Debbie Salter Goodwin
Fall has lingered as an extended visitor. Leaves still fleck the trees in mosaics of gold, red, peach, and rust. Even the recent wind storm couldn’t shake them from their
stubborn hold. For
me, as my wind storm has swept me empty and clouds still hover to darken my days, the ecstatic color of this fall soothes and steadies me.
Often I have turned to the seasons to remind me of the rhythms of life, the getting and losing, the tearing and mending, the planting and harvest. I don’t think much about them until I can name what I have lost and hope for what will be mended. Then, I want the particular season that has dumped too much rain or not enough, the season that has damaged or depleted to go away. Then, I anticipate with hopeful boldness for the next season. There will always be a next season.
Seasons change. It is just a fact of life.
Seasonal rituals remind us of this regularly. Moving lighter clothes to the back of the closet to make room for warmer ones is a sign of seasonal change. Raking leaves and pruning roses is seasonal work. Even the kitchen brings seasonal change to our senses with spices and apples and hot, bubbly soups. Caught in the work of seasonal change, we don’t grieve the former season as much as work to make it easy for the next season to come. For it will. Ready or not, it will come.
In life, too. Seasons change. Nothing lasts forever. Children marry and move away. Companies downsize leaving no place for you. Disease takes your normal and squeezes it into unrecognizable shapes. Death removes what you never wanted to live without. In times of change when I feel stuck, forgotten, emptied, and fearful; what can I do as a part of seasonal change? What will move me forward instead of making me look back? Here are my top three ideas. I’m sure there are more but three is all I can handle.
1. Change something you haven’t changed before.
While routine is often a welcome sedative in change, routine itself changes in crisis and reversals. Play offence instead of defense. Change something in your routine on purpose.
I’ve changed my writing time. Instead of letting early sleepless mornings frustrate me, I get up and use the quiet, untethered mornings to make a creative start on what will entice me to finish later. If change is going to come anyway, I have found that a little self-determination in what changes softens some of the changes I have no control over. I know others who have repurposed a room or re-decorated. Adding something new that changes how you do routine and moves you forward in a helpful way.
2. Bring back something you used to enjoy.
I used to read for leisure all the time. Then, leisure dried up as I juggled life between church, Lisa, and writing. I would read but it would be in snatches and under pressure. Bringing just-for-me leisure reading back, has been an interesting bridge between a past season of delight and the now that morphs into something new. In a seasonal change that will fill life with emotions or tasks you do not enjoy, bringing something back that you do enjoy, reorients your spirit in a forward moving way.
3. Make a new memory.
Memories from the last season can comfort but they can also be hard to get past. They are shadows of what used to be that cannot be. They attack as the proverbial fire-breathing dragon to burn up every joy you used to enjoy,. As everyone will tell you, holidays and family celebrations are the worst. I can’t change everything about what we used to do with Lisa, but I can change some things.
For example, my birthday was a progressive event of small pleasures throughout the day. What I feared as my first special day without Lisa, became a new memory that softened the difference. I look back on it with joy instead of sadness and that moves me forward.
Seasons change. The question I have to answer is how they will change me. While I cannot change everything every day, I can give myself to some raking and pruning and planting work that will grow something new. And one day I will be able to say with Solomon:
The winter is past and spring has come.
(see Song of Solomon 2:11-12)
And it will be true.