September 26, 2013
A Change of Seasons
'To everything there is a season, (turn, turn, turn)' goes the song sung by Pete Seeger and also by The Byrds. I know it is a verse from Ecclesiastes set to music, and because I am musical I cannot quote it without singing Pete's version. And I quote it often, for I tend to see my life and the lives of the people around me as a series of chapters or seasons, now as much as ever.
Last week was 'a time to refrain'. Every once in a while I have one of those low energy, bordering on hibernation weeks, one that involves early nights and afternoon naps, careful caffeine consumption and plenty of reading. I have learned over the years that these weeks are often my body's way of either fighting a virus or conserving energy just after or before a spell of intense productivity. Often, I spend a few weak moments during one of these low times wondering if I am doing enough with my life, but nearly every time I entertain these thoughts something occurs, usually in the form of someone I know contracting a terrible virus or infection after they have spent an extended period of time burning the proverbial candle at both ends, to remind me of the importance of taking time regularly to relax and rejuvenate.
I have always had a body that talks to me through little signs like sore ears or a headache wherever my glasses meet my face. If I listen and act accordingly I can almost always fight off the virus by slowing down for a few days if possible. When I do not listen to my body telling me it is feeling overwhelmed, it tends to shut down in the form of intense fatigue or illness as a form of payback. My body's messaging system has been a blessing and a curse from day one, but mainly a blessing. From a young age I knew I had to regulate my energy. I had quite a bit of energy, but it certainly was not endless. In high school I would often take on too many roles, too many projects and inevitably through tears and figuring things out with my mom I would have to let one or two activities go. Eventually I learned how much I could realistically take on and realized that saying 'no' once in a while was being my own best friend. Admittedly, in my twenties, I would sometimes take on too little for fear of losing my precious life balance, but life, in the form of three children born in three and a half years, had an undeniably effective way of rectifying those phases of excessive self-preservation.
In my thirties, and once I had school-aged children I began to have more energy. I also discovered I could suddenly tolerate coffee, something I could not when my children were very little and I was chronically sleep-deprived. When I was still a daycare provider, I was the arts council secretary and the children's day coordinator for our local Festival of the Arts. I cooked and baked from scratch daily for my growing family, I tried to stay fit by running, I helped my kids with their homework and music practise, counseled them, and volunteered at their school, taught catechism and acted as chauffeur. I wrote when inspired and joined a book club.The Supermom gig was actually great while it lasted, and it taught me how to organize my time and focus on the task at hand. I enjoyed the flexibility of my homemaker role, but I think I was trying a bit too hard to prove to the world, and to myself, that there was much more to me than baking cupcakes and mopping floors.
Turning forty was a pivotal point in my life, and marked the beginning of a new pattern for me. I began to take my writing much more seriously. In my fifth year of coordinating children's day I developed a sinus infection. I took it as the final sign of many indications that I needed to give up my position. I was simply trying to be too many things to too many people. I knew that I needed to stop doing so much and concentrate on the parts of my life that really mattered to my soul: writing, promoting the arts and looking after myself and my family. As I took steps to simplify my life I noticed that I performed each of my fewer roles better than before. With less clutter in my brain I could think things through and come up with increasingly creative solutions to problems. I developed more patience and deeper focus. And I liked it. I was still busy, but in a healthier way for me and for my family.
Lately it seems like 'the stripped down life' is the plan for me. Several of my outside activities have ceased by the mere fact of my children moving on or moving out as they grow up and rely less on me (and my car). The singing group I was with for a year disbanded recently and the on-call secretarial work I enjoyed has dried up as well. Almost entirely without my orchestration, it seems the winds of change have blown with gusto through my life in order to de-clutter my days and free me up mentally and physically, not to mention creatively. In some ways I feel like an innocent bystander watching all of this busy-making stuff in my life melt away. I find it fascinating, and wonder what it all means in the short and the long term.
I do know two things: 1) that I have rarely been ill in the last few years, and 2) I have begun writing a novel that I am cautiously optomistic about. The rest, as they say, is mystery.
Photo thanks to aliciadaniel.com