August has been having a bit of a ‘tude. (Short for attitude if you never had a parent, teacher, or coach get right of the “atti” for you.)
I’m fortunate enough, dare I say blessed, that most of the punches and bitch slaps August has dealt out haven’t left their mark on my cheek. But for many other friends and colleagues of mine, August took their lunch money and ran. Miscarriage, deaths, health issues, accidents, colossal career shifts…and it is only August 15.
I pray for no more pending doom in the coming weeks. Actually, I pray for no more pending doom all the time.
Adjust your attitude August! Why are you so mad at the world? Is it because you are used to being hot and humid, and this year you are mild and bearable?
As I was running this morning, I had 3 hours and 7 minutes to mull the month over. (Yes, marathon training is. still. happening.) I thought of all the bad and sad that has happened in the last couple weeks. There is always bad and sad in the world, but sometimes it feels closer.
Closest to home for me was my grandma having a stroke. It was mild, but still shook me up. Farthest from home is Robin Williams, but that was a shock and heartbreaking. In between are a myriad of people I’m connected to, who have had some terrible, really bad, no good days.
It was also 55 degrees out this morning, which was awesome (at least awesome when you are out running many miles). I smiled at August, I still flipped it off, but I smiled. It felt like fall. The changing of the seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest. To see nature truly take its course and appreciate all the crazy beautiful things that take place when seasons change is a pattern in life I never want to take for granted. Yes, even when what The H called “white death” starts to fall. Usually by the end of one season, I’m ready to move on to the next. Which, biology aside, is a beautiful thing in its own right.
Thinking of the first part of this month and getting a hint of fall led me to reflect on two things. One was a conversation with one of my good friends about this underemployment being a season. Even if the underemployment doesn’t literally change, things around me will change, I will change, and so will the season. I had this conversation with her back in December before we met our husbands for a beer in downtown Denver and before my husband ordered a $36 beer on her tab. All in all, a memorable evening for me.
Secondly, since that conversation with my friend has stuck in my mind and heart for a while now, I also have started to munch on some flakes of feel-good, uplifting, vocation-minded genius from the book Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. (Palmer, uninterestingly enough to anyone I did not go to college with, was a professor at the rival school across the river in the small Minnesotan town where I went to college.) As you might have guessed, this was a book I read in college for a class. We all know the vast majority of those textbooks we bought in college were either: a) resold right after your class finished to a mysterious company with a table in your student commons for an embarrassing amount (but hey, it was cash!). b) You thought, “I’ll use this! or “This will help me at my job”, and, in reality, they made your moving boxes extremely heavy and collected dust for years, there whereabouts currently unknown. c) You had the same thoughts as above, but your parents’ had a basement and large, empty, Rubbermaid tubs. Thanks, mom and dad! d) You were some sort of Suma Juma Cuma Lade graduate who devised a complete business plan to maximize your profit selling your books, which included setting up your own online store, and you are still living off those sales. e) eBay.
Personally I am part a, part b, part c, part e. When I was home in May, I finally said, “I hate trees!”, and I threw away what were, at one time, hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks. (Stop judging because I didn’t recycle them. Limited options in a cornfield, people, and sometimes you just need to purge with no conscience. But not before I sold two more for $40 each, 7 years out of college. Um Yah Yah!
This anecdote all leads to me telling you this. That book by Parker Palmer — I will keep that one. I remember reading it. (It is very short, so I can truthfully say I read it all!) I remember wanting to highlight/underline every single line of every paragraph. Which, when a book is so small, looks quite ridiculous.
This book changed how I thought of my life. When I was a sophomore in college I was consciously unhappy. I’m sure I had been unhappy or had a bad day before then, but I was in a state of perpetual unhappiness. Depression? Yes, but self-diagnosed now that I have a graduate degree in a mental health field, yes. But to know for sure, I cannot say. Regardless, I got through that season. I didn’t really think much about how I got through it, I just knew I went to Ecuador for a Spanish class in January and when I came back, I was happy. The sassy ones of you are saying, “Well you did literally change seasons by going and living on the equator.” Yes, I literally changed seasons.
I didn’t end up encountering this book until I was a senior taking one of my few remaining required credits. Here are some of the excerpts that I helped me be more aware of the present stage in my life.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
“We are exploring together. We are cultivating a garden together, backs to the sun. The question is a hoe in our hands and we are digging beneath the hard and crusty surface to the rich humus of our lives.”
“In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”
So, August, this is to remind you that you still stuck right now, but remember you are a season.