Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
- Mary Oliver
A few weeks ago I was walking on the beach in the middle of the day—a still-new luxury since I left my corporate life in the spring. I’ve spent this summer in a mostly blissful state, even as I’ve been working really hard, have new fears to contend with, and a seven-year-old daughter who has taken to acting 13. Part of me has been nervous. I am worried I will blow it somehow—that I’ll take this window of time I’ve been given (that I also very much created, I remind myself) and somehow drive it into the ground, use my time poorly, make too many irresponsible decisions and a year from now I’ll find myself on a train, commuting back into the city to show up at a job I hate, feeling suffocated again.
When those thoughts come in, I have consciously worked to say no. You will no longer let fear run your life. And then I keep going on my walk in the middle of the day, and I eat when I am hungry, and I do yoga, or take a bike ride, and sometimes I take a nap. I let the sun shine directly on my face as I eat ice cream from the store below my home and I sleep in with my daughter once in a while because I can. But I also do my work. I show up and I pour my heart into what is asked of me, and also what I want to create, and when it’s done, I let it be. I trust that I don’t have to struggle, feel constant stress and tension in my body, or dislike whole areas of my life, in order to keep the goodness.
Toward the end of my walk, the sun was bouncing off the rocks and the water, reflecting golden light back up against the seawall. I could see Boston in the distance—the little buildings stacked up like Monopoly pieces, the city that grew me up—and I was suddenly overcome. I turned toward the water, stood up straight, and took the earbuds out of my ears. I put my hands on my heart and I closed my eyes and looked up at the sky and I choked a little as I mouthed the words Thank You.
You see, there were so many dark years. There were the Marriage Years, and the Becoming a Mother Years, and they both coincided with the Financial Crisis Years and also the Drinking To Blot Out Your Existence Years. Those times weren’t all darkness, of course—there was so much wonderful goodness in them too—but when I look back what I feel first is a heaviness. There's the weight of the things that were actually happening—the morning we woke up with $110 between us, my husband and I, with a new baby and no known source of income; the dark depression, and the anxiety that got so bad I took to cutting myself with clothespins; the time my husband started working at a grocery because something had to happen, and the days he walked in the door after his shift there with a stiff upper lip, holding back tears because he felt like such a failure; mental illness in the family and suicide attempts and relationships burnt to the ground; there were all these things—but also, there was the pain of my own resistance. I couldn’t accept the season I was in, or the ones that had passed. I always wanted to be somewhere else.
So as I’m standing at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn so I can cross the street for the final stretch of my walk I push the WALK button and think, This is a good season, Laura. Be here.
Seasons are part of life eternal. They are necessary and they are lunar and planetary and perfectly tuned and so, so much bigger than I am—than we are. I think one of the reasons I feel at peace today is because I’ve relaxed into the knowing that this season—even this very good one—will pass.
I can feel the ache of loneliness that sometimes surfaces, this longing for a romantic love, a partner, and I can really know, not just tell myself: it just isn’t the season for that now.
I can think of my grandma who died last year at 97 and how miraculous—how completely stunning—those last days with her were, because I was a sober witness to the passing of a season.
I can understand the grief I felt when I let alcohol go, because despite all the havoc it wreaked in my life, it had also seen me through a lot, and for a long time. It had kept me from parts of myself I wasn’t ready for, and it also allowed me to feel things I couldn’t otherwise access. Letting go of it was accepting that a season had ended—and so much of the suffering I felt around it was a denial that the season of its goodness had passed long ago; I couldn’t reclaim it no matter how hard I tried.
My daughter. She’s the constant, living reminder that seasons are passing. I watch her body walk away from me after a shower, or I check the shape of her as she sleeps in the bed next to me, and I have to adjust my eyes because I can’t register the way she has grown. I have to say to myself constantly let go, let go and it is so hard, so hard, to do.
All around and inside me, I can feel the wisdom in the seasons that have passed, especially the really difficult ones. I can honor the one I am in. This is the season of my adult aloneness.* The season of writing my first book. The season of goddess friendships and living fully in my body. The season of mothering and becoming an aunt. The season of deeper mystery and deeper trust. The season of my 39th year.
And in all this, I can count myself into the family of things, as Mary Oliver says. I can rest in the knowing that I am indeed part of the grand, chaotic, rhythmic mystery of this life.
*thank you for this, Meadow DeVor