It’s summertime. The season of heat, holidays, and hopping on a plane. The joke in Kuwait is;
“What do you say to the last person in line at the airport?”
“Did you close the lights?”
It gets so hot here that the expectation is that if you can ‘escape,’ you will. For a variety of reasons, I have stayed in Kuwait over the whole summer for a number of years. Yes, it gets hot, but on the upside, people leave. The streets are virtually empty, there’s very few queues anywhere I go, and work slows down to what feels like sauntering pace. No need to hurry for anything. If not today, then tomorrow, insha’allah. It’s a season. Not particularly comfortable or pretty but thankfully, temporary. Time limited, definite beginning, expected end. We human beings can endure just about anything, even eyeball-searing heat when we know there’ll be an end to it.
Life is like that, moving in an ebb and flow of familiar, unfamiliar, painful, joyous, difficult, easy, happy, sad, busy, or lazy rhythms. These seasons are often brought on by life events outside our immediate control, and the only response we’re actually able to make is to choose the attitude with which we’ll face the event.
Years ago, working with a woman who had lost her husband, we were talking (yet again) about how different life felt without her partner. She was feeling guilty and distressed that she was completely unable to get back to “normal” life – her friends were impatient with her sadness and tears, and had begun to suggest that she needed to “get on with her life,” or at least, “get back to doing every day things. You’ll feel better.” Part of the problem was that she didn’t want to feel better. She felt disloyal to her husband and angry with her friends. At the same time, she said to me, “Will this ever end? I asked how long she’d been married.
“49 years,” she said sadly. “We were planning our 50th wedding anniversary celebration when he died.”
“How long since he died?” I asked.
“10 months, yesterday,” she replied.
“Did you know the general benchmark for grieving is one month for every year of marriage?”
She thought about that for a moment. “That means it’s okay if I’m still sad?”
“Of course. You might be ready to be finished with grieving before that, but this season of grief in your life could easily be 4 years long, and that would be okay.”
From that point on, she relaxed into the process of learning how to live without her beloved husband. Though it wasn’t any more comfortable or any less lonely, she felt that the season, which had a definite beginning, would also have a definite end. She understood she would not always feel like this, but that right now, it was perfectly normal to be sad.
So it is with any season. Whatever the situation, seasons pass. Always.
It’s funny – we even get spazzed out about seasons when we’re happy, when things are going really well. We secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) wonder how long it can last. We look for reasons why life is going to fall apart ~ because right now everything is perfect and that can’t be good. We act as if being happy is something to be regarded with suspicion and slight paranoia. (C’mon. You sooooo do that…worry about what’s not going wrong.)
Seasons are just that. Seasons. If you’ve lived somewhere other than Kuwait, you’ve experienced the natural change in nature signaled by new life/Spring; growth/Summer; death/Fall; and rest/Winter. (Unless you’re in Canada. Then the seasons are Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Construction).
My point is this. If you think about life as rhythms or seasons, how would your perspective about your current situation change? Could you let go of the tension; the fear that life is always going to be like today? We know from research that as soon as we stop focusing on the pain of life, whatever that is, stress levels drop measurably. Accept what is… for now. Paradoxically, it’s exactly the same when we feel all anxious about being ‘too happy.’ Choose to BE in the moment. Stay present. Feel the heat, and go about your business. Whatever the season in your life now, it will pass.
Enjoy the summer.