At The Pace of The Seasons
When I was a kid growing up in Sacramento, I didn’t pay much attention to the seasons. I mean, I knew it was hot in the summer so we could hang out at the park district pool, and it was rainy in the winter, so we often had to stay in our classrooms at recess. But it took years before I noticed the way the trees turned gold and red in late summer and early fall, or how the daffodils popped up in the early, damp spring. Even after I looked for these changes and welcomed them, my life here in the Central Valley of California has not depended upon the seasons. I never had to wait for the perfect time to harvest crops or for snow to melt so I could plant them.
These days, in the midst of a wetter-than-usual winter, and lots of reading about what happens in our lives and bodies as we age, I find myself engaged and interested in the rhythms and cycles in me and around me. On a cold morning last week, my running partner said, “I know you wish it were spring, but I kind of like the way we’re just in the season we’re in.” She was, no doubt, tired of me whining about how chilly I felt, but she made a point that has stayed with me. We are always just where we are, so the amount of time I spend lamenting that, or wishing for the warmth of summer (when I often complain about the heat), is ridiculous. It has me wondering why it’s so hard to just be where we are and, in that way, the seasons serve as an excellent metaphor for simply being present.
Real life has all the blemishes and ruts and disappointments that we will surely survive, even if they bring us to tears.
For lots of reasons, being intentionally in the moment has never been my strong suit. My mother was always planning for the something new in our lives that would make us happier, and that set the tone for my own wishing and longing. And, for most of us, our life and career paths are often lined with time markers that urge us to get going on that next big thing. Whether it’s marriage and family, or a promotion at work, we keep our eyes focused on that prize just beyond the horizon. I’ve missed many lovely moments planning for a “better” one that I hope might happen in the future.
My goal is to just experience what's happening and not fight against it. As part of that, I’ve been reading about our changing circadian rhythms and how they affect older people, often resulting in everything, including our sleep patterns, being disrupted. Many of us have been dealing with poor sleep since we were in our 50s, and sometimes even earlier. If you’re like me—and your body clock is changing—you adjust. You may lament the change, but you figure out how to navigate it. I think so much of the best part of life is just that—working with what we have in the moment. If we don’t, then our moments are lost to frustration and angst.
I didn’t learn any of this until I was in my mid-30s and, even then, it remained an intellectual exercise for a very long time. It wasn’t until the last decade, when my life began speeding by like calendar pages in an old movie, that I realized I was seeing things in the wrong way. I had believed that if my days were filled with exasperating events, it was because I had somehow screwed up. There must be a better way to do perform these tasks, I would think, or my life would run more smoothly every day. I have only recently come to see that a huge part of life is just walking through the mazes of complications. It’s where we learn, where we succeed, where we see new parts of ourselves, and where we figure out how to solve problems.
Real life has all the blemishes and ruts and disappointments that we will surely survive, even if they bring us to tears. I’m slowly learning not to wish for a fantasy time when the road is smooth, but instead to welcome whatever is here in front of me in this season. That way, when the afternoon light diminishes, I can be happy—not that it was all without problems, but that I walked my way through each one of them with grace.