By: Jordan Smith, LMFT
I took a walk this past spring in a nearby park. The trees were still deadened by the crisp, cold winds of winter, and I found myself truly feeling that we as people also go through these seasons. I continued to step onto these trails every so often, snapping photos and just taking a breather from the busyness we get stuck in as humans. The trails changed, just as we do. Sometimes deer would dart out of the greenery, or a hawk would sound from above, or an almost black frog would be still in a puddle, or the trees shifting in the breeze would be blooming, turning a burnt orange or falling to the ground in a pirouette.
Nature changes, and so do we. But, why do we change and how can we change for the better?
I think that we are nature, or at least in some way a part of nature. That is, we grow and change in seasons. Sometimes we are sick, sometimes we are healthy, sometimes we feel strong and resilient, other times we feel sad or angry. Perhaps this cycle of suffering and happiness is necessary to grow. One might not know what joy is without pain.
I never really appreciated the seasons in Michigan, until I spent sometime in Texas. I was always a fan of summer and the sun at 2pm warming my skin, so I was excited for the heat. The temperatures that year in Texas were a record high, scorching hot, over 100 degrees. As I moved down to Texas, on the drive, the fields were black in some parts, remnants of fires set by the drought. The two years that I spent there, the temperature fluctuated very little. Holidays seemed to pass with little acknowledgement. I mean, what is Halloween without the changing colors, or Thanksgiving without a few flakes before the feast, or Christmas without a blizzard? The seemingly unchanging weather made it difficult for me to decipher the time of year. It all passed as one hot blur.
When I returned to Michigan I began to gain a new appreciation for the freezing white winters. It signaled, for me, a certain time of year. I knew it meant I would be stepping out in the morning to feel my face redden in a bitter cold, but it also meant that I would be able to go cross-country skiing or watch my husky bound through the snow or I’d be able to enjoy eating cranberries on Christmas Eve.
I think that our emotions and the process of change is similar. Without the changing seasons in our life: the frigid temperatures that test our emotional limits, or the beating sun taking a toll on our thoughts, or the constant rain of spring, we would not know those moments of joy. There are moments in my life where it feels like things are opening up, like a flower in the springtime, cracking through the cold ground of despair. These moments always give me a sense of hope, that everything passes. The only moment that really truly exists is the present moment.
So, as I walk through that same path, the trees growing this way and that way, the boardwalk decaying slowly as spring-waters flood over-top, or my feet sinking into the snow by bare saplings, I remember this is the moment to cherish. I can enjoy the present moment, not wanting to revert back to the previous season glorifying it as it fades away, or anticipate the next season as if it somehow will relieve all my pain. No, happiness exists in the present moment: winter, spring, summer or fall.
Remaining in the present is difficult, and making sense of the passing seasons in our life is often confusing. However, slowing down enough to understand the cold winter that has passed in our life in order to enjoy the warming season, might help bring us back to the present moment. So perhaps, we change in order to grow and growing for the better means slowing down enough to breath and appreciate the moment. Therapy can offer this breathe room to slow down in the wake of life to help make sense of the depression of the past or the anxiety of the future, in order to gain an appreciation of this present season, regardless of how crooked the path may seem.