I like routines. When I don’t follow the routine I forget things – like taking my allergy pill or grabbing my lunch on the way to work. I like knowing what comes next. I like certainty – ah, my allusive friend that I can never quite catch. I’m predictable and I like it when everyone else is predictable too. Those close to me could probably order my meals when we go out to eat. I like seeing the surprise on their faces when occasionally I step out of my own box and try something new.
So far my sabbatical is anything but routine and predicability. I have a few morning rituals but after that I feel like I’m wandering. Appropriate, perhaps, but still unnerving. Am I doing this right? Is there a right way? Should I be more structured, less structured? Am I being still enough? I’ve never done this before and am feeling a bit perplexed in this new space. I need a routine to help ground me through this season of unknowing and at the same time acute awareness. I suppose that’s why I started this blog – something, anything to provide the routine I crave.
Living in the Midwest I am well aware of the seasons. It wasn’t until I left for awhile that I realized how much I needed them. I spent one fall and winter in Austin, TX. In December I drove around town with the car windows down while listening to Christmas music. It didn’t feel right. I needed the dark, cold nights filled with Christmas lights – our attempt to keep the darkness at bay. I needed the snow covered ground – a blanket that gives us all permission to rest a little longer. I couldn’t sing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” while sitting outside in a tank top and flip flops. It felt all wrong to this Indiana girl.
I like the predicability that the seasons offer in this part of the country. Spring prepares for summer, summer gives way to fall, fall lets go beautifully to offer winter a turn, then winter, often begrudgingly but always at just the right time, hands it back to spring. It begins again, it always begins again. They all have their time and place. Each with their own gifts – some gifts I appreciate more than others.
This past year I lived the seasons – entering each one at just the right time. Last September I was entering into my own fall. My energy level started to decrease from summer. I could see some color and life, but it slowly started to fade away. Parts of me were dropping off – joy, trust, gentleness. I was facing the darkness of winter and I was scared. I didn’t know what the next season would bring so I fought it. But there’s no fighting the seasons. They come whether you want it or not. Eventually the light faded and I was overcome by darkness – winter was in full force. I was cold, I was lonely. I was lost and unable to find any sort of light. However, because of my years of experience with the seasons, deep down I knew how this was going to work. I was dark and cold and seemingly dead on the outside, but inside there was life. Something was in me, waiting patiently for the right time to appear. The right time, however, wasn’t then. I had to wait. Always waiting.
I let myself live fully into the winter knowing that spring would come. It had no choice, spring always comes back. So, I let myself sit there in the darkness, in the sadness, in the unknowing, and yet knowing, and wouldn’t you know – spring arrived. Hope was springing up everywhere. Light returned and with it came the joy I had so sorely missed. Trust reemerged and gentleness found her way back into my heart again. I wasn’t rushing into spring – it takes time to nurture the new growth, you can’t force it to happen. I celebrated each little sprout and bloom that appeared – new ones each day. And when the time was right, and the time is always right, summer showed her bold, brave self to me. Dancing, loud music, quiet nights under the stars – I was growing right along with the flowers and grass and birds. Together. We did it together. The seasons taught me to trust again. To believe. It’s okay to sit in the darkness because it won’t last forever. It’s okay to dwell in the pain and hurt because you will be healed. Seasons aren’t for a lifetime, thank goodness.
Nature’s seasons around here last about 3 months each, but that isn’t always so for our own, personal seasons. It just so happened that during the last 12 months, nature and I were in sync. I followed her lead and she led me faithfully to the place I needed to be. It doesn’t always happen that way, however. I had a season of winter that felt like it would never end. I have also spent a long time in spring, waiting for the new growth to appear. Despite the varying lengths of time and degrees of intensity, the lessons we receive from Nature’s seasons are the same – you have to go through it. There’s no escaping the season. And, it won’t last forever, it will end at some point, it will fade away. As much as I love summer, I need fall. Even though winter is hard, it leads me to spring. They feed one another, just as the seasons feed me.
I think it’s appropriate that my sabbatical is during the fall season. Time for slowing down. Time for breathing in the earthy air. Time for letting a few things die. Time for planting and then waiting. Time for acceptance. Time to face another way. And so, face it I will knowing that I will always be led to the next best place.