What Season are You in?
Winter started here in Australia just two weeks back. While I often find the seasons seem to arrive gradually, it felt like someone had flicked the 'Winter switch' this time. It came quickly - and I was not ready for it.
While our winters are not as extreme as many parts of the world - a couple of Saturdays ago, as I stood out in the rain and wind photographing my son's football game, trying to be creative after that recent prompt, I realised I was not wearing enough layers of clothes.
I had dressed for Autumn - not Winter - and I needed to adjust my approach.
The next day saw me at another of my son's games, taking photos, and I wore my Blundstone boots, thick warm woollen socks, a thermal base layer, merino wool jumper with the insulated waterproof coat on top, gloves and a beanie.
Dressed for the elements (and perhaps for a visit to Antarctica), the morning was much more pleasant!
In particular, I thought it might be beneficial to think about the 'seasons' of life we find ourselves in.
In the previous week's prompts, I've given us something tangible to do - this week, our prompt is something to ponder - something to toss around in our minds, in our journals or perhaps even to chat about with a friend or family member.
I don't want to get too prescriptive this week because I know we're all likely to be in different seasons of life.
Instead, this week I thought I'd share a few questions and thoughts that may provide a springboard for your ponderings.
I'd also like to invite you to share your thoughts in our group as I'm aware that you're likely to have insights and experiences that will be beneficial to the rest of us too!
Seasons come in all Shapes and Sizes
This week's temptation was to write an article about the four seasons of life and about 'Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring' and how each season might be a metaphor for the different stages of life that we might face.
- Spring might be a time of new beginnings, opportunity, beauty, and colour.
- Autumn could be a harvest time or may relate to the shedding of things in our life.
- Winter may be a time of darkness or a time of rest.
- Summer could be a time of youthful exuberance, growth, warmth, and recreation.
There might be some value in your ponderings this week to do just this.
If I were to describe my life with these seasons, I'd say I feel like I've been in Winter - a darker time where I felt a bit lost and had some forced time of rest after injuries and struggles with mental health - but that I'm now feeling like Spring is beginning to happen with some shoots of hope and new beginnings.
Perhaps this 'four season' approach is the framework you want to use as this week's prompt - or maybe, like me, you're already thinking in a different direction. The more I thought about the topic the more I realised that the four seasons we often think about are just one way of thinking about seasons.
Warning Tangent Ahead!
Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring are seasons familiar to many of us living in parts of the world that operate on a 'solar season' approach to the seasons where there is variation in climate in different hemispheres of the earth depending upon the stage of our orbit around the sun (because of the earth's tilt).
But not all parts of the world experience four distinct seasons.
In many tropical locations, it is common to speak of two seasons - the dry and the wet (or monsoon) seasons.
In polar locations, the seasons also tend to be experienced as two seasons - a warmer/lighter season and a colder/darker season.
And then there is Scotland - which according to Billy Connolly, has two seasons, "June and Winter" 🤣.
When I travelled to Thailand as an 18-year-old, I was surprised to hear that they had three seasons - Cold, Hot and Rainy and to then hear from a Hindi friend from India that they had six seasons (spring, summer, monsoon, Autumn, early Winter and prevernal).
Indigenous people around the world often describe their seasons based on their observations not only in weather but in changes in flora (blossoms, new shoots, loss of leaves etc.) and fauna (migration, hibernation, mating, birthing).
For example, some indigenous people groups here in Australia observe up to 8 seasons a year.
And then there are different 'seasons' that other groups of people observe based upon their occupations and past times.
Hunting seasons, different seasons farmers operate by (harvest, planting, preparation), military seasons, television seasons, ballet seasons, holiday seasons, football season, fashion season, seasonal foods etc.
Perhaps I did a little too much Googling of 'seasons' this week (I do like a good tangent), but all of this is to say that there are many ways to think about seasons around, and there are many ways to think about the seasons in our lives also.
I shared the above 'tangent' because I thought it might spark some different words you could use to identify the season you're in.
Perhaps you might choose words with agricultural origins.
- fallowing (resting land for a period)
Or perhaps you might choose words related to stages of life
There could be many words really
Some of the words that spring to mind (pun intended) to describe my current season include 'new shoots', 'creating', 'hope', 'doubt', and 'fertilising'.
You might choose one word, or like me, there might be more than one word - and perhaps even words that seem to contradict one another (hope/doubt) - we are complicated beings, aren't we?
Seasons and Change
As I look through the words that I brainstormed above (and they are just the tip of the iceberg that we could come up with), it strikes me just how many of them are about change.
As I think about the seasons in my own life, I observe that they, too, were often about change.
Intentional or External Changes
Some seasons were precipitated by intentional changes or choices that I made.
For example, when I decided to begin or progress a relationship or when I decided to begin or end a period of study.
Some seasons were precipitated by changes happening around me or in me which I had little control over.
For example, when a pandemic struck, when a loved one passed away, when the economic climate changed or even as I got older and my body started to 'break down'.
I find that seasons that seem to choose me are often the hardest ones.
Perhaps in these, I feel a loss of control (never a nice feeling). But it is often these seasons where I see the most growth (in hindsight).
For me, I feel like the season I'm coming out of was more a season where changes happened around me, but the one I'm stepping into has been a season that I'm choosing to step into (as much as I can).
While there are still some things, I can't control, I'm being more intentional and can see that by doing so, I'm creating change rather than just letting it happen around me.
'Positive' and 'Negative' Change
Sometimes change comes like a breath of fresh air - it can be looked forward to and take a weight off your shoulders.
Other times change comes crashing in like a bull in a china shop - seemingly destroying everything in its path.
Seasons can feel like either of these things - and everything in between.
I've had seasons of change that were full of joy and celebration (like the years just before and after I got married) and seasons that were painful and confusing (like when I was in my early twenties and experienced the loss of friendships and was unsure of career path.
Speed, Size and Subtlety of Change
The other thing that strikes me about the changes in seasons I've been through over the years is that sometimes they happen fast and are big changes that cannot go unnoticed.
While other seasons creep in gradually, you barely notice that you're moving from one season to another.
Seasons have a way of creeping up on me and it usually takes me a while to realise I'm in a new season of life and need to make changes (like when I was dressed for Autumn on a Winters's day last Saturday).
Seasons Come and Seasons Go
There are times in all of our lives when a season feels like it will never end (and we desperately want it to).
Perhaps you're in one of those seasons right now.
As I look back at some of those seasons in my own life, I remember experiencing moments of feeling trapped or stuck - wondering if a positive change was possible.
But in each situation, there came times when sparks of light began to light up the darkness.
Each time new shoots began to show in places where it didn't seem like was possible and where blossoms later appeared.
At times the positive changes as a result of changes outside of my control but in most circumstances, they were also a result of mind shifts, reframing, new habits, being vulnerable with others and, at times, hard work.
If you're in a tough season right now
I have three things that come to mind for those in hard seasons right now.
Firstly, my encouragement is to hold onto the hope that it will end - it is the nature of seasons.
Secondly - if I could offer one piece of 'advice', it would be to focus on what you can control, not what you can't and make small, steady steps in those areas.
It is unlikely that you will be able to switch this season off and start a new one by making anyone change - but small, steady positive steps in areas you can control may help to get you moving again towards a better place.
As Jim Rohn wrote - 'you can't change the seasons, but you can change yourself.'
Thirdly - as I look at the 'winters' of my own life, I know that in the middle of them, they seemed like hopeless times - but in hindsight, I also see them as times of growth.
It may not help to hear that right now but as hard as it is right now - moving through this time can be a pivotal time of growth as you move towards Spring.
And for those of you in a good season...
It would be negligent of me not to point out here that it isn't just the 'hard seasons' of life that will end.
I don't want to be a killjoy here, but those of us who find ourselves in a good season of life need also to be aware that these seasons will end too!
So, celebrate and make the most of it while it lasts!
It's not just what we do in the negative seasons that matters - but how we respond and lean into the good ones that are worth considering also!
Seasons Don't Define Us
This will be a quick one.
The season of life that you find yourself in right now doesn't define you.
Sometimes that's hard to believe - but it's the truth.
And once again, it's true in both the easy and hard seasons!
You are more than the season you're in right now!
Find Joy in the Seasons
A question that we discuss as a family now and again is which is our favourite season.
I always find it tough to choose because there are things I like (and don't like) about each one.
While I hate being cold for an extended period, I love going for a walk on a beach and feeling the icy wind on my face before returning home to a cosy fireplace and a hot chocolate.
I love the first sunny warm days after a cold winter and seeing the return of birdlife and flowers in spring.
I love the extra daylight hours and the relaxed balmy evenings out with friends during summer.
I love the changing colours and hearing the gentle rains on our corrugated iron roof in Autumn.
As Charles Dickens wrote:
"Nature gives to every time and season unique beauty; from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it’s just a succession of changes so soft and comfortable that we hardly notice the progress."
Similarly, every season of life brings not only challenges but, as we discussed in week 4, there are opportunities even in the harshest seasons of life for Joy.
When Season becomes a Verb...
To this point in this week's prompt, I've only talked about seasons as a period - a noun.
But what happens to our prompt this week if we look at it as a verb?
It struck me this morning as I was looking at definitions of the word 'season' that while it is most commonly used as a noun, there were definitions of it being a verb.
Like when you season food:
Or, like when you season timber:
Seasoning something is when you add to it (as in seasoning food) or subtract from it (as in seasoning wood) - to improve it in some way.
Can this be used this week as a metaphor for life too?
What happens if we ask ourselves how we might season our life?
Seasoned as an Adjective
While we're at it - perhaps another approach to this week's prompt is to look at 'seasoned' as an adjective or descriptive word.
The first two definitions, of course, relate to the use of season as a verb above:
- (of food) having had salt, pepper, herbs, or spices added.
- (of wood) made suitable for use as timber by adjusting its moisture content.
But what drew my attention in the dictionary today was this one:
"having a lot of experience of doing something and therefore knowing about it and/or having competence in it."
This is what we mean when someone is a seasoned traveller or a seasoned politician.
Add 'seasoned' to pretty much any occupation, and you're saying someone is experienced and good at it - but I wonder what other things we might become seasoned at.
No doubt some of you are seasoned teachers, nurses, builders, lawyers and accountants.
But dig a little deeper.
Some of us are seasoned in areas of hobby or interest. Some of you are seasoned knitters, gardeners, writers or readers.
But dig a little deeper.
Some of us are seasoned in 'role' that we play in the lives of others. Some of you are seasoned friends, parents, siblings or maybe volunteers in the wider community.
But dig a little deeper.
Some of us are seasoned in things that we'd rather not be seasoned at.
Some are seasoned at grief or loss.
Some are seasoned at anxiety or depression.
Some are seasoned by trauma.
Some are seasoned by poor health.
I don't want to minimise these things in any way.
Having experienced them all at different times, I wouldn't wish them on anyone - but also know that sometimes - it is in becoming seasoned in these things that we one day find a gift. A gift for ourselves... or others.
Last week I watched an Australian Story episode on Shanna Whan.
Shanna grew up in regional Australia and, as a result of trauma in childhood and her early adulthood, became dependent upon alcohol.
With the support of family and other support networks, she confronted and began working through her addiction - later starting a Facebook group for others in rural areas of Australia with similar stories to hers.
Today she runs a not-for-profit called 'Sober in the Country' and helps many rural Aussies working through addiction with various services.
While starting a not-for-profit is probably not in the future for most of us, perhaps there's an opportunity in this week's prompt to look at those areas of our lives where we are 'seasoned' and to look for sparks in those places too.
It's also worth pointing out that it's not just in the painful seasons that we become seasoned. Sometimes the most positive seasons in our lives are when we also become seasoned.
In my own life, one of the most positive times in my life was in the early 2000s when I started a business around blogging. This season was a time of business success. Still, more importantly, it became a time when I gained a lot of skills in teaching and communication that allowed me to help many others, which I suspect will shape what I do next in my future seasons.
Over to you!
I've sat on publishing this post for a couple of weeks now.
Every time I come to the point of publishing it, I'm filled with doubt about whether it's finished (or good enough).
I'm very aware that I've taken a bit of a shotgun approach with this prompt and have shot off a lot of little pellets of ideas and questions in many different directions.
As a writer, it feels messy - but I do hope that somewhere in the midst of it all, there is a pellet of an idea or a question that benefits you!
I'd love to hear what you think about the season of life you find yourself in this post in our Facebook Group (or feel free to email me also).
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