I've been out of town for the past week, visiting my grown up sons and eight grandkids back in Michigan. It was a delight to get to spend time with them all, and as ever difficult to leave them again.
I've been musing on how goodbyes never get any easier. Every other task I can think of seems to get easier with practice. My proficiency increases with repetition. Alas, parting from those I love is not like that. My first day or two back is always a difficult time as I adjust all over again to the awareness of all I'm missing out on in their lives and the bleak knowledge that those kids are growing up without much influence from me.
Try as I might to stay in touch with phone calls, email and facebook along with the occasional fun care package, our face to face visits happen only one week a year. Distance and dollars prohibit any more. Still, through those annual visits we have formed a bond that holds tight through the years. I hold fast to that in my mind and already look forward to next year.
Of course when we returned my gardens had gone through all sorts of transformation. The peonies and foxglove are all spent and the delphiniums very nearly so. Now we have roses and lilies blooming and the lamb's ear is really taking off. The squash and tomatoes in our raised beds went crazy. On the down side, the spinach, swiss chard and cilantro all bolted in my absence and without daily diligence weeds in the flowerbeds have sprung up with abandon.
I wish I had the time to really dig in to get everything ship shape again for the dog days of summer. But tomorrow I go back to work...no doubt to a "to-do" list that grew as much as my weeds while I was gone.
So for a while I was feeling grumpy, frustrated, out of sorts as I struggled with a combination of hot weather, messy garden, missing my family, and just plain jet lag from the trip home. But, blessedly, today I've been able to put my stinky mood behind me.
Changes and transitions, ever shifting seasons are the warp and weave of my life. Some times come easy and vibrant - like spring time in my garden, other times have bumps, like now.
Western culture focuses so much on what is quick, what is easy, what satisfies cravings for pleasure with little patience for the sweat times, the difficulties, the stones in our shoes. But if I've learned anything in my 53 years in this world it is that some of my best lessons have come from responding to the challenges. While I'm not one to seek out hardship, I will not discount the lessons. I love the saying I see painted on plaques now and again about how the challenge of life in not to avoid all the storms, but rather to learn how to dance in the rain.
In truth, I have just enough bumps in the road right now to remind me how blessed I really am. I wish I had a thinner waist and a fatter bank account. I wish I had more discretionary time. I wish I had more contact with my family. I wish the laundry fairy knew where I live. I wish I had more blossoms and less weeds in my garden. I wish my sweet husband would get over his cold. On a deeper level I do worry some about some concerns affecting some of my family. But I am practing acceptance, and doing my best to sincerely let go of the things over which I have absolutely no control.
Sure, there are times I wish and wish and wish about this and that which could be different. But rather than grumble about having to go back to work tomorrow I will count myself grateful that I have a job. Instead of bemoaning all the weeds in my garden, I will celebrate that I have a yard that grows so well. And rather than sulk any more about being so far away from my sons and their families I will be ever so glad that I live in a time when jet travel allows me to get to them in a day - even if it only happens once a year.
I think of all the early pioneer families who went west for faith or fortune, never to see their families back east again.
As for the bigger things, I'll just have to trust that things will work out in the end how ever they are supposed to. For now, rather than fretting, I choose to focus on the blessings. I'm no Pollyanna with rose colored glasses ignoring the rough spots. I see the dark alongside the light. But I am determined to point the spotlight of my attention to what brings me joy and makes me feel alive, rather than sink into discouragement or overwhelm over the problems I have no control over.
As I prepare lectures for my upcoming fall semester class I am reminded about the Reticular Activating System in my brain that only allows me to pay attention to a tiny fraction of what is going on around me. Since I only get a small slice, it just makes sense to be sure I pick the right slice to notice and fully experience. So I aim to do my best at choosing the bright spots - despite some challenges that lie lurking. That's not to say I won't have days when the hard things loom large, threatening to take over. But for now I am feeling closer to a positive balance, and that's a good thing.