We expect a change four times every year. Either the warming temperatures of Spring provide the promise of the coming Summer or the dropping leaves of Fall provide a carpet on which walks the Winter. But how do you deal with the unexpected change? The diagnosis. The spouse who leaves. The child who needs therapy or hospitalization. Perhaps rhythms we’ve learned as we usher in a new season have something to teach us.
Change is happening.
I don’t know if it’s a Covid Consequence (I’m building a list of them) but I’ve experienced this Fall as especially beautiful. The color show didn’t have to happen really. The universe could have been constructed so that we wake up one morning and the leaves are all off the trees and it’s cold. (I personally think we have a playful God who loves the sound of footsteps as they crunch crunch the leaves on a path). As I write these words on October 25, our son sent us a photo of his outdoor thermometer. Maybe they do things differently in Idaho but I am grateful we have a more gradual shift in Michigan. It give us time to prepare.
For example, we have a plan this week to clean out the beds in the yard, trim the roses and cover them with straw, and we will continue the on-going effort to remove leaves from the lawn. I cleared out my summer sandals today and unboxed boots and warm slippers. Next weekend I will deal with clothes. We’ll be ready.
We knew we had to think about preparations because the evenings slowly became more chilly and we often felt like lighting a fire. There were warnings that the warm summer days spent on the lake would not last.
This too shall pass.
We often hear the phrase, “This too shall pass” when someone is suffering a difficult season. But what if we brought that same recognition to times when life is good? When we and those we love are in good health, our relationships secure and our children thriving?
If you live long enough and have a bit of perspective, you know in your being that bad times pass… and so do good ones. Life is catching a wave and riding it through ups and downs, spills and crashes, and at times being pulled out to sea and feeling totally lost. But every surfer knows that the high of riding the crest of the wave will end. And likewise, the struggle to get to the next one will end and they’ll ride high again.
I’m not calling for a state of wariness and fear as you contemplate how to deal with the unexpected change. “She loves me today but she’ll probably leave me someday.” “My child is going to get hurt any day now by a friend or a bully or a first love.” “My best buddy looks tired? He’s probably got cancer.” That’s no way to live! Let me share some ideas for balance.
A healthier perspective:
- Be aware. Step back and assess the measures on which you value life. What’s working well and even thriving in your job, marriage, health and relationships? Take stock of each and note whether you are in a season of perfect temperatures and soft breezes or freezing cold and harsh winds. You can’t deal with anything you don’t recognize.
- Be grateful. One way to deal with the unexpected change is to commit, when life is working well, to appreciate it. Express your gratitude in a journal if you keep one, to those who deserve credit, and others. You’ll enhance their lives as well as your own by speaking your gratitude out loud. Tom Rath, author of It’s Not About You, writes that “every exchange with another person either ‘filled their bucket or dipped from it.’” In other words, when there is something to appreciate, take the opportunity to fill your own emotional bucket and someone else’s by speaking of it. Rath, Tom. It’s Not About You: A Brief Guide to a Meaningful Life.
- Be prepared. When the cooler temperatures descend on your relationships, identify steps you’d take if things continue and an avalanche of crushing ice and snow crashes down. There are seasons in a marriage. I’ve heard a therapist say that “Every marriage has cause for divorce.” Not every day. But there are those days! So pick up a book on how long-term marriages thrive. I recommend anything by John Gottman. https://www.foreverbooks.net/book/9781451608489 If you are not feeling like yourself physically, do your due diligence and investigate rather than ignore what may be an early indicator of something more serious. Take care of the basics by implementing one small change in one small arena of good health. Go to bed just 15 minutes earlier if you’re not getting enough sleep. Exercise for just 10 minutes each day for 5 days and commit to asking yourself then if you could just do 15. Prepare for good health if you don’t have it now. If your child has become withdrawn or seems sad, it may only be that middle school or high school or virtual learning is just hard. But have your next step identified (a meeting with the school counselor, a book you’ll order, a therapist’s name and number) in case it’s something deeper.
If you share your gratitude for a season in your life that you recognize as thriving (and if you’d like, you may also share a season in which you are in preparation mode as you deal with unexpected change), tell me what book you’d like to have in your arsenal and I’ll enter you in a drawing to receive it. You can post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or via email to [email protected].
And remember, this too shall pass.
Wishing you wisdom,