If you saw La La Land, you can’t forget the sweeping opening number. Cars backed up for miles, bumper to bumper along a Los Angeles freeway. As the music begins, drivers start to exit their cars one by one, joining in with the chorus, dancing and laughing as the sun shines down on their tank tops and cropped pants. As they belt out their final refrain –”Another day of sun!” – the camera pans up from the interstate to take in a nearly cloudless sky above glistening Los Angeles skyscrapers. The word “WINTER” appears.
For a long time, I loved that about my city. The long, nearly eternal summer of Southern California. But those endless sunny days can easily trick us into thinking all of life should be that way.
Culture has no hesitations in telling us that life should be one mountain peak experience after the other.
Your career should be a straight-line trajectory upwards. Friendships should only ever deepen, never wane. Happiness and fulfillment should be steady and in full supply at all times. Otherwise, you’ve done something wrong.
But that can’t possibly be true. Look around us. Life is full of rhythms, of highs and lows. Night follows day. Wilting follows blooming. Birds take flight, but then stop to rest their wings.
The natural world tells us over and over: seasons are necessary.
And not only around us, but inside us, too. In our own hearts and souls.
After my husband and I miscarried, I entered into a season of slowness. My body needed more rest than it had before and my head and heart needed more time than I thought they would to wrap themselves around what had happened.
Our loss came on the heels of a life that had been vibrant and busy and full of summer. Pulling up chairs with friends around a full table most weeknights, and hopping on planes for adventures most weekends. A work schedule filled with travel and challenges that pushed us in the very best ways. That was the was the life we were used to, the life we loved.
Now we couldn’t avoid that things were different. The temperature had changed. Friends would stop by and as I asked them how things were, they would respond just like before: “Busy! You know how it is.” But I didn’t anymore. My days were quiet and filled with margin now.
At first, I couldn’t understand. We had taken our time to grieve, and now I wanted to be busy again; wanted that high capacity I had before, wanted things to go back to being full and falling into place.
But try as I might, I couldn’t wish myself out of this wintery season in my heart.
And what a blessing that turned out to be, because all those quiet days and all that margin were actually healing my soul.
There was a time when all those late night meals and toasts were life-giving. It was a beautiful season, my heart feasting on easy joy and chasing hard after each new endeavour. But now it was different. My heart was asking for more rest. Asking for time to be quieter than before and discover delight in small, unnoticed things.
Seasons are that way. Sometimes, all those joyful Instagram posts and determined New Year’s resolutions feel genuine and true. Gratitude comes easily and fast paces don’t tucker you out. Like summertime play, your heart runs rampant in the sunshine till you collapse in bed, full and satisfied.
But then other times, it’s the opposite. Other times, your life feels full of obstacles you can’t seem to climb over. Creativity stalls and counting your blessings is a task you must put real energy into. Like winter, sometimes our hearts need to be tucked inside next to a warm fire, handed steaming cups of tenderness.
Our hearts can be hard to hear at times, but give them enough space, and they’ll tell you exactly what they need.
More quiet, less noise. Or less mourning, more celebration. You heart knows. She’s just waiting for you to ask her.
Maybe this new year coincides exactly with the new beginnings stirring in your soul. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’re still in the middle of a chapter that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. The timing of your season isn’t important. What’s important is embracing it, making the space for our hearts to speak up without judgment or critique.
Once we do that for ourselves, we can do it for others around us. We can invite them to embrace their own seasons and savor whatever they can find in it. By nature, seasons change – even if those sunny LA days would like to tell us otherwise. So let’s stand with our people and harvest all the wisdom and empathy and tenderness we can find right where we are, for ourselves and for everyone around us.
Photos by Eileen Roche