Is there hope in every season?
My Why audio version of this blog available here.
And I could end the blog there, but I suspect you were looking for a little more on the subject, so I’ll indulge you, but only because you’re one of my favourite readers.
In February 2022 I wrote a blog called ‘To every thing there is a season’, and I broke down each month of the year (as we experience it here in the UK). I had noticed there was a lot of correlation between the months of the year and the seasons we go through in life. Now, this won’t be a new concept, we’ve all heard ‘seasons’ referred to a metaphorical period of time we pass through, but they often just relate to the four main seasons; spring, summer, autumn, winter. So while writing that blog I thought - why not break it down by months instead? And I journaled through the whole year, sharing a blog each month on what I believed that month was saying to me and what it could potentially teach all of us. So that’s what I did, for a whole year. And if you haven’t heard these then you could actually start the year again now, because the first one was The Season of March. Or indeed you could start on whatever month you’re reading/listening because there’s one for every month.
For list of all my seasons blogs visit: https://www.thesilentwhy.com/blog/categories/seasons
Having come to the end of this series last month, I didn’t really feel it was right to end without a sort of summary blog, looking back on my year, what I’ve learnt and what you can take away from it too.
So, looking back, what would I say is the best thing about having seasons and months of the year? I’d probably say that it’s the fact they change. They don’t stay the same. It’s the variety that makes them so special, and also so applicable, metaphorically, to other areas in our life.
And what’s the worst thing about seasons and months of the year? I’d probably say that it’s the fact they change. They don’t stay the same. It’s the variety that can make them so hard, and also so applicable, metaphorically, to other areas of our life.
So the best and the worst of seasons is the same thing - they change. You will never find a year, even in the harshest climate at the top or bottom of our tiny planet, where the seasons never change. Even if it’s by tiny amounts, the seasons change. Because we are on a planet that moves, we spin towards and away from the sun and the moon, our days change to night, our days change to years, our summer will always change to winter.
And this will, at times, offer you comfort, and at other times, offer you a warning. If you’re in a winter season in life, it will end, you will come out of it, spring is always round the corner. If you’re in a summer season of your life, you will come out of it, summer will end, and autumn will be round the corner.
Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. Yoko Ono
We can apply seasons to so many areas of the human existence. On a daily basis each of your days probably has a spring, summer, autumn and winter split to it. The best bit of your day (even if that’s something very small and fleeting) is your summer moment, the worst part is your winter moment. The same goes for your week, your month and your year (in fact your year is literally split into actual seasons). But then we also have seasons in life that we move through when we hit a hard patch and we feel like we’re in ‘winter’, or we hit a successful or fun or healthy or very blessed time and it feels like ‘summer’, regardless of the weather outside our door. It could also be said about the average lifespan too - we have a spring when we are newly born and hopeful and carefree, we have a summer when we are loving life and exploring all it has to hold, we have an autumn as we feel things start to fall and fail, and we have a winter as we wait for the end of our years to come. Which always reminds me of studying Shakespeare’s ‘The Seven Ages Of Man’ at school, where a human life is split into seven ages, which all reflect seasons we go through.
Seasons are a huge part of how we see life, and rightly so, they are an inherent, understandable analogy for us, that help us make sense of time periods we go through, but they also, I believe, help us make sense of life and ourselves, as well as preparing us for new seasons ahead.
‘How did you go about blogging every month for a whole year? And how does it feel now?’ you might ask if you were interviewing me about this . Well, as each month appeared on the horizon I spent some time thinking about how I felt towards that month, how it related to where I was in life, grief, loss etc, and what hope I could find, if any, in the month coming. I never looked at the year as a whole or looked ahead at months further afield, or even thought about it as a series, I just spent time in the moment and blogged about what I was feeling and what came to mind. I added in some information about that month, why it was named what it was, what season it fell into, famous celebrations attached to it, and if it were a person what kind of character was I dealing with here? Sometimes all of the above went in, sometimes some of it did, I just went with the flow.
Overall, I found myself frequently surprised by different months and how they made me feel, sometimes the complete opposite of what I would have thought if I were looking at the year overall and predicting. If you were to ask me now what I said in each blog about each month I honestly have no idea. I was so in the moment of how I felt at the time, I literally can’t remember. I also know that if I did this again, each month would be completely different from what I wrote the previous year, and that in itself has taught me a lot. We can’t know how we’re going to feel every year in each month, and it may be dangerous to set expectations that we’ll be happy in spring and summer and less so in the depths of winter, because then if winter arrives to provide you with all the warmth and comfort you need after a tough summer, you might not recognise it for what it is.
So, all that being said, what season are you in right now? I don’t mean literally, although I am pumped that the UK is moving into spring this month, and Australia might also be glad to move into autumn with some of the temperatures they’ve had lately. What’s your season in life? It’s usually something you can work out fairly quickly, and I think it’s worth knowing and being aware of, because as they say ‘forewarned is forearmed’. If you recognise what season you’re in then you know, and can prepare for, what comes next. You might say, ‘it’s not that easy, sometimes life springs things on you’ - and yes it does, you might be living your best summer life and suddenly your loved one dies and it throws you into the depths of winter, but in reality, there is still a season inbetween, whether it lasts for minutes, hours or days, there will be a transition to that moment, even if it’s just a phone call, or the beginning of a conversation, or the police turning up, something shifts and there are moments between the two seasons that cause the shift.
So how can you tell what season you’re in?
I’ll give you some general pointers, but I want to caveat that with the fact they often look different to everyone, and only you are the best judge of which season you’re feeling around you.
Let’s start with the most obvious:
If you’re in winter you generally know it. Life is hard. Everything is more of a struggle and a battle, you feel bombarded by the elements around you. It’s not comfortable, without external factors to help you get through it, it’s a cold season and you feel like the warmth has been sucked out of most, if not all, areas of your life.
You’ve known winter, in fact, it’s not far over your shoulder, but you feel like those emotions that made winter so hard are starting to thaw. You’re seeing buds of new growth in areas of your life where you didn’t know if you’d see them again. The world in general feels a bit warmer towards you. There is the possibility of things ahead that look better than what you’ve come through and you are daring to hope again and maybe dream up some new goals.
Life feels good. You look around and there are things that daily make you feel hope, joy, and love. Yes, you have your problems but dealing with them from this place feels manageable and you’re not trying to pull yourself out of a hopeless pit every night. You are enjoying the warmth of the world and moving around your life feels utterly untethered and healthy. Your new goals feel doable and your old ones are being achieved. (Full disclosure, I’m sort of imagining what this feels like so I can describe it to you - it’s not one I’m familiar with!)
Things have been good for a while, life felt relatively rosy but now it feels like growth around you has started to slow down, and it doesn’t feel as if it’s in your favour as much any more. In fact you can see there might be harder times ahead. You’re thankful for the resources you built up over your summer, but you’re also braced because you have a feeling you’re going to need them ahead.
Be aware of what season you are in and give yourself the grace to be there. Kristen Dalton
You probably already know which season you’re in now, and I think it’s important to identify it for two main reasons - a) what Kristen said in that quote, you will have more grace for yourself if you’re aware of the season you’re in, b) if you know where you are, you will know what’s ahead.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re in winter, I’m here to tell you that it does end at some point, whatever you are going through. When they say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ - like it or not it tends to often be true, speak to someone who has narrowly escaped death and they won’t be the same person they were before. Knowing you’re in winter means you can allow yourself the space you need to know that and accept it, but also to know that spring is next and will eventually come. Very few people find themselves continually in one season their whole life.
And if you’re in summer, why do you need to worry about what season you’re in? Well, just like winter doesn’t last, neither does summer. No one gets a life that’s just an eternal summer (and if you’re picturing someone right now that you think defies this, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong) because no matter what you see on the outside, no one escapes loss, no one escapes grief, no one escapes trouble, no one escapes death - that’s not the human experience. We will all struggle at some point, and we will all die, therefore we will all lose people we love and grieve. So knowing you’re in summer allows you to appreciate it, enjoy it and collect all the blessings it offers for you to store away and use when it ends.
If you’re in winter - take courage, it will end. And if you’re in summer - be warned, it will end.
And knowing this can mean we find ways to navigate these seasons, because it’s far easier to deal with something we know is coming than something that hits us out of the blue.
In last week’s episode, ‘Let’s Chat… Living with loss’, I discussed with two guests the effects of living with different kinds of loss and grief and we talked about why it is that we all seem to live with the expectation that life will be happy, successful and smooth for us. We see bad things happen every day across the world, yet we continue to make the assumption it won’t happen to us, and then when it does - Bang! We go into shock. Now, I’m not saying you can fully prepare for the worst losses that hit us, but when chatting to neuroscientist, Mary Frances O’Connor in the episode ‘Let’s Chat… Grieving Brains’, she said that there are studies looking into how preparing for these things can help us navigate grief, and that a huge part of this is just realising that what you’re going through is normal and it’s ok to feel like you’re losing your mind or not recognising yourself because of something you’ve been through. Nothing prepares us fully for grief and loss, but knowing more about it can ease some of the fear and confusion that descends when we find ourselves in it, giving us more awareness of what to expect, and grace for ourselves.
But, what if you feel stuck in a season?
Well, I know this feeling. It’s something that Chris and I have struggled with for quite a while now, we’ve felt stuck, and lost, in winter. And it’s confusing, frustrating, annoying and downright unfair feeling at times. One of the songs I listen to a lot when I’m struggling with this is called ‘Seasons’ and it has a line in it that says:
Oh how nature acquaints us With the nature of patience. Seasons, Hillsong Worship
Oh boy, have I learnt patience over the years - with health (mental and physical), with life’s situations, with others, with work, with relationships, expectations, friendships, faith, finances, love, dreams… Years and years of hoping for outcomes we never saw take their toll. And yes, it’s hard. But at the end of the day I knew I was faced with a choice - let the circumstances drag me down, and ultimately feel worse, while alienating myself from others, or just keep believing that there is hope, there is another season ahead, there are ways to enjoy life and they might not be what I hoped for but they do give me an appreciation and a thankfulness for the smaller, simpler things in life, and that’s never a bad lesson to learn.
There are years that ask questions, and years that answer. Zora Neale Huston
So I’ve learnt that things have to die back for new life to break through, and sometimes that death and the grieving afterwards just takes a while.
There is purpose in your season of waiting. Megan Smalley
And I’m not going to mention anyone that feels like they’re stuck in summer - all I can say is - enjoy every second of it - you’re on the rarer side of life - and it’s not something everyone gets to experience. And if these people do exist, maybe don’t brag about it too much!
At the end of the poem, Months of The Year, by Catherine Pulsifer, which I’ve quoted a lot over the last year, she ends with:
Be thankful for each month of the year Each month brings a blessing for you to hear! Catherine Pulsifer, Months of the Year
I think the same can be said of the seasons. There is a blessing in every season, there is hope in every season. Some seasons are enjoyable, some are filled with refining fire.
As I’ve quoted before:
Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity. Oscar Wilde
And there are many analogies in life where a bit of friction, a bit of fire, a bit of resistance is what makes something beautiful. Only good things don't equal good things. We all know that to give a human everything they want makes them spoiled and unappealing to be around, we should all know that to give a pet everything they want makes them spoiled and unappealing to be around, most of us know that to give a plant everything it needs, but in abundance, makes it eventually die. We all need things in moderation. We all need a bit of summer to boost our spirits and replenish our levels, but we also all need a bit of winter to shape us into better people. The fact that seasons change is a blessing.
And the one thing that can help us through all these changing seasons? Hope. Hope that spring will come again, hope that we will make it through the winters, hope that what dies back will allow for new growth.
I’m going to finish with the same quote I started this series with, with words from Ecclesiastes in the Bible, or you might know it from the lyrics of the famous song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds. It speaks into all the seasons and the extremes we experience in life, showing that there isn’t just one big amazing summer season (much as we might think we want that), we need both ends of the spectrum for life and this planet to function. Without death we couldn’t cope with more births, without leaving, reunions wouldn’t be so special, without rips mending wouldn’t feel so satisfying, without winter we wouldn’t have spring or autumn because there would be nothing to transition to, and we wouldn’t even recognise summer for what it is.
Nature shows us there will always be seasons, nature shows us they will always keep changing, but nature also shows us there is always new growth and new life, and therefore there is always hope.
To every thing there is a season… A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace. Ecclesiastes 3, The Bible