As the year starts to wind down and school finishes for my daughters, we all feel a certain freedom in our household. It’s almost summer holidays. We spent this past weekend making Christmas cookies, seeing friends, hanging out — just enjoying summer and all it offers.
Last night we went to the Sunset Cinema at the National Botanic Gardens. We had a lovely evening, sitting under the stars and a clear sky, watching a movie on the big screen. It’s one of my favourite things about summer – being able to attend outdoor events like concerts or the cinema. It was a beautiful evening and we all went home feeling happy.
I love summer and appreciate each day, knowing that the days are numbered and it won’t be long before the nights draw in and frosts cover the ground in Canberra. I like living where there are proper seasons. It makes me appreciate the beauty of each one. And the seasons remind me that nothing lasts forever. The one thing that is constant in life is change.
Each night of my recent Cape to Cape track hike we would gather as a group for dinner in a big tent and eat together. Over dinner, we would each answer a question we had chosen randomly from a box of Top Five Movement positive thought starters. These were beautifully designed questions that made each of us stop and think differently about the day we had completed. They were a great icebreaker at the beginning of the week and helped us get to know each other on a deep level. By the end of the week, we all looked forward to hearing each other’s answers each evening and learning from each other.
One night I received this question, “Compared to five or ten years ago, what knowledge are you most grateful for today?”
My answer: ‘This is just a season in your life. As sure as the seasons in nature change, so will you.’
Of the eight in our group, five were women younger than me. They all had small children and were right in the thick of those early days of parenting where it’s hard to see the woods for the trees. When I was at that point in my life, I was filled with fear – fear that something would happen to my children, fear that I was a horrible mother, fear that somehow my kids would grow up to be terrible adults…the list of fears went on and on. I could see similar fears in some of the women on the hike. They are so caught up in being the perfect mother and needing validation of what they are doing. They forget that they are doing their best each day. And that in a way, it’s really all just a crap shoot whether your kids turn out ok or not. There’s no controlling life.
I remember my mother talking about the early days when my brother and I were young. She would step on our toys and wonder if there would ever be a day in her life again where she didn’t step on toys. She’s now had decades of toy-less floors and I think at times, for fleeting moments, she misses those days.
Each stage of our life is a season. As I have one child finishing high school this month I see one season of my life coming to an end. Soon she’ll be off on her gap year, traveling around the world, and making her own choices. She turns 18 in February and will step out into her own adult life.
I’ll be left with only one teenager at home which will be a different season for both of us. We will have to change and adapt to being just the two of us, without the buffer my eldest daughter provides. It will be interesting and not dull, of that I am sure. But she will only be around for a few short years before she’ll head off on her own direction and I will have to change my life again.
Women understand seasons innately. The birth, life, death, re-birth cycle. This cycle takes place in our own bodies each month. It happens time and time again over our lifetimes. And it grounds us in change. As our bodies change, our lives change. We change. We embrace change and understand change in our bones. Life is always changing. Just like the seasons.
There’s no controlling life just as there is no controlling the seasons. Life unfolds — it is us who must adapt and change, react and respond. We must find the time to plant, the time to grow, the time to reap and the time to rest. It is when we don’t follow these ancient rhythms of life that things go awry.
These ancient rhythms speak softly and women must learn to listen to them. The more we connect with them the more we often realise that the rhythm we’ve been following for years, that rhythm of busyness, that fear of missing out or messing up, isn’t the rhythm we should listen to. We start listening to our bodies. We start remembering that we are creative and soulful beings. We remember that we have the power to change.
And that’s when the magic happens.
I’ve dipped back into one of my favourite books this week, Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Estes Pinkola. She talks about the seasons of a woman’s life; each season is approximately seven years long and coincides with life events and changes in our wisdom.
A male friend of mine told me recently that he was fortunate to learn years ago that women change approximately every seven years and he realised that if he, as a man, wanted to support and be there for his woman, then he needed to change and adapt as she changed and adapted. His relationship with his wife isn’t perfect, but it’s closer to perfect than most I see. Many relationships come crashing down because the partners grow apart rather than together. They don’t adapt and change to each other. They don’t understand (or maybe they’ve forgotten??) that life is a series of seasons.
I see this with many of my friends at the moment. As their children grow up and leave home, they are looking at each other and trying to decide if they have changed together enough over the years or if it is time to end their relationship as they’ve grown so far apart.
As one season in my life is winding down I’ve been reflecting on the changes I’ve had in the past few years and, naturally, I started to think about what the next season looks like for me. Where will I go? What will I do? Who will I meet? How will I continue to change? I know all will be revealed in time and I’m not expending energy worrying about it.
Right now, I am enjoying this moment — this time with my girls together, going to outdoor movies, making Christmas cookies, laughing and goofing off. I know this is a fleeting moment that will be gone all too soon.