Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Seasons of Life

Last week, I was living in what was surely the outskirts of the 8th circle of hell, simply due to the oppressive heat. This week, though, things are different:

I'm noticing that the shadows are longer on my daily morning walks, the light more golden. The tops of the maple trees are beginning to be tinged with orange. Kids are out, on their way to school, and more adults are out exercising, presumably because it's cool enough to do so. 

So summer gently gives way to autumn, which will elide into winter, which will warm into spring which will give way to autumn again. And so on and so on...

Much has been said about the seasons of a person's life. Spring is childhood, summer is the teen years and early adulthood, autumn is middle age and winter is old age. But those seasons, those same cycles,  exist in everything nature does, and everything we do.

A tree begins life as a seed, grows tall and stays mature for many years, but each tree species has a natural life length, so eventually all trees grow old and die. Within that life cycle, however, there are the annual cycles of the seasons: buds then flowers in spring, then leaves which grow large and deep green as summer begins, then fade into other colors and finally drop off in autumn, to be followed by a dormant period in winter. So there are cycles within cycles.

This is true of everything in our lives: relationships, jobs, businesses. So a romantic relationship usually begins with that crackle of newness: the first look, the first flirtation, the first date, the first kiss, etc. Eventually, this grows into stability: you know each other well enough to predict what he wants for dinner, when she'll want to nap, what each of you will get annoyed about. And you can let that annoyance grow(autumn) till it destroys the relationship, or you can work at it, and each change yourself enough that the relationship continues. So when autumn comes, either the relationship can drop off, or certain beliefs and attitudes can drop off. This can take a while, especially if you are retreating into yourself to do internal work (winter). If the beliefs change, then you go into spring again. It's like kissing and making up, but on a deeper scale.

When you start a new job, you learn the people, the systems, the tasks -- it's all new, and often a bit overwhelming (spring). Then you settle in for a while, and all is well (summer). Then something happens: you get a new boss, or the work changes, or the company is sold and the systems change, and there you are in autumn again. Things are unstable, even chaotic, and you generally have to let go of something -- an old way of doing something, or a belief about something, in order to get back to stability. Sometimes, as in the case of a layoff, what drops off is you; you leave the company. And look for work (winter or dormancy) and then begin another new job (spring again).

Within that larger cycle, there will be lots of smaller ones -- you develop a relationship with a coworker (spring). That relationship works for a long while (summer) -- and then she leaves the company (autumn). You may miss her for a while (winter) and then develop a new relationship with her replacement (spring). And if you stay in touch with your former coworker, that's different than it used to be, because you no longer see each other every day (spring again).

So everything in our lives has a cycle -- and it's useful to note where you are in the cycles in different parts of your life. What's new? What's stable? What's falling apart? What's dormant?

{With great thanks to Tim and Kris Hallbom, whose wonderful Wealthy Mind workshop talks about this, among a great many things.)

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