get poisoned. Hopefully, yes, and we're protecting them. I don't think we have to suddenly be like Welcome to winter gritty kids. Here's the whole lot of it, like it's it's okay to say we're going toe let in as things you know, We just had a family member who passed away, and it's a we decided at what point to mention they were sick. We decided at what point, to kind of give them the outcome possibilities. You know, we very much guided the experience because we didn't want to suddenly dropped cold water on their head that they weren't ready for, but s. So it's like you can control. I think you said, Well, the drip of information, right, the drip feeding like and that's what they're up for. And so it's not that we're holding things away from them, but we're drip feeding them. I do think we're lucky

and brave new world, though, for our generation of parents. Because, actually, I think we're more conscious of the psychology of childhood than any generation has ever been before. I think we have learned lessons from maybe our parents generation who often didn't tell us anything. You know, I know that when my grandmother died, like my family's instinct was like, it was none of my business. Almost. Yeah, let's not discuss it. Yeah, absolutely. And that they thought they could protect me by not telling me any of the details. And so the shock was enormous because I had, like, literally no notion that she could die at that point. And on the other hand, like we also value childhood as a concept like we want our kids not to have to be forced to grow up too quickly on I think we're all treading such a tricky balance. And then this lands like Justus. We're all asking those questions anyway, this damn pandemic lands and we're supposed thio figure out. I don't think anyone knows. And I also don't think that we are getting the balance

right for the amount of news we're taking in. So how on earth are we supposed to manage it for our kids? All right, we're going to talk more about that after we come back from this break. By now you've heard us talk about pros. We're huge fans of the world's most personalized hair care. I've been using pros for at least three months now. And let me tell you before pros, my hair was sad. Whoomp, whoomp! Bad trombone sound After using pros for a couple of months now I have the hair of a palomino pony shiny and smooth. Jamie, did you write that because you were literally describing my real hair? Look at that you should see me shaking my head right now like a shampoo had. And now you can give the gift of prose hair This holiday season. Pros will send your loved one, a digital gift card and a link to their in depth hair quiz so pros can bottle their unique formulas, then ship the gift right to their door. It's truly customized. Hair care plus prose offers a review and refined feature, which lets you tweak formulas for any reason. Maybe you moved. Started coloring your hair changed your diet during

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research, like both historically. And there's some kind of contemporary science that's been done by putting people through what a pre industrial revolution winter would look like with no artificial light and no clocks. Andi, I discovered that actually, instead of hibernating, human beings have a really interesting pattern of sleep during the winter, which they wake up in the middle of the night. On that, we tend to now read that as insomnia and see it's a really terrible thing. And again, we think we failed because we think it's a medical condition and, like our sleeps gone wrong. But actually, if you look back into history, there's evidence that people massively valued waking up in the middle of the night in winter. So they saw it as a time when they had, like, special, quiet family time between maybe them and their partner on them and their kids. And it was also this very meditative time when they wouldn't be able to do much because there wasn't much light available. But they would perhaps be meditating, praying, having conversations

with each other, having sex all of the kind of lovely, quiet, intimate things that you might do with your time. And I began to think about whether this is what our hibernating looks like a little bit. We're going to bed early. We're getting up late, but we're also finding this pocket of time in the middle of the night. That's actually very special and very particular toe winter. So that was maybe one like natural thing that I looked at. I also thought about how nature winters like how it brings about efficiencies for winter. How it was strips itself down to the bare wrist bones and then flourishes again in the spring. And there's a rhythm to that that maybe we've for gotten that we, too, can draw ourselves in sometimes and then bounced back into the world when we're good and ready and when the time's right, rather than keep forcing ourselves through loads of social interaction when actually, that's too much for us in the darkest seasons, and you also talk

about cultural winter. So how certain cultures handle winter and prepare for winter again? This idea of preparation and what are the parallels for people thinking about this new conception of winter? Yeah, so I set out to find out what it was like if you were intimate with deep winter. So people that got snowed in every year I mean, that's something that I've never had to deal with, like we don't get very much snow in which table. So I looked at Scandinavian cultures and talk to people who you know would expect from, say, November to February toe have their lives seriously curtailed every year because the temperature is way below zero. Andi. There's deep snow everywhere they can't get around on. Do you know, again, I learned that they prepare all through summer, just like the Animal kingdom does. They preserve food, so they've got delicious stuff to eat. They make sure that their homes repaired they make sure that everything's ready for the winter and they make special time during that winter period

when they're locked in so they don't try and pretend it's not happening, and they don't think that it's a great thing. You know, we talk about how much Scandinavians love the snow and how they are, you know, really great with their hunger culture. Well, the truth behind that is that they do it because they absolutely have to, because they know there's so much darkness. If they don't find a way to cope with it. You know, they know that alcoholism rates are high. They know their suicide rates high. They know that every year people go out in the cold on die from exposure if they get it wrong. So they create this cozy environment as a way to keep themselves sane and safe throughout winter. And that led me to an exploration of the sauna in Finnish culture, which I found fascinating. It's another funny story. Yeah, well, my own exploration didn't go so well. I mean, you know, the person I spoke to about it made it sound great. And she, you know, she sort of said that in Finland you would not be without

access to a sauna, like every family's got one. And if you haven't got one yourself, you're sharing it between a few families on. Everything happens there. All of life happens in the sauna and you get together with your family talk and then you have a beer afterwards, and it's really soothing. So I thought I might try and go and sauna. Andi, I fainted on the phone booth s so that wasn't the right solution for you. I'm not good at he. I am genuinely a chilly mortal. Yeah. I had a very undignified moment of the whole SportsCenter arriving on Mass to give me first aid while I was in my knickers on the floor. It was awful. And so sauna wasn't it for you, but draw us out of the metaphor of winter here. How other people do it, how they prepare. What is the practical application for people who are saying okay? Winter the season, but also in personal winters. How do we prepare? What is the

metaphor of the sauna? What might that be for people in there on personal winters? Well, I think there's a few metaphors that it needs to. I mean, I think it's about contact with the cold, and what I mean by that is contact with your actual feelings, like being there, actually mindfully addressing what's going on in your head rather than constantly escaping it. I mean, that's what seems to happen in the sauna in those cultures is that people talk through their problems. It's like therapy on that. You know, therapy is a great idea, incidentally, during winter, but it's also about really feeling the bite on, you know, So I didn't like the sooner So I started cold water swimming on. That was the thing that really did it for me. That really helped me to cope because actually, when I took my body into that incredibly cold environment, my mind was absolutely in the moment. I stopped escaping and imagining this kind of past and future that, you know, could only go

wrong. Like I stopped that paranoia on. I took myself right into the basic moment of survival, and for me, I found that incredibly compelling. And I think that's really instructive. Not everybody wants to get into the freezing cold see, like Ideo I get that My sister does. She's a lunatic, though, so I don't know. Yeah, well, you know, I think a little bit of madness is a good thing to have. Sometimes I've been swimming today, but what it taught me is that you need a way to shift your mind in tow. Your living at the moment like stop worrying about the future. It's so hard to do. But if you could be exactly where you are at the time, you've got half a chance of processing what's going on. But our tendency is toe keep worrying about what we did in the past and to keep trying to reimagine the future and to see if we can make it work for us. And we have got no control over either of those things. What we have got control is what we do in the here and now

. And we need to get on with the raw experience of living as we are. That's all we can do that or we can control. I realized reading this book that that's what I have been doing with winter, not even dreading the future. I've been like please come future, right? All I have to do is just try toe sleep until April 1st and then this is going to be okay, but just to be in the business of the moment of this is where I am and this isn't something to be withstood. This isn't something to be gotten through as quickly as possible. This is a useful cyclical part of my human experience. I haven't really thought of it that way before. Yeah, it's really hard to do. But I think actually, you know, when you've got kids, you almost don't have a choice, do you? Because you have to be managing their response and how they're dealing with it. And you have to be finding a way through, like that's our job as parents on DSO That does take us into the moment. But if we teach our kids to only be deferring it like you know, my son would sit on Minecraft

all day every day if he could, and I have to drag him away from that sometimes because he needs to know where he is in time. And space like this isn't the best time of our life. But it is a time and it is really important for him to grow and learn through this rather than Thio numb himself because numbing yourself in the end doesn't work. Unfortunately, you say that there's wisdom to be gotten from wintering, and the people who have wintered have great wisdom. What do you think the wisdom is that you gained from your own winters? E. Wish I knew. I wish I could just hand you down something that was really Can you save me the trouble? Can I skipped April. Sorry, it's not that simple, but I mean, I think the wisdom that I've learned is to regulate myself through those times. Actually, that doesn't sound like a very big thing, but I've got the measure of the shape of those times when everything goes wrong now, and I

trust them much more than I used to like I don't think my life's ending. I don't think that I've failed now, once and for all, and it's never come back again. I instead think I'm in a winter, and that sounds really small, but it's massive, like having that situation awareness that you're going through something at that moment rather than the whole world's coming in is such a different experience, and that's yeah, I think that's my wisdom that I've going. What about people who feel like life is a winter? You know that they don't find it cyclical, they don't find it seasonal. Yeah, and I actually think in terms of, say, chronic illness point. That's exactly I was thinking of someone specific, and that's exactly what I was thinking of. Yeah, I think that's really interesting because I think we often, you know, when we talk about seeing the positive side, they're exactly the people we leave out of this conversation because we're looking for that win at the end of winter. You know, like it's okay, It's gonna be a good part. It's gotta be crocuses or it wasn't

worth it. Yeah, yeah, on a lot of what we're processing in winter is unwanted change a negative change, you know, like no, all changes positive. There's not a bright side to everything. But I do think that what we're looking for is the way for the way to live. And so I mean, like to give an example from my own life. I was 40 or know a little bit before 40 when I learned I was autistic after living a whole life thinking that I was just like a wonky human being who didn't cope with anything very well on. But that was really difficult change to process, because that was a moment when I had to accept that I wasn't going to find the right therapy or the right self help ER called the right physical therapy that was going to make me cope with life like the people around me did. But by processing that unwanted change, I do live a much better life. Like I live with more restrictions than I used Thio. But that's because I've stopped throwing myself at

, You know, all the things that I can't do that completely exhausted me like some demented blue bottle against a window pane. And so you know, that's the change that was being offered to me. I don't get to say no, no, sorry, I'm not because I am autistic, but it has let me make a load of adaptations that I'd never have thought to make before, which at first felt like restrictions. But now, which feel actually really liberating? Andi, I have the same with my you know, with all of my various gut problems, like I can't eat the stuff I used to eat. I can't mess about with my stress levels as much as I used thio. I have long periods when I feel unwell. Now, when my movements restricted because everything so painful. But I needed to find a way to cope with that because that's not going away like I can't wish it away on DSO. Sometimes the end of wintering is just acceptance rather than a win on that, unfortunately, is

not terribly fair, but it is again human. That's so lovely. We always say, at the end of our podcast, when we're trying to solve the dilemma that we solved it, that's a solve right there. I feel like this whole book is a solve. Friends, you've got to read this book. Amy and I have been texting all week, different parts of it. I mean, we read a lot of books for this podcast, and we don't often get ourselves quite this excited. Oh, bless you. That's so lovely. Catherine, tell us where on the internet we confined you. I know you have a podcast. Is well, Yeah, I have a podcast called the Wintering Sessions, where I interview different writers about wintering times in their life. I'm just recording the second Siri's actually. So I've been doing some really great interviews. I'm so excited to share that. So you can find that wherever you get your podcast. I'm on Instagram. I'm Catherine May underscore on I'm on Twitter. What? I've got a really complicated Twitter handle. I regret it every time I have to set up a link to it on the show page. Yeah, please do. Because it just sounds silly when you say it out loud. But when you look at it looks okay. Google, May

I'm there. Katherine May's new book is called Wintering. The Power of Rest and Retreat and Difficulty Times. This is a beautiful book for you. For anyone. It's a terrific book. Thank you for talking to us, Catherine. Thanks so much. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

Fresh Take: Katherine May on "Wintering" and the Power of Rest and Retreat In Difficult Times
Fresh Take: Katherine May on "Wintering" and the Power of Rest and Retreat In Difficult Times
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