What’s it mean to dig deep?

This post was originally posted on Medium.com

It’s cool here. A little soft-edged, too. Kind of womb-y. It’s hard to explain better than “the exact opposite of whatever’s going on outside.” But wherever it is, it means I’m in the spot. That reserve of inspiration and energy, motivation and fire.

I’ve burrowed. I’ve dug deep.

I started hearing the term “dig deep” more and more over the last year or two. Mostly from wise people who give wise advice.

ME: But what about when you can’t go on? What about when you’re too scared to publish your writing? What about when you’re just too tired and beat down to go on creating?

THEM: Young grasshopper, that’s when you dig deep.

ME: Ah, of course. That’s when you dig deep.

Until recently, I only half–understood those words for their worth. Sure! Dig deep, I thought. Try harder, right?

But no — not always. Much of the time, digging deep is the opposite of trying harder. It’s letting go and losing control and being at peace with the loss. And understanding that even though you may be floating, you will always be your own anchor.

So you sink into that place. Your place.

The Oasis at the End of “Dig Deep”

Digging deep isn’t like walking down the street for milk. It’s like descending into the caverns you send canaries into. Or striking out into the desert to follow a map you hope will lead you to an oasis.

Because when you dig deep, you’re going to a place where things are better. And where you’re the braver, calmer version of yourself. At least, that’s part of the hope.

I thought I had a pretty good idea about what it meant to dig deep when I first started writing this post. Turns out, when you ask people what the term “dig deep” means to them, they’ll give you all sorts of answers that are brilliant and different from your own.

I ran into an old coworker on my way to work this week. While I’d spent my weekend sitting on camp chairs and eating too much, he’d run his first marathon.

He said the last 10K was the hardest. That was the grueling part of the run where your body shuts down and you have to ignore it. He said in order to get through it, you go somewhere else.

You dig deep.

Another friend of mine said she digs deep by zooming out from the scene, like a camera and crane. She watches what’s happening like it’s a TV show. If it’s good, she brings the mental popcorn. If it’s something else, she hits the power button or changes the channel.

And yet another friend said digging deep means “… diving into more detail about something. Going below the surface and looking for what lies within.” I picture her duck diving under a wave and coming up on the other side, calm and collected.

They’re all right. Digging deep is a room of requirements. Yours looks different. It might look different each time. But in a time of need, whatever thing you require appears.

And it’s still you. I think that’s the most interesting part to think about. It’s still you. You carry it around, always. You’re housing the oasis right now.

– Claire M.

What does it mean to dig deep for you? Mine isn’t very defined. Cool, soft-edged, and womb-y. But it’s a start! I’d love to hear what the phrase means to you.