I’ve never thought of myself as having much in common with bears. Sure, there is the fact that we’re both mammals, and I have often been described as a bear with a sore head when I don’t get enough sleep (which explains much of the past 5 years!). But there is one other clever trait of the bear I’ve adopted this Winter – the wonderful art of hibernation – and now I see so many striking similarities between us (sleeping, eating, grizzling, protecting) and I’d say I owe them a debt of gratitude.
First let me clarify that when I say hibernate, I’m not as lucky as a mama bear who can stuff her face with berries until her tummy hurts before she tucks herself in for a three-month sleep, only rousing to feed her cubs. There are daily tasks that must be done like drop-offs, pick-ups, swimming lessons, homework (and sadly there’s no self-cleaning function in our cave). But beyond the simple bear necessities of caring for my cubs and hubs, my winter hibernation has been about saying ‘no’ waaay more than usual, be it to social events, gatherings, phone calls, social media… and instead hanging out with myself, putting my needs first, and getting some much-needed space. If I’d have put a sign on my front door it would have said: ‘Gone Bear, Don’t Care’.
So why did I do it? Because I completely lost any sense of ‘free time’ (not to be confused with ‘me time’). My lifestyle as a Mama-of three is so fast-paced and my family schedule is so back-to-back that I’d started to resent even the scheduled time-outs for myself, like my much-loved yoga class, because anything ‘scheduled’ felt like pressure and more to the point, it was taking up those microscopically tiny windows of ‘free time’. A girl needs to see blank spaces on the schedule!
At first it felt out of character, anti-social and dare I say selfish. But once I got into the groove I started to feel the freedom I was craving, and for the first time ever completely unapologetic in my self-serving behaviour.
Now post-hibernation, when self-doubts creep in I ask my inner bear: ‘Would you get sick with stress about cancelling plans? Do you really care what other people think about you? Is it actually possible to meet your own stupidly high standards of yourself?’
The new answer to these old questions is HELLS-NO. I’m pretty sure that when a bear is having a bad hair day and her breath wreaks of rainbow trout she totally owns it and struts her stuff around the forest like nobodies business ‘cos homegirl knows exactly who she is and doesn’t need anyone’s approval. And I’d say that after a sleepless night with her cubs when she fancies a nap but has three playdates booked in, she texts her mates to cancel, switches her phone on silent (OK, she would if she had a phone and knew how to use it) and nods off for that nap without so much as an anxious sigh.
So here’s what I’ve learnt in my Winter hiberation:
(a) I really like being a bear
(b) I’m more comfortable in my own skin when I’m not always trying to please everyone else
(c) I’m not perfect [whaaaat?!] and nobody EXCEPT ME holds this against me
d) **THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT** I want to teach my cubs that looking after their needs is a smart choice – not a guilty pleasure
There you have it. I’ve bear-ed all on this topic. A little hibernation is really a clever survival strategy to cope when shit gets overwhelming and you can’t catch a breath. None of this is resonating with you? It just sounds un-bear-ably wanky? I suggest you crawl into your cave and find your own goddamn inner bear. Ponder. Roar. Grizzle. Snore. I think you’ll get something out of it.