This month my publisher, Boldwood Books, invited their authors to provide some encouraging thoughts to help us through lockdown. Here’s mine…
If there’s one valuable lesson that my 44 years have taught me, it’s that life, more often than not, comes in seasons.
I’ve had busy seasons, productive times where I’ve felt like I was running downhill faster than my legs could carry me. I’ve learnt to get through these with strict work-life boundaries, figuring out what matters in the long run verses what seems urgent that day, and reminding myself of the life I really want (which doesn’t include grinding myself down to the bone to please other people).
I’ve had quieter seasons, and whereas in my younger days I found these frustrating, growing restless and bored and anxious that life was trickling by without me, I now treasure the opportunities to rest and replenish, to breathe in for a while instead of giving out. These pauses are to be guarded fiercely and savoured deliciously.
I’ve had times of joy, when all was right with the world I found myself on top of. And I’ve again learnt to relish these moments, to unashamedly mark them with special meals, a fancy dress and with laughter and music and the people I love.
And yes, there’s been seasons that have felt like the harshest winter. Three stand-out seasons, when life was just hard:
The first, when in fourteen months I graduated university, moved city twice, started my first full-time job, got engaged, then married, and had a baby. I was 21, nudging into 22 – an age when just one of those things would have been a big deal. The next fifteen years seemed almost a breeze in comparison.
Until the second, the year my father died – anguished months of helping take care of him as a brain tumour wreaked its evil havoc. That year I learnt what true heartbreak feels like.
And then, we have 2020/21. A global pandemic. Eleven months and counting of long-covid’s fatigue and breathlessness and tasteless cups of tea. A personal family situation that has at times knocked me to my knees. My first year as a foster carer – a role that swiftly brought everything else into sharp perspective.
But this is meant to be an uplifting thought. So what’s my point…
These were seasons. Horrible, exhausting, at times devastatingly lonely, stressful and overwhelming times. But they were times.
In a book of philosophy called Ecclesiastes it says this:
‘For everything there is a season…
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance…’
It even says, ‘A time to embrace and a time to turn away’ – words that have become startlingly true on a grand scale. Who could ever have imagined that we would be unable to hug our friends?
Looking back, my toughest seasons have made me who I am. I’ve dug deep down within myself and found strength and courage I never knew I had. They’ve shaped my values and sharpened my priorities. The challenges have imparted more wisdom than I could ever have learnt from a book or a training course. I have more empathy for other people’s suffering because I’ve experienced similar struggles.
This season is dreadful, for so many reasons. It’s lonely, scary and gruelling and utterly relentless. And at times it seems like it’s lasted forever, like parties and holidays and being able to see people smile are some weird dream we once had.
But it is a season. The end is coming. It is almost in sight.
And while it is a terrible tragedy that far too many people will not walk out the other side of this valley, for those of us who do, even as we emerge battered, bruised and battle-scarred, we will do it together. And we will love, and laugh and hold each other like never before.
And one day, we will look back and remember this seemingly-endless winter was not endless after all. And we will discover that we are stronger, and wiser, and braver and more loving than we would have been without it.
Spring is coming. I’ll see you there.