August 27, 2015


Recently, I was talking to a friend about my upcoming move and the fact that rattling about in an empty office or an empty bedroom and seeing all of my things packed in boxes was a bit off-putting.

I mentioned that I felt a bit sad, a bit anxious and a bit excited all at once.

This phase—in between towns and jobs and school—is limbo. It is also transition. It can be a beautiful stage, but it can also be uncertain. Our daily schedules and routines give us structure and when that falls away, it can feel scary, but I also know this is the time for growth.

The friend mentioned that I should participate in “cathartic activities.”

Ah, of course! Catharsis is a “purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension.”

This felt spot-on to me when I was considering my move. Then yesterday, my phone blew up in a situation of confusion-drama-emotion-love-friendship-struggle. All of a sudden catharsis seemed a need, not just a nice idea.

When I think of catharsis, I think of the need for release and the release itself.

Why am I seeking catharsis?

Growth, conflict, coming to terms with my own wrongs, friendship drama, taking responsibility, understanding, misunderstanding, the loss of a friendship, feelings of unease, knowing an apology will not work, uncertainty at starting school, moving, malaise, not staying in the moment.

My list might be different on another day or during the next phase of my life, but I realize we all have those things. The importance is to recognize them, name them, breathe in and breathe out.

Which ones can I do something about?

Which ones really have nothing to do with me?

How can I take my mind and spirit and heart and keep them focused on love and light and peace? How can I take the tools I have gained from the internal spiritual work I have done in the last couple of years and use them?

Catharsis is about release.

I have talked and written a lot about the need to let go. It has been letting go and learning and starting again.

Sometimes, though, people have to release us. Sometimes, we have to let go because someone did it first. Sometimes things end because a situation finally explodes. Sometimes people confront us about our actions. (I don’t think I did anything wrong, but I still must take responsibility.)

Sometimes it is about someone else’s unhappiness. Sometimes there is too much damage for repair. Sometimes it is too soon to know if something new can grow again out of the scars.

There are lines, imaginary and real, and sometimes crossing or approaching those lines is enough for disorder. There is confrontation and confusion and a mess. Sometimes there is uncertainty, and it will take time for the dust to settle. Sometimes, while the explosion is unsettling, there is relief.

Indeed, an explosion is a release of things once under pressure.

There is truth and versions of the truth and obfuscation and posturing. Sometimes there will not be a clear perspective.

Sometimes I find that it really had nothing to do with me and everything to do with another person.

Sometimes I look within and do not like what I see. I could stay at this point; I could stew in the drama. I could sit and fret and worry. I could bring people into my cloud of drama.

Or I can take another path.

I let go and pick up the pieces. I take responsibility. I apologize, but not for the perceived wrong. I say what I can. I put the phone down.

I seek catharsis.

Catharsis comes in many actions and forms. It helps return me to myself. It helps me to regain peace. It gives me release. It gives me hope. It returns me to a point of love. It returns me to the uncomfortable and beautiful spot of a beginning.

For me, catharsis can be:

Writing these words.
A long and sweaty run.
A long talk with a sympathetic friend who also points out when I am wrong.
Folding laundry, especially towels and rags and sheets.
Ten minutes of deep breaths and an empty mind.
Making and baking cornbread in the kitchen.
Walking in a bookstore or library and getting lost in words and the stacks.
Sitting alone, outside on a perch watching the sun or the moon.
Counting to 100 in English and Spanish.
Jumping on boxes to flatten them for recycling.
Picking up the book and being reminded to reread the chapter on “not taking it personally.”
Singing along to the radio even when I do not know all the words.
Drinking a full glass of water.
Petting a dog.
Teaching a class.
Playing in my worm compost bin.
Watching birds.
Repotting a plant.
Planting seeds and bulbs.
Picking up a pen and doodling on scratch paper.
Taking a shower and putting on a dress and eating dinner with a friend.
Dancing alone in my room.
Sitting near a body of water and listening to water lapping.

We find catharsis. We find release. It helps us to return us to ourselves. It can help us to return to the situation or it can help us to let that one go.

It helps us to see that the situation is not that bad.

It helps us to find healing.

It helps us to find forgiveness, of ourselves and others, even if they will never forgive us. We move on. We let go. We bring ourselves back to being in the moment.

We breathe; we breathe again. There is peace. Catharsis.


Author: Kary Schumpert

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Author’s Own // Flickr/Oakley Foxtrot

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