Things Are Looking Up
A season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature (thanks Webster). While we usually think of the four seasons of the year (helllooooo SPRING! Praise hands!) I'm referring to our own personal seasons, those ebbs and flows of circumstances and trials that create a distinct, deep stamp on a time period of our lives. One that we can dig from the depths of our memories for reflection and immediately say "Ah, the summer of 2015. How lovely." or "Ohhh Christmas 1996. How dreadful.". You all know what I mean -- I bet I just brought to mind a season of life with young children and no sleep, or that one year you made so much money you thought anything was possible, or that one six month period where you buried so many loved ones it was unbelievable. It was a time in which lots of events were characterized by a theme, a circumstance or feature.
I'm always looking for a thread of commonality in pretty much everything. In time. In nature. It's the pattern lover and artist in me. Things have to make sense; I have to see a connection of sorts to help build my understanding of the world around me. If there's no theme it feels disconnected and all-for-naught, and that's just not how my life is going to play out, ya feel me? I guess that's the writer in me too.
I am currently in the process of exiting out of a particular season that I would characterize in the following manner: painful. tiresome. limiting. depleting. Let me explain:
We moved four times in four years. That, my friends, is exhausting. I do not recommend it to anyone. My husband traveled constantly for work for over three years, and it wasn't until this past August when he came off the road that I realized just how abandoned I'd felt. It's one of those things I don't think I'd let myself feel until I had permission (because now he was home)... sort of like when you get sick the day before you take three days off of work; it's like your body now has permission to be ill, so it jumps at the chance because it's been dutifully holding it together while you couldn't miss work. Stiff upper lip and all that. The last seven months I've been unpacking my loneliness and my depletion, moving from sadness to codependency and now finally to joy and inter-dependency.
I fell down our steps on day three in our current house and cracked my ribs and injured my neck. I'd begun a new job the day before. I spent seven months not being able lift things, to workout, or to really do anything other than work my new job. I was just too depleted to do anything else. The dull ache of my body for months on end started to wear at my optimism and positive outlook - chronic pain will do that to you. I consistently missed happy events for other people in my life because a car ride of more than an hour would leave my body in pain the entire next week. I all but abandoned my work at Silverbeet; luckily I have an amazing partner who can run the show by herself like a boss. Tallulah went radio silent. Again. I developed heart palpitations from anxiety and no longer found joy in anything but sleep, Netflix, my dog and my husband. I felt so limited in my body, like it was a stranger that was working against me and not with me.
The duo of simultaneous emotional and physical trauma knocked me out. I leaned HARD on the hubs (see note about codependency above) and could not have made it through without him. He began to develop a barometer for my limited strength, and would quickly swoop in if I got overwhelmed because I had like, two things to do that day instead of one. Which you know, is like everyday because we're adults. He was basically my personal assistant cabana boy who eagerly took things off my plate because he knew I just didn't have it in me. I was counseled by my girl Katie and she was so patient, and uplifting, and the best cheerleader a girl can have. I began radical self-care to try to nurse myself back to health.
Seven months, twenty pounds, and one refreshing beach trip later, I finally feel more like myself. Well, myself with love handles. But I'm smiling more and I can do yoga and take Oscar for a walk without paying for it with pain. I'm beginning to have enough space in my heart to contemplate other people's needs because it's no longer as overwhelming. I'm planning happy events for people that live far away because now I know what to do to manage my health. I'm about to celebrate five years of marriage with the best guy around, and will toast the worst year of my life but the best year of my marriage. Things are looking up.
You needed a little backstory before I got to the heart of this story: the theme of the season. What have I learned? What will be the immediate reflex of thought ten years from now when someone mentions the autumn of 2018? Here's what I've got:
Tough seasons inform good seasons. You leave a bad season (though it feels like it's eternal and will NEVER end) knowing that you just made it out of the last season by the skin of your teeth and the grace of God. ANY sort of rest or refrain or mercy that follows next is so wonderful and exhilarating and welcomed. In fact, this new "good season" may not have been characterized as such six years ago when life was perfect and nothing bad had ever happened to you. This good season may have been seen as boring. But now you're wiser and more humble and understand that ALL good and perfect gifts come from above, and you will take whatever you can freaking get and you will BE HAPPY WITH IT. Because please Lord don't make me go back. All of this to say: you are more thankful and pleased with less. The wants are whittled away and only the needs remain, which are a lot easier to satisfy.
You need good friends who will show up. You need friends who have experienced way worse than your measly cracked ribs and inability to touch your toes but still make you feel heard and understood. And not at all high maintenance. You need people in your corner who will advocate for you, who will be OK if you can't make a single day be about them for quite awhile.
You have to be careful about what you give oxygen to. There is a difference between self-care and self-centeredness, the blues and depression, and relaxation and laziness.
There is strength in weakness. There is beauty in ashes. There is holiness in needing help.
Right now, I'd say this season was miserable and limiting. But I am working towards the idea that I'll be able to say it was refining. I know that my circumstances could be better or worse, and I'm trying to attain a posture of being thankful for either.