As I watch the calendar slip into Fall for the year, I think the changing season could be a metaphor for how I’m feeling these days. In early summer, I made the decision to retire and chose a date for the following spring, exactly three months after the New Year arrives. With a pandemic underway, saying hello to 2021 and putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, seemed like an exciting prospect at the time. I announced my impending retirement, right in the middle of summer when everything looked sunny and bright and exciting. My ideas then for retirement were green with possibility.
As reality has set in, thinking about retirement has become quite messy. I think I’m more confused and unsettled than I’ve ever been. Like a roaring wind and rain storm, the leaves of my life started blowing around. Now they are all on the ground. My husband and I have spent hours picking up the real piles of leaves in our yard. In our younger years, we planted lots of maple trees for fall color. Now those trees a huge. We have been blowing and raking and dumping leaves every weekend and they are still falling. I have considered this as an image of my past working life. The tasks I once found so important are now falling away. My schedule and duties and responsibilities are falling off my outlook calendar. I’m either finishing short term projects or letting go of ideas I once thought of as important. I’m not starting anything new and I’m handing off many elements of my job to others who will step into my role. Things are flying around at work and in my yard, so I feel a bit untethered.
I have no illusions that this winter will be hard. Our state numbers for the virus are skyrocketing. Our hospitals are filling up. Plans for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, where we usually gather together with family and loved ones, are being deemed too dangerous. Even more plans are being canceled and our governor is talking about drastic steps and more lock-downs. Just thinking about this makes me sad and tired.
Winter has been compared to the end of our lives. It can be a metaphor for death. It is a time of quiet, darkness, and contemplation. We draw near to a blazing fire or a candle for warmth and look for light in the darkness. In the winter, we may hibernate, relax, or sleep.
But when spring comes, it can be a metaphor for a new life. Spring brings growth and regeneration, especially after a long, cold, wet pacific northwest winter. In the springtime, seedlings, and plants shoot up again, snow drops pop up and tulips and daffodils emerge from their sleep.
What will I do now to settle in after a crazy fall? Will I take the time to consider all I have to be grateful for this winter season? Will I ever be really ready to leave the place I’ve spent my waking hours every workday for 44 years? Am I open to the new possibilities that freedom from my commitments will allow? Will I emerge with a renewed spirit when spring is finally here?
While I love the color of the tree in my front yard, I think I’m ready to leave the confusion I am feeling and move into a new season of my life.