Using the seasons as a guide when you are in the midst of a major life transition
At times, life is tough and at times, it is absolutely perfect. Have you ever noticed the ebb and flow of the seasons of your own life? There are times the stars align and everything you desire comes into fruition- a pay increase, a new romance, the perfect puppy… all at once. You sit back and wonder how you got so lucky. You bask in the sunlight and abundance that life has afforded you. You keep working hard and enjoying the ride. You have great work ethic and your friends know that they can count on you. Life is good.
As a Seasons of Change coach, we refer to this time as the season of summer. Summer may last for months, or it may be a fleeting moment, but when we are experiencing the joy of summer there is no doubt that we are loved, supported, and capable of great things. However, no season lasts forever. Life is fluid and everchanging. You may be blissfully unaware that change is coming while you are enjoying the summer sun. However, if you are a person prone to anxiety, you may miss the joy of summer as you worry about the foreboding change that you just know is lurking around the corner (even though you have no evidence of such change). You may even miss the harvest you created due to these anxious, intrusive thoughts. Either way, whether you are enjoying your summer or worrying about when it will end, change is coming. It always does.
Change is not inherently bad or scary. Change can be exciting and wonderful. Welcoming a new baby into your life, getting married, or finally retiring are often changes that are much anticipated, planned for, and joyful. But what happens when you do not experience the overwhelming happiness with this positive change that you thought you would? You might be very confused by this counter-intuitive feeling and you may wonder what’s wrong with yourself. Nothing’s wrong, you are just are just in the midst of a major life transition and your world is changing. No big deal. Right?
On the other hand, sometimes uninvited change shows up in our life. Perhaps we receive a life-changing health diagnosis as we are training for our next marathon or our company announces a merger which will involve major lay-offs just after we received an awesome promotion. These types of transitions are thrust upon us, often at warp speed. Instantly, we are overcome by fear and we try desperately to keep things exactly as they have always been. It seems like only a minute ago we were enjoying our feast and now the crop is gone and we are left unprepared, scared, and alone. Following the Seasons of Change model, we call this the season of fall. As you might expect, fall comes into our life when things change. Just as the summer’s warmth and sunshine is always followed by falling leaves and squirrels collecting nuts, so to in our lives, does this metaphor exist.
When faced with an unexpected or unwelcome change we may rush to restore balance in our life. We may jump at the first new job opportunity after getting laid-off or rush into a new relationship as soon as our divorce papers are signed. We may sell our home and move to a new city to start afresh or we may busy ourselves with our friends’ problems, binge-watching movies, and never-ending happy hours to avoid being alone with our thoughts. When we throw ourselves into endless activity, we are trying to avoid our feelings about the situation. We are trying to pass the time until those feelings and thoughts magically disappear. Of course, this is a fruitless attempt at avoiding pain but it’s an understandable and natural human response. We are conditioned to work hard, at all costs, and we are certainly not usually encouraged to take time and space away from productivity to ‘find ourselves’.
The truth is this, as we enter a time of change, there is no going back. Things will be different as we move forward. Again, different is not bad, it is just different. If you can make that distinction in your mindset and your internal chatter, you will feel calmer. If you continue to ruminate on how bad things are and how they will never, ever, get better, you certainly will feel worse. Test it out. See what you think! I would advise you to decide how you’d like to feel first (peaceful, calm, confident would be my choices) and then set your internal chatter to create those feelings.
When you come to accept that the season of summer is over, for now, at least for this one aspect of your life, you can also come to accept that fall has arrived. Accepting that that you are in the midst of a change is the first step. Sometimes, just acknowledging and accepting that you are entering a transitionary phase is enough to move you on to your next season. As you probably guessed, you are heading into winter, whether you like it or not. Change is coming. It always does.
In my experience as a professional life coach, this is the season that most people fear and it tends to be the time when people reach out for my wisdom, guidance, and support. Many people have tried wintering alone, and feel stuck and hopeless. Others have gone through tough transitions in their life before and they know what they need based on past experience. If you have previously and successfully navigated a winter season, it’s possible that this next season will be milder and shorter than your first winter. However, every transition is different and you, as a person, are evolving and changing too. Perhaps this time around you have more support from your friends and an abundance of financial resources, or, perhaps you have gotten divorced and lost your job in the same year.
Although life is complicated, there is always a silver lining. Despite the fact that many winters are long and dark, you can grow, develop, and learn so much about yourself in this season… if you do the inner-work. What that means and how to do it will depend on a number of things. Suffice to say that this is why many clients reach out to professionals, like me, in this dark time. Remember, winter is not all doom and gloom. Think of the season of winter as a time to rejuvenate, restore, and refocus on yourself. Allow yourself to stay in bed a little longer or say no to social events that seem draining rather than nourishing. If you have brain-fog, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, and a desire to stay home in quiet contemplation, you’re most likely in the depths of winter. That’s okay. Spring always follows winter so you won’t be here forever. Stay the course, glean insights about yourself, and give yourself what you need in this tender time. Change is coming. It always does.
You will know that spring is near because you will start to feel the wrestling of the desire for increased activity. You might feel slightly more alert and you may even crave more human connection that you did last season. Think of a hibernating bear; no one knocks on his den door to tell him to wake up. He intuitively knows it’s time to begin moving his limbs. He’s rested well and as he comes back into consciousness, he starts to desire things that he has forgotten about like food and sunshine. You too, will sense winter morphing into spring. It may take you by surprise or you may have been eagerly awaiting this day. Either way, wake-up slowly and come into the light again… in your own time. This transformation is not a time for making big decisions nor committing to a new business venture nor entering a new marriage. It’s a time for testing the waters and experimenting. It’s a time for creativity, fertility, and reemergence. This is the time when the clouds start lift and hope returns to your life. It’s also the time to look at your progress. How far have you come since your summer turned into fall and your fall into winter? Reflect on what you have learned in the process of change and marvel at how strong you have become. Take notice if you even feel like the same person you were last summer?
Whatever transition you went through, you have navigated it well, thus far. The journey is not over yet but you are getting closer to your next season. Life is definitely different than it was last summer. Maybe you are now a single working mother, or maybe you have just moved across the country for you dream job but you had to leave behind friends and family, or maybe you have come to learn how to handle a challenging health condition. You have made progress and you have nourished yourself to get this far.
Allow spring to be the time when you intentionally and thoughtfully try out new ideas. Reintroduce yourself to the world. Plants reintroduce themselves each spring and they are a welcome reminder that spring always comes no matter how dark the winter was. No one forgets the beauty of the first yellow daffodil against the brown terrain nor do they forget the hypnotic scent of striking purple hyacinth. Everyone is happy to see their beauty again and your friends and family will be happy to greet you into their community once more. Don’t get too comfortable here because as you begin show yourself to the world, things are changing. They always do.
At some point you will realize you feel relaxed, confident, secure again. Life has a new vibrancy and appeal that has been missing for a long time. You have finally found your groove and you feeling excited to share yourself with others again. You have a sense that your foundation is strong and you know that you are resourceful enough to navigate any passing storms. You feel grounded in the knowledge that you are stronger than you ever thought and no matter how the world may try to knock you down, you are confident that you will rise again. You know that you won’t just come back as a spruced-up version of your old- self. You will come back from these challenges alert, empowered, focused and compassionate. You will come back evolved and new.
If nothing else, you have learned to love yourself through each season. You have found a new respect for your abilities and your limitations. Maybe you rediscovered your faith or made a new friend a long the way. Maybe you found out that you are actually quite good at writing poetry or maybe you learned to meditate. Whatever your learned along the way will serve you well this summer and for next fall. Whatever happens this summer, don’t forget to celebrate your success. Don’t dismiss the arduous challenges you have overcome and certainly don’t try to move the goal post on yourself as you are about the cross the finish line. Summer is a season to embrace and celebrate. Enjoy it because things are changing. They always do.
If you are in the process of weathering a storm, anticipating a change, or stuck in long dark winter, reach out to me. I can act as your guide through the tumultuous times you are facing. Together we will establish a roadmap for your journey. We will calm the inner fires that feel chaotic both internally and externally. We will use the seasons to guide us through these changes and you will emerge through the process with a new sense of purpose and appreciation of yourself and your journey. When you get to your destination, we will celebrate your success.
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Carrie Mead, MS is a Professional Life Coach and Reiki practitioner based in Maryland. Carrie created Curiosity Life Coaching to help men and women successfully navigate major life transitions such as retirement, divorce, career changes, and loss. Carrie provides guidance, support, and empowering exercises to help her clients redefine and enact on their life’s mission following a major life transition. Connecting authentically and compassionately forms the basis of all of Carrie’s personal and professional relationships. Carrie holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from McDaniel College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Gettysburg College. Learn more by visiting www.curiositylifecoaching.com