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.)