At her very best, Spring has us smiling as we take our walks, and re-learning how to wave to passing cyclists. She is hopeful and uplifting. She draws us in to her optimism.
And so, I found myself surprised on Tuesday, when I met Brenda early in the morning as the sun was shining her first rays on the mountains toward which I had just driven. My first surprise came in the form of the reading on the thermometer. It was -12°C. My second surprise was in the freshly fallen four inches of new snow. And my third surprise was in the many feet of snow, unmarked by footprints, at the top of a new trail, Sugar Pony. All of this in April, in Spring. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.
Brenda and I never lack for good conversation as we wander. Most of it is just chit chat, but usually once along the way we try to ponder some of life’s more interesting ideas. On the agenda this week we talked about how we could become more of the version of the people we strive to be. As is most often the case, we never did manage to answer the query. We tossed it back and forth, became distracted by bobcat tracks and mountain views, and let it sit wherever it landed in our minds.
For me, it’s landed in the folder in my mind labelled Seasons. I used to have an impression of the seasons of life. Being logical and mathematical, I’d love for life to follow a clean, linear progression. Well, I might not love it, but I could certainly get used to the predictability of it. I once thought we travelled through four seasons of life. I’ve read about being in the summer of one’s life (I can now guess this might be our 30’s and 40’s). And of course, the winter of life denotes the final chapter. When thought of in this simplistic way, there are only these four seasons, and they follow one another in certain fashion.
I no longer have this belief. The seasons of life, it turns out, are many, and ever changing. Sometimes our seasons even overlap.
As I’ve wrestled with the question of exactly what qualities I am striving to have more of in my life, in other words of what season I am in, I recognize I am in a season as complex and fickle as that of Spring in Calgary. Just when I think I might have it figured out, when I know the exact right jacket to wear, I turn a corner and find out God has a sense of humour. I try to line my ducks up in a row, only to discover they want to play in a puddle.
Many people have told me this is my season to relax, to enjoy our grandchildren, to do all the things I didn’t have time for before. But this doesn’t feel like a good recipe for me. It’s a full plate, but it doesn’t have the right ingredients for me. I still have proposals to write, a new idea for a children’s book, workshops to create and facilitate, fitness goals to achieve, a new bike to break in, adventures to seek, songs to sing, quilts to design, sweaters to create, and wisdom to acquire. And yet, when I plan my week and go full tilt, I don’t feel like I’ve settled into my most perfect routine. More importantly, I don’t feel like I’m fully being the me I’m striving to be.
Over and over, I ponder: What season IS this? Is this the season to do more? To do less?
No matter how I frame it, or mull it over, or analyze it, or try to pull it into line, I am left with a little (brilliant) voice whispering to me: This season will not be defined by what you are doing. Seasons are defined by who you are being while you are doing. It brings me right back to our conversation on the trail. What qualities am I striving to have more of in my life? How can I become more of the version of myself I want to be?
When I look to Spring for inspiration, I recognize she is a great model for me. She too has so much she wants to do in three short months. She wants to warm the ground, to prepare it for new growth. She wants to clean the snow away. She wants to inspire others and welcome new life. She works relentlessly to increase daylight hours and to paint the landscape with colour. I also recognize she continuously has roadblocks placed in her way. Every single year, just as she strikes an easy rhythm with her list, she is assaulted with challenges. Spring snow storms arrive covering fresh blossoms and budding flowers. Grass fires scorch hillsides. Winds tear down branches and wipe out newly constructed bird nests.
Despite it all, Spring persists in her optimism. She marches calmly forward, being herself. Never, not once, has Spring simply admitted defeat and said, “Ok. There will be no Spring this year.”
Thinking about Spring in this way has helped me sort out what I’m trying to understand about myself and put into practice. I, like Spring, have a grand plan. I have many things to do. And like Spring, more importantly than all my doing, I have a way I want to be in this season. I want to listen with understanding. I want to reach out to those I care about. I want to build more bridges. I want to be less right and more present. I want to gain in wisdom.
Spring tells me this is possible. She teaches us to expect setbacks, but to continue to melt the snow, encourage new growth, welcome new life, and to never, never simply choose to skip this season.
Each of us is in our own unique season, with its own to do list and its own storms. Let’s focus less on the details of the storms and challenges, and more on the growth we hope to look back upon and smile at with satisfaction. There is a lot of beauty to be found in this season.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Who am I becoming this season?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to make the best of this season.