The weather is often our cue for seasonal change. The calendar helps, but not until the temperature dips below 60 does it officially register as fall here in Atlanta.
Seasons in our lives don’t always have such markers. Rarely do we know what season of life we’re in until we’re through it.
When I last posted to New South Essays back in April, I was entering a season of physical transition. Moving to a new home started a chain reaction of change that was hard to recognize at the time and only now is beginning to show signs of stabilizing.
Carla and I frequently quote to each other the trite but true proverb “There is a season for everything.” So as the calendar flips to October and the transition to fall becomes more noticeable, I can’t help but reflect on the seasons we’re experiencing right now as a family:
Running. I don’t mean physically running, although I have been consistently on a program for about six months. I’m talking about the phenomenon we are all too susceptible to in today’s fast-paced world. We run from activity to activity pausing only to collapse in a heap at the end of the day.
Even the pleasurable events we choose to do as a family are lost without a few minutes to pause and reflect on what’s happening. It’s like trying to savor a delicious meal while consuming it in three minutes. This running isn’t always stressful, but a lot of times it is. It can be exhausting and fulfilling at the same time.
Unlike a marathon, which does have a destination, this season feels like a treadmill that will only stop when the motor overheats and the circuit breaker shuts it down.
Parenting. The biggest challenge of experiencing all of the life events being thrown at us right now is making sense of the activities for our children. Soccer, Scouts, band, and church are all good and potentially enriching ways for our children to spend their time. The challenge is for us to provide context, explain choices and identify values.
If we don’t clarify these experiences for our children, we’re simply wearing them out. Parenting happens whether you know it or not. Parenting intentionally is our goal, and we have to be reminded that it’s crucial to focus on this activity right now when so much of who our children will become is being molded and shaped.
Caregiving. I don’t know about “sandwich generations” or other labels. All I know is that in this season, I am recognizing that I won’t have my parents and in-laws physically in my life forever. Whatever we can do for them now isn’t just about meeting their physical and emotional needs. I have needs that they fulfill during this time of phone calls and doctor’s visits.
I need their wisdom. I need to know what they have learned in their seven-plus decades of life. I need their affirmation and love. I need the emotional strength that comes from a healthy relationship with your parents. I need to give something back to them for all they have given me in my life.
When we lost Carla’s father almost a year ago now, it was a wake-up call. This is a season of banking memories and experiences and conversations so that when we do have to part, we can do so with peace, knowing that we left nothing unsaid. It is a beautiful and heart-rending season.
Questioning. If you know me well, you know I’m a planner and a scheduler. I had scheduled my mid-life crisis four years ago when I turned 40. I trained for and ran my fourth marathon, attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon. My plan was to make this my crisis and put all of that other mumbo jumbo out of my mind. Stuff like “What am I doing with my life?” or “What does it all mean?” or “What do I really want out of life?”
Boy, was I naïve. You cannot outrun the inevitable questions of middle age. While I am so far avoiding the tragic missteps of many midlife crises, there are too many puzzles to solve and quests to conquer that I can’t seem to focus on one long enough to find an answer. Aren’t you supposed to get smarter as you age?
A recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Wiretap, by writer Jonathan Goldstein, happened to mention that studies have shown the unhappiest period in a person’s life is age 40-49. I can see why. Having more questions than answers can make you indecisive, paralyzed by uncertainty.
Balancing. If I’m learning one thing right now it is the importance of balance. Life’s balance beam can be easy when you’re walking freely, unburdened with responsibility and obligation. But try walking that same beam laden with the stuff of life that weighs you down. One false step or an unbalanced falter brings disaster.
I’m no physicist, although I work with a fair number of them nowadays, but keeping opposite and equal forces requires some output of energy. Energy that isn’t always available when you are running, parenting, caregiving and questioning.
Maybe when I get through this season, the questioning will ebb. Maybe all of these seasons are really tied together into the season of middle age. Maybe, I’m not the only one in this.
I read somewhere that there’s a season for everything. Consider today’s post my season’s greetings.
What season are you in at the moment? How can you tell when you’ve moved from one season of life to another? What are the best seasons? What are the worst seasons? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. It’s the season of commenting. Thanks for staying with me through the extended hiatus!