Seasons are universal. Treat yours uniquely.

March 23, 2011


One of the lessons of nature that has simultaneously tortured and buoyed my heart in the last decade has been the lesson of seasons.

My second pregnancy was definitely a winter for me, where everything I had come to identify as being “me” lay dormant in the soil of a pregnancy-induced heart condition + trying to simultaneously care for an active 18-month-old.

When that second baby was born, I mistakenly assumed spring had arrived and I would finally get back to my old “normal”: writing and exercising regularly, engaging in public life, feeling in touch with my family, friends, and inner world. Winter hadn’t finished, though, and I often looked longingly out across miles of “snow”, completely consumed by the tactile tasks of caring for kids and trying, often unsuccessfully, to get just enough sleep to stay sane.

I’d compare myself with other parents through that time, wondering why I seemed so snowed under by my role by comparison, why I couldn’t just push through and produce!, return emails!, be creative!, have FUN! So much about my life felt like bare branches and leafless, underground bulbs – completely foreign to the “me” that I liked and longed for.

I’m not in a winter anymore – I think I’m in spring – but I’m noticing that as I look out at other people’s lives, especially people in full bloom, I feel similar things to the way I felt a few short years ago: envious and mystified and wondering whether I need to be ashamed of my lack of full bloom, or somehow resigned to a whole life of fewer blossoms than others seem to have.

And I wonder, as I look toward next month’s theme of Starting New Things, whether any of you are feeling similarly. Are you content when you’re in winter? – when your circumstances have you holed up in a long season of private, maybe a season of intense inner work, or intense parenting, or study, or some other block that prevents you from pursuing Life as you ultimately wish it could be?

How do you respond when you feel good things stirring in you, too – new buds getting ready to open – and you look across the lawn at someone else that’s fully flowering? Maybe they already have the skills you wish for, the business, the connections, a circle of supportive friends. Maybe their shit is more together than yours and you wonder whether yours will ever be anything close to that.

I’m wondering whether it might serve our trust well – yours and mine – to realize how unhelpful it is to compare our lives to others’. To compare seasons.

Your life is uniquely yours. The blocks that you have, the wounds that you carry, the challenges in your circumstances; and conversely, your heart, the gifts you have to offer the world, the things that bring you great joy or spark your deepest wonder: these can’t be helpfully compared with any other person’s because there isn’t anyone else that’s YOU.

We can’t know how long our winters will last, or how quickly they’ll switch to spring. Sometimes the very day you’re most convinced that snow will last FOREVER is the day new growth pokes through. And in your own or others’ most colorful, flamboyant successes, none of us can know what inner or outer circumstance will plunge us back into dormancy, privacy, darkness.

Maybe the most trust-inducing thing we can learn from nature’s seasons is that they turn, and the most helpful thing we can do with that information is to apply it not to some combination of us-and-the-person(s)-we-most-want-to-be-like-when-we-grow-up, but rather to ourselves alone.

Let others’ lives turn as they will. Let your winters and the buds and blossoms of your summers and springs – in quantity, color, and type – be the miraculous, holy things that they are. In their very own right.

***********************

This Weepies song, Hideaway, was a light for me through the winter of my earliest years of parenting. Though its metaphor isn’t seasons, it just as well could be. (If you’re reading this via email, click here for audio.)

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This month’s theme at Trust Tending is nature. Click here for a description of the theme, and here for a working list of themes in months to come.
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22 comments   |   Filed in: Meditations, Songs   |   Tags: , , ,   |  

22 Comments »

  1. This is beautiful … our seasons are our own, and they are always turning. Still, I know the comparison you talk about, and the toxicity that it brings. Your words are a help in reminding myself not to do that. Thank you. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — March 24, 2011 @ 4:35 am
  2. Toxicity is such a perfect word for it, Lindsey. Makes my mind start thinking of antidote…

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2011 @ 6:18 am
  3. This is *so* beautiful. Thank you for sharing this so very much!

    Comment by chel — March 24, 2011 @ 8:18 am
  4. So glad for the resonance, Chel!!

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2011 @ 11:02 am
  5. I needed to hear this today. I’ve been doing a lot of comparing lately – I’ve definitely been in a long winter, both physical and metaphorical, and I am aching for spring on both counts. Thanks for the reminder to trust my own seasons, my own life, and not compare my blooms to others’.

    Comment by Katie — March 24, 2011 @ 12:42 pm
  6. Thanks again. Yes, I find myself comparing myself a lot. I forget (or ignore) letting me be me. I forget (or ignore) doing the work, following the steps to get to the next place.

    So the theme next month is starting new things? Maybe I ought to start paying attention to the things I would MUCH RATHER ignore next month? That’d be starting a new thing for sure…

    As for being in winter, or spring or full bloom? I’m not going to ignore the question, but I am going to sit with it for a few. My first thought is I have never been in full bloom, but, on second thought, maybe I have, to a degree.

    Comment by Renee — March 24, 2011 @ 2:21 pm
  7. Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder. I’m in a season of toil at the moment, preparing the land and planting. Turning the soil, digging over the compost, repairing the fences, planting the seeds, tending them all. I guess that might be spring? When I look at friends who are in a season of quiet seeking, time on the mat and on the cushion, and deep inner journeying (winter maybe? interesting how it is a season that appeals to me right now) it is easy for me to feel like I’m getting left behind on the spiritual path. It’s crazy when I write it down and yet, that’s where my mind goes. You’ve reminded me the importance of honouring and being fully present to and grateful for the season I am in. Otherwise when winter comes I’ll just be busy wishing it was spring!

    Comment by Marianne — March 24, 2011 @ 5:34 pm
  8. Renee, your question about whether you’ve ever been in full bloom sparks so many thoughts for me. People talk about the path of awakening being a spiral staircase, where you come back around, over and over again, to some of the same issues, but each time from a different vantage point. Maybe being in “full bloom” could be understood this way, too. Maybe there are summers for each of our life seasons, but the blooms are just different each time around. I think I’ve unconsciously been believing that each of us has one main season of full bloom and have consequently looked longingly, sometimes, toward my own. Something about each season of my life having a summer stage is tremendously hopeful for me. The full bloom of my angst-y 20s, for example, would look so very different from the full bloom of my 30s.

    Thanks for taking the conversation further and in such a hopeful direction (at least for me)!

    Marianne, isn’t that so ironic? – that feeling like no matter where you’re at, if someone is meaningfully somewhere else, then maybe you’re missing some important thing or being left behind. I often share that feeling, too.

    Something strikes me as really trust-inducing, in a back-door kind of way, about what you’ve written here, as often it seems like the season that’s most celebrated and wished for is summer. That there are people yearning for more introverted, inner journeying – or at least recognizing the value in it – makes me feel that much more honoring of those seasons in my own life.

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2011 @ 8:23 pm
  9. Katie! Your comment got caught in my moderation file for some reason. I’m sighing empathetically with you on the longing for spring feeling. Thanks for being here.

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2011 @ 8:37 pm
  10. I love this post. I have definitely been snowed under this winter. I was grateful for it and needed it. But dude. It sucked.

    Lately, my meditation teacher has me working on holding dualities as I tend to be all or nothing. For example, holding the sadness and tough emotions while also realizing that deep down in all of us is infinite light.

    Thanks so much for this, for the acknowledgement that we ALL go through winter even though it usually seems as if we are alone in our snowsuits.

    xo

    Comment by Pamela — March 24, 2011 @ 8:39 pm
  11. “Alone in our snowsuits” – that is such a perfect line, Pamela. I think you’re so right: when we’re in winter, it often feels like everyone else is somewhere else. I’m struck as I reflect on your words by the fact that we often can’t know in casual observation who is in what season. The images we portray to other people can be so misleading and, ironically, contribute to all of us feeling more alone when we’re wintering, since most of us don’t wear that season casually on our sleeves.

    I’m not suggesting we all go around crying in public (though maybe more of that would be a good thing??), but rather that 1) maybe it’d be helpful to not have an equals sign between the images people portray in public and how they’re actually doing, and 2) maybe finding appropriate places – this space being one of them – to talk about our winters honestly could help us realize how universal they actually are.

    Thanks for helping me think this much further about these things!

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2011 @ 9:16 pm
  12. Hi Kristin, it’s so interesting to me that things come to you when you need them. I have been feeling rather stuck in this winter stage for so long now it has been hard to keep believing that it will pass. But this morning I decided your blog would be the last one I read before turning my computer off to begin the daily battle of fighting all these negative thoughts and feelings that signify my “winter.” You have captured for me the essence of how I have been feeling and it has been reassuring to read your post and all the comments after to discover that once again I am not alone in these feelings and that possibly this season will pass and make room for a lightening up time or as you put it a spring. It’s encouraging to me that the human condition is shared and so many of us are trying to figure it out, to accept our selves, our feelings, our “seasons,” and to see ourselves in others a little more kindly thanks to people like you who can put all these difficult feelings to words so beautifully.

    Comment by Heather — March 25, 2011 @ 5:56 am
  13. Heather, I have the chills. So glad for your story. Thank you for your company here, and I’m sending every wish that your winter is doing wonderful underground things, and that spring will come soon, and beautifully.

    Comment by Kristin — March 25, 2011 @ 7:43 am
  14. Seems to me like the thing that hurts most isn’t the comparison to someone else, but the self-judgment inherent in declaring it winter in the first place. In a human life there are so many things going on, and many of them are independent of each other, such that SOMETHING’s always in summer, even while something else is in winter. All you have to do is take a closer — or maybe a not-so-close — look at your life and you’re bound to see something to take the chill off. Either that, or recognize (to overwork the metaphor a bit) that the sprouts of spring are already growing, well before we actually see them poke through the surface of the soil.

    But yeah, I agree, what REALLY should happen is we should love “winters” for what they are. Right? Sure, you bet. All this 34-degree rain, wind and darkness? I just loooove it! But that would actually be a very wise thing to do, since the winter really doesn’t care whether you love or respect it. We’re the only ones affected.

    Although concerning child-rearing, there’s your spring right there! You’re BEING creative. New humans are growing because of your fertility. Giving birth was just the beginning. You and the children are one now; there’s no “me” and “them.” Their growth is your triumph. People look at good kids, or good adults, and say “wow their mom must be pretty kickass.” Or they should. Meanwhile I don’t think anyone has the same kind of admiration for how many emails you answered, know’m'sayin?

    Comment by Rol — March 25, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
  15. Rol, I love your point about the complexities of us – how one aspect of a life can be wintering while others are summering. While I do think there are times when the majority of stuff in a life is in winter, I’m inspired by what you’ve said to look, even then, for things that are flowering. In the darkest part of my 20s, I was in really good physical shape, I learned to make a mean loaf of bread, and I was laying the early foundation (through reading, writing, conversing, going to therapy) of all of what I’m doing on this site right now. Sort of hard to call that all dormancy, now that I look at it in light of your reflection!

    Comment by Kristin Noelle — March 26, 2011 @ 9:39 am
  16. Umm, yes I compare a million things to other people and why am I not like some others who seem to keep their shit together. Just like you said.
    I am right now in a fall, becoming winter and all I can do is watch the seasons turn, not knowing when there will be full bloom again.
    Yet I await longingly for all the richness, laughter and fun it will bring.

    Comment by Suki — March 26, 2011 @ 10:38 am
  17. Kristin, this post is fantastic. And you have got a lot of folks thnking and talking and pondering the seasons of our lives.

    I like Roi’s comment about whether or not we even need to label the times of our lives. I’m at a point in my life where I know that certain parts of my life are in different seasons. I am grateful that I’m able to step back and step aside a little in order to see where I am in my marriage, in friendships, with my children, and within my own soul. And I’m learning to find grace and strength and many small blossoms in the areas that could be said to be in winter.

    Thank you for your honesty, Kristin. Thank you so much.

    Comment by GailNHB — March 26, 2011 @ 5:25 pm
  18. Suki, your words make me realize I haven’t thought a whole lot about fall as a life season. I wonder what such a season feels like – is it a knowing that some kind of “success” has run its course? Like the closing out of a job or the knowledge that a physical condition is worsening? I’m trying to wrap my mind around what this one means. If you have more thoughts, I’m all ears!

    Gail, something about your description of where you’re at makes my whole body relax. What a wonderful feeling to see the different parts of your life and not get uptight or grasping about any of them. That itself seems like a flowering to me! :)

    Thank you all for your words and your honesty! I’m so encouraged by all of it.

    Comment by Kristin Noelle — March 26, 2011 @ 9:23 pm
  19. Things I would ascribe to fall are ideas like “Okay, time to wrap it up,” or “This is past its peak,” or “Better get ready for what’s next.” It’s a transition, like spring. Spring is expansion, summer is when things reach their peak and hover there a while, fall is when things contract, and winter is where they reach their smallest or “lowest” (hesitate to use that word) state, and hover in that contracted state for a while. That’s how I look at it.

    Comment by Rol — March 27, 2011 @ 11:42 pm
  20. Rol, those phrases help a lot! Thank you!!

    Comment by Kristin — March 28, 2011 @ 9:42 am
  21. Thank you Kristin.. :o)
    I’d like to give myself permission to be in winter and to stop resisting.

    Comment by Miranda — March 29, 2011 @ 8:44 am
  22. Miranda, I’m cheering you on. :)

    Comment by Kristin — March 29, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

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