It’s been a long winter, and I think that everyone everywhere is ready for the change of seasons that has begun to tease us over the past week or so. I can’t even imagine what my friends in the north have to deal with- my sister lives in northern Maine, and her tales of endless snow shoveling are daunting. Winter can be so beautiful, but the challenges it brings can also wear on your spirit. While we don’t have lots of snow and ice here in Birmingham, my thoughts can’t help but drift toward time spent out in our gardens, grilling, and enjoying the views from the top deck- things that we can’t really do while winter has us in its grip. Fireplaces are nice, but I will take being outside in nature (or as close as I can come to it in the city) any day. I crave the light, the feel of the warm sun on my skin.
The seemingly endless winter has left me feeling introspective and looking for a fresh start. I am ready to bounce back from the lethargy that is trying to take hold of me lately- so not characteristic of who I am. The past seven months have been challenging personally; I lost my mother, I had shoulder surgery, was in the ER and doctor’s office with severe back pain, I hosted a regional festival for the International Clarinet Association, and UAB’s football team was suddenly dismantled, leaving the future of our music program uncertain…all just life happening as it does for all of us, but stressful nonetheless. Because of surgery and back issues, I took a long hiatus from exercise, and am just now getting back into my daily routine that helps to keep my stress levels on an even keel. I feel sort of like the flower bud holding tight, waiting for the warmth of Spring before I burst into the light.
I have had tunnel vision for the past months, keeping my focus on the next task, working to heal my heart from Mom’s death, and my body from physical issues. Perhaps some of it is learning a new way to live, finding who I am now that I am no longer a daughter and caregiver. I didn’t realize quite the hole it would leave, and really thought that I would be back to normal by now. I have done my best to fill the time with good and productive things, but something still feels off, and I don’t quite know who the ‘new me’ is yet. I don’t mean this as a lament at all- I am just thinking through the change, the process of moving through different stages of life. It is a beautiful thing, just different. While change is difficult for me, it is so very important to embrace it and move in the flow of life. I don’t care to hold onto the past, to sadness and loss. I honor the memory of those times, and feel grateful for what I learned and how I grew living through those experiences. I want to be open what lies ahead and not be held back by what was. What IS is what matters most.
Today I decided to race to the grocery store after lunch so that I didn’t have to do it after a long afternoon of teaching. I find the more stress I experience, the more my introverted self wants to head right home after work and hole up at home with Dan and the animals to recharge. When I got home, I was greeted by the animals, always so happy to see me, their gentle greeting warming my heart. I looked around our home and felt such gratitude for my life. As I put the groceries away, I thought about how blessed I am to have such a loving home, plenty to eat, the love of a wonderful man, dear friends, and a career that challenges and fulfills me. Even through the difficult times, I still have those wonderful gifts. So many people do not have any of that. There is nothing to lament if you see that everything happens to help us grow…and we grown most through challenge. I welcome it.
As I pulled out of the driveway to head back to school, I saw a flash of yellow by our sidewalk. A beautiful spray of daffodils graced the hill, the only color in sight. I quickly pulled over and jumped out of the car to take some photos. These daffodils had tried to bloom last week, but an ice storm came and pounded them down. I thought they were dead, but today I see they have bounced back from the beating even more beautiful than before. I thanked each of the blooms for their gifts of color and beauty on a day when I needed them most. I whispered to them that I would follow their example, and I, too, will bounce back, stronger and better than before. I already feel the change happening, and it is a beautiful thing.