Outside my window the leaves are falling one by one.
They let go with reluctance, clinging to branches, but eventually they will surrender. They do so, I believe, because their innate Divine wisdom knows they must make way for a new season, for dazzling colors that will litter and carpet the earth.
Even as summer fades, life is abuzz with children and youth starting school.
I’ve seen quite a few Facebook photos of young ones with backpacks, parents anxiously waiting at bus stops — or of young adults in their dorm rooms, parents holding in mixed emotions. Then tears shed. Moms and dads returning to the vast emptiness of their homes.
Kids going to school. Growing older. Retirement. A divorce. Yes, a new season often entails loss of some kind. It always does.
Sometimes — in the midst of all that — we fail to grieve the season that is passing. We often neglect to sit our bodies and souls down and weep, cry, scream — whatever we need to do — to admit, “Life is changed and different now. And it will never be the same.”
I know for me I have been feeling the loss of an old season for some time.
When my father had his stroke three years ago, I lost the dad I once knew. He was no longer the man who advised and encouraged me, but a different person due to cognition problems and his inability to find the right words. And I had to learn to move into a new season of life with him.
It’s been painful at times, remembering the dynamic man he used to be. Sometimes I grieve that loss well — by that I mean I can accept and feel the sorrow of this situation. And other times, I cling with tight fists wanting it to be the way it was.
But it never will be.
For most of us, change will involve letting go of what was, but even as we do that, we may ask ourselves — what’s next? I believe this is the part that may frighten us. We are no longer where we were, but many of us may have no idea about what’s waiting.
We have said good-bye to an old season, but the new is not yet clear.
This is called “liminal time” and I’ve written about this topic in a past blog post, the experience of the ground feeling shaky under our feet and not really knowing what’s next.
Dr. Joan Borysenko, author of the best-seller Minding the Body, Mending the Mind advises us to be patient during this “no longer” and “not yet” stage. As unsettling as it may feel, it’s OK to be in the unknown, she reassures. Liminal time allows us to be open, spacious and flexible, allowing what’s next to unfold.
But for that to happen, we must first grieve our losses as to open up a space for what’s ahead. We must see how we are clutching our fists and holding on. We need to learn to be with “what is.” These remain lifelong lessons for me.
As a season ends in our life, it may have been a good one. After all, not all experiences — as we judge them — are bad. It may be that deep down we have this inner knowing that it’s time to end whatever it may have been — a job, a relationship — and we can say good-bye. We can move on without drama because that season has served its purpose.
Through it all, because we are human, we will feel emotions. We will mourn what was. And like the trees this time of year, we can allow the leaves of our loss to drop at their own pace, one by one.
We can breathe, be patient, listen and wait to see what evolves. We can slowly unclench our fists and open the palms of our hands to receive whatever the next season may bring.
It’s not easy for most of us. It never is for me.
But it is life, my dear friends. It is life. And there indeed is a season. To everything. And to every purpose under heaven.