Words like seasons, cycles and circle are often used to describe the life we lead and the never ending nature of life. Last weekend our family celebrated together as we witnessed a marriage and the beginning of a new season in all our lives.
Though life itself is continuous, there are endings and beginnings within the natural cycle. Just as the deciduous trees drop their leaves each year to prepare themselves for the long winter, so we too must let go of certain things so that we may be ready to move forward when a new season arrives.
The leaves do not go to waste. They are not forgotten. They return to the soil to provide what the earth needs for new growth. And so it is with people. A life well lived doesn’t stop when life on earth has ended. Whether genetically or through relationships and nurture, that life will continue to impact and nourish all who follow. This is a particularly comforting thought for someone who has no biological heirs.
Thus, one phase of the bride and groom’s life ended as this new one began. So, too do the lives of their parents and siblings, aunts, cousins and friends. Parents are now free to relax knowing they have completed this task and the future holds something new and exciting for them.
As the young couple begins their journey they do so taking all that has been given them both in nature and nurture. Who they are biologically, spiritually, intellectually and socially is all a product of their family and experiences; and now they will begin a new life and family passing along their unique qualities to their children.
Career choices, children, first home, where to live, and what kind of life do they wish to create…both parents and children are now free to make these choices. This should be a glorious time for all.
Letting Go To Grow
Every culture has their family and social norms and these tend to modify and evolve over time. My maternal grandparents never left the immediate area where they lived most of their lives. As coal miners and farmers there was no expectation that they would do anything besides stay where their families had been for generations. My father’s mother was born in Hawaii to Chinese immigrants. She was the first generation born somewhere other than China and most of her siblings stayed in Honolulu. My paternal grandfather’s family came from England and settled on the east coast and then Indiana.
The leaving home to begin a new life has been recorded nearly as long as humans have been on earth. It is a natural and normal evolution. My great grandparents and great great grandparents all did it; they left family behind in search of something new and hopefully better. I am so thankful for people with such intrepid spirits as they are the reason I am here today.
My Dream For This Season
I want to be like them. I would love to live a nomadic life for a short period of time. I don’t think I could do it forever, but the lure of the open road and living in a way that is completely different from my suburban Texas existence is very exciting…and romantic.
I believe there are certain physical locations where we connect on a spiritual level with the land, the people, and the way of life. I don’t believe I have found mine. And, at this juncture in my life, I may never find it. But I would love to try. I thought I felt it the first time I visited Vermont. Vermont is possibly the most beautiful state I have visited; mountains, lakes, streams and waterfalls visible from the side of the road…no billboards or other visual pollution…it is simply magical. But I don’t fit. My values and beliefs are not the same as the people there. So, I will be content with visiting but I could never live there.
I am, however, convinced that there is a place somewhere in the United States (I have to clarify as my dream would be England or Scotland) where I would feel at home in all the ways that are important to me. Or…I could discover, that I am indeed in just the right place – Texas – I just need to get out of the suburbs and away from the coast.
Just as the leaves must release their hold and drop from the life giving tree, what must die in my life to live this dream?
What Must I Let Go Of?
1. Putting Others First: I have a destructive habit of basing my decisions on what pleases others. While thoughtfulness is an admirable quality, when it moves into a way of life that denies ones own truth and purpose, it becomes a cancer that must be removed. These thought processes are created throughout a lifetime of small decisions until one day one wakes up not knowing how to make even a simple decision for their own pleasure. This in turn leads to a sense of powerlessness and ultimately anger and bitterness.
2. False Identities: I am not always sure who I am apart from created identities. I am nearly sixty four years old, I think it is way beyond time to figure this out. I know who I am as a wife, stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend; but who am I? I create social media identities, business names, and creative pursuits, all in an effort to forge something that says to the world, “This is Sheryl Means.” I explore my ancestry to gain an insight into the genetic code that might reveal a hidden key to unlock this door. Thanks to the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I am working on unlocking many of these questions. I finally feel as though I am beginning to find my path.
3. Expectations Of Others: This is tightly connected to the first point. I perceive a certain level of expectation that others have of me and believe I am powerless to do anything except be the “good girl” and do as expected. This is a deeply rooted and difficult mindset to change. To disappoint someone I love is my ultimate fear. It seems selfish and wrong. Yet, living to the expectations of others is another denial of self; thus I live in a constant state of being disappointed in myself resulting in bitterness and frustration.
What Comes Next?
As grim as all that sounds, I am really in a good place. Now that the issues have been identified I must come up with specific and actionable steps to move forward from this place I currently inhabit. We have an obligation to our granddaughter to live life as it currently exists until the summer of 2022. Once she graduates from high school, our life as full time parents and grandparents will be over. My husband is self employed in sales and has the freedom to travel. Our time is coming.
We plan to move to the city where my mom lives. I had hoped we would be there by now but helping our granddaughter was a commitment we made eighteen years ago and we had to honor it in full. But once finished, that leaf from our tree will drop. It will be time for a new life to emerge. What will it look like? Where will we go? What will we do? Who will I be? It all remains to be seen but what I know for sure is that this season is just for us. As long as each of us is able we will travel, have fun, and I will be right here documenting the journey.
Where Are You?
No matter what season of life you are living there are things to learn; things to let go of; relationships to heal; and experiences just waiting for you to bravely step out and enjoy.
I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book. When I am through with this one she has written several others I will read. However, and through whatever methods you choose, it is my sincerest wish that you are able to work through the old messages of your life so that they can fall, decay, and disappear so that new ideas and choices can take their place.