Life is full of seasons. In the spring of our lives, we are protected and cared for by our parents. We grow and learn, we change and mature. We are in love with our parents, we hate our parents. We make friends with our neighbors just because they live near us. Our whole world is in the very neighborhood we live in. Hours feel like days, days feel like years, and years feel like an eternity. We are young, we are carefree, we will live on forever. In our season of summer, we have realized that we have minds of our own. And with that knowledge, we are brilliant! We become experts on certain subjects, knowing more than anyone else could possibly know about it. We are the beautiful people, the ones who are on top and going to make this world so much better than our parents – their generation truly screwed things up for us. We go off to college with our heads held high, our futures on the tips of our tongues. We leave and start families, swearing that we will not make the same mistakes as our parents when it comes to raising our children. “God forbid I sound like my mother!” Autumn comes, and our children have grown older. We come to the realization that perhaps we didn’t know it all, that maybe our parents actually did know a thing or two. We chuckle at our own children saying the same things we used to tell our parents – back when we knew it all. But it’s ok. The burden of knowing it all has been lifted from our shoulders, and we are content to know more than we did in our youth…and still have so much more to learn. We are suddenly less self conscious – how many people are really watching our every move, waiting for us to fall? No one has that time. We can finally live freely, and amazingly we possess more freedom than we did in our youth. In this season, our children will grow to leave our home and create families of their own, possibly entering their own autumn before we have moved on to winter. And winter will come for us too. One day we will be watching the leaves fall to the ground as we hug the sweaters to our aging bodies, and the next, the snow will have fallen on a whole new season of our lives. I have not reached it yet, but with the way time is passing so fast I know it will be here before I know it.
In these seasons, changes happen. We experience the same life that those around us are experiencing, but in many different ways and with different outcomes in our hearts. We find love, and we lose it. We experience new birth, and we grieve over death. We continue with the faith of our parents, or we find a new way to reach God, or we decide that there is no such thing as a god at all. We succeed in life, or we fail miserably. We make promises to ourselves that create guidelines for our lives. And then we break those promises as real life gets in the way. “I will never be that person.” “I will never allow someone like that in my life.” “That is against all my morals.” Those are dangerous statements. It is when you have printed those words in permanent marker on the pages of your life that you discover that….you can be that person. You can love someone who does you wrong, over and over. The future depends on the decisions of today, and sometimes those decisions are breaking the promises you made yesterday.
And along with changes, different people enter your life. Some will stay forever, changing along with you in your friendship and linked to your heart through common experiences. And some will leave. And it hurts. These are the people that may have helped you move into your very first apartment, or witnessed the birth of your child. They were at your wedding, or maybe there for your divorce. They may have held your hand while you cried, or laughed with you until your bellies hurt. They are the ones you could rely on for anything, the ones you could call in the middle of the night just because you needed to hear another human being breathing. They were your fortress against loneliness and solitude. At one time, they were your forever friends. But in this life, forever doesn’t really mean forever. And when the links to some friendships start to rust and dissolve, we find that we are grasping wildly, frantically, and with all our might. We want to hold onto it. We want to lock the friendship up in a box as it is slipping away, forcing it to stay with us forever. They are our connection to the past. They helped us make it to our future. And we cannot imagine our tomorrows without these friendships of our yesterdays.
Losing them is like breaking up with a lover. And sometimes, worse.
But everyone’s life has a season. And in those seasons, our paths will converge with those who are headed in the same direction. And while we stroll, we will share the same experiences that will allow us to remain walking, hand in hand. But we’re not always headed in the same direction. A new relationship, new friendships, a job change, a birth or a death in the family, money loss or money gain, a change of scenery, or any other change that occurs in this day to day process we call life – sometimes they lead us down different paths. And as much as we grasp the links from our heart to theirs, sometimes the chain needs to break and the paths need to divide.
Mr. Wonderful and I stood in the middle of the street as I pored my heart out to him over a friendship that had been slipping away for a while now. It was not the first time I had lamented over this with him. But just like every time before, he heard me out with open ears. And when he opened his mouth, he told me of the seasons. The friendship I was losing tears and sleep over, it had been a wonderful friendship. It had saved me in a time I needed saving, and in many ways, I couldn’t see how I could have survived certain aspects of my life without it. There had been lots of laughter, and just as many tears. But, Mr. Wonderful pointed out, perhaps the season of that friendship was ending. And just because it was didn’t mean that I loved them any less, and it didn’t mean that they didn’t love me. But our paths were no longer merging.
“I don’t know what to do,” I told him as we made our way home. “I know it’s ending. And it hurts more to keep hanging on when I know I need to just let go. But they were there for me in such a big way. I don’t think I could ever thank them enough for how much they did for me, and there is no way I could ever repay them.” I was silent for a moment, and so was he.
“Sometimes,” he said after a little while, “the best thing you can do is just say thank you.”
“This hurts,” I said.
I share this now, the day after Valentine’s Day, because love is sometimes not enough. Sometimes, even when we love with all of our heart and soul, we have to say goodbye. With any kind of relationship, there comes a time when a fork comes in the road, and we must stop and recalculate our directions. Are we going the same way? Does it still feel natural to be traveling together? Or is the road only getting more beat up as we walk hand in hand? Would we be able to travel lighter if we go down separate paths? Are you holding me up?
Am I holding YOU up?
Love is sharing the good times and the bad. Love is an embrace when we can no longer stand on our own. Love is a connection. And love, sometimes, is realizing that the end of the season has come and we must say goodbye, wishing the other well on their journey.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”