The Seasons of Your Life: 4 Psychological Dangers (and Resolutions)
July 6th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo by: Leland Francisco / Creative Commons
I haven’t written a blog post in two months, and if you responded to my last one and I didn’t email you back, my sincerest apologies! Your notes have moved me and I’ve composed responses in my head, but that’s not enough. I have a pet peeve: people who write newsletters and invite contact with readers, and then leave them hanging. So yeah, yuck. I really am sorry and I hope that you will forgive me.
So where have I been then? We sold our home, bought a new one, and moved and honestly…moving is akin to giving birth because if you remembered the pain – I mean the realness of it and all the gory details – I’m convinced we humans would neither move nor give birth more than once in a lifetime.
Are we settled in? No. We don’t have a couch. But today I’m drinking my first cup of coffee in my new home, and having my coffee pot with me feels like a major victory.
What I want to talk to you about today is the concept of seasons in our lives. I’m riffing on a concept that I think was shared by author MJ Ryan in her book about patience, however, the book is lost amongst the moving boxes. Sigh. Of course it is.
During the last two months of instability, each and every one of my healthy habits – such as early bedtimes, home-cooked meals and daily exercise – all flew out of the belfry like a swarm of bats at dusk. We’ve been eating restaurant meals and takeout and fast food nonstop and I can’t tell you the last time I lifted anything heavier than a paperclip, save for moving our belongings from one location to another. I feel disgusting, frankly.
Several times over the months, I’ve begun to mentally kick myself in the shins. “How could you keep gaining weight? You’re going to wear a bathing suit this summer looking like that?” You get the idea: mean, pointless thoughts that deserve to be flushed down the crapper.
What Season Are You In?
Sometimes when we just can’t seem to get our habits where we want them, when we keep breaking our promises to ourselves, we need to step back and see if we are in a winter. And I don’t mean the actual season of winter as we know it, but a period of our life that’s not going well or according to “plan” for whatever reason.
Our lives and our habits are cyclical and seasonal in nature, and again, I’m not talking about normal seasons, but periods of life characterized by the following scenarios:
You’re a mess. You can’t see your way out of the fog. You feel like you should give up a habit or begin healthy habits, but it seems hopeless. You struggle and fail. Your thoughts are disorganized, repetitive, and negative.
Danger: You think it’s always going to be this way. You can’t relax into it or accept your circumstances because you’ve painted a bleak mental picture. You’re miserable.
Resolution: Journal daily to help organize your thoughts and purge your head of negative and repetitive worries and annoyances.
There’s hope. You can see a change underfoot that’s going to sweep you along with the tide. Perhaps you can see more time in your schedule. Maybe you finally have just enough money, love, or creativity brewing. Your life is beginning to bloom.
Danger: You want to rush forward. You can taste freedom, and you don’t like being stuck. You can’t appreciate the beauty of your current situation, as the blooms remain tightly closed for now.
Resolution: Journal daily to shape your dreams of the future. Don’t forget to express gratitude for the present and to express feelings of hope and faith that everything will turn out right.
Everything is clicking into place. You feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re supposed to do it. Your life is closer to perfection than you’ve ever experienced. You’re reaping the rewards of hard work you did in the past.
Danger: You cling to it; you desperately wish that this will never, ever end. Or you take it for granted and you think things will always be this way.
Resolution: Journal daily with gratitude for your current circumstances. Acknowledge the bitter-sweetness that change is inevitable and be open to the duality of the awesomeness and its eventual loss in order to more fully savor this time and be fully present to each gift.
(In fact, savoring each season gently is recommended, because no matter how “bad” things get, there are always blessings attached when we look carefully.)
We fear the downward slope to winter. Summer is ending. A loved one is gravely ill. You sense you are going to be laid off. You anticipate the end of something good, or you have the feeling that something bad is going to happen. Or you are disenchanted with the path you chose. The blooms begin to wilt.
Danger: Worrying incessantly. You can’t stay in the moment and enjoy what is right in front of you.
Resolution: Journal daily about all the blessings you still have, and the new doors that will surely open for you as old doors close.
The Struggle of Winter
I don’t know about you, but when the going gets tough, I have a host of bad habits that get me through, like surfing the internet, staying up late to read, and eating lots of comfort foods. Then I get fixated on these habits and I try to browbeat myself into stopping these behaviors that soothe me.
When you’re trapped in a habit, like a bug in a spider web, our instinct is to struggle and push and pull against our cravings and urges. We then get caught tighter and tighter in the web when we struggle against a pattern.
Stop struggling. There’s a seeming paradox here: are we submitting to our whims? No. The intention remains to stop destructive patterns. To stop struggling with our habits means to stop guilting and browbeating ourselves for our imperfectness. When we stop shaming ourselves, then we can stop lying to ourselves to protect ourselves from our own shame.
Instead, eyes wide open, observe the truth. What do we get out of our habits? What do our habits cost us? See clearly, without judgment, without labeling right or wrong, good or bad. Just feel what it’s like to be alive.
Moving was my winter, but now that I’m here in my new home, I can feel springtime coming. It will be a slow climb. I will have to work to meet new people in my neighborhood and to adjust to a new environment and schedule.
I’m scared, but it’s also an exciting time. I have plans to complete my novel in July. When I look at the seasonality of my habits and know that change is underfoot, I can stop being cruel with myself and be gentle instead. Is it possible for you to be gentler with yourself as well?
There are blooms on the trees and this proverbial winter is lifting. All this to say, I’ve missed you. If you’re new to my web site, then welcome. And if you’ve been visiting it for a while, then thanks for being patient with me. Sign up for my newsletter below for updates.