Autumn is coming. The tips of the trees are heralding its arrival with their tell tale color shifts. I love the this time of year best, fall in love once again with the blazing symphony of colors that dapples the trees, my heart is delighted by the crispness in the air, the sky that seems bluer and the invitation to coziness. But as I was pondering this autumnal goodness, stepping slightly out of my way to step on a particularly crunchy looking leaf, I thought about what fall actually means. It is a season of change, a transition into death, the barrenness of winter. Radiant, glorious, beautiful yes, but death nonetheless.
Maybe autumn is a gentle reminder to those whose eyes are open, that there is a beauty in death, a glory in letting go.
When I say death, I mean the thousand tiny deaths happen throughout the course of our lives. From inconveniences to tragedy, from unmet expectations to a broken heart, death is a part of life. Maybe, submitting to that dying process is part of what it means to be fully alive- emulating a phoenix, perpetually rising from the ashes of our various heartaches.
A statement, which sounds a bit melodramatic, upon rereading it myself. I wish you could see the smirk on my face as I write this. Because you can’t I’ll explain myself. Perhaps I am pondering this metaphor, this season, as I look back at the last few months. A relationship I was in ended a while back. I parted ways with a dear friend, a kind man whom I cared for deeply. And in some ways, my heart has reflected the leaves turning shades auburn and scarlet as I felt the death of something that I had hoped for.
Yes, it has been a death. And yet.
And yet, just like autumn, I find my soul to be radiantly ablaze in beauty. I am astonished by the audacity of my own happiness in the midst of all of this. Surprised by my soul’s ability to submit to the season, quieted by the fruit of trust that had been steadily planted over the last few years.
No, this is not what I had expected. Or hoped for. But there is a difference, an important distinction between what one hopes for and what one is putting their hope in. And not by means of my own effort or wisdom, I am in this gift of a season of raw honesty and gentle joy. A deepening contentment that can truly say, “It is well with my soul.”
So I slip back into singleness like one slips into a pair of old jeans- comforting in their familiarity. Having many years of practice, I slide into a rhythm I know well. And because I’m better at being completely honest these days, I’ll admit to you that I don’t want to be in this season much longer. I find myself in this paradox of complete contentment where I am now, and longing for someone to share life with. I am learning, stumblingly, how to interact with that desire in a healthy way. And in the meantime, I do things like read an entire Harry Potter book in three days, take a weekend trip to Omaha by myself, and do yoga on the Nelson Atkins lawn with my roommates. And, truthfully, I’ve loved every minute of it.
While I was busy re-adjusting to this lifestyle, I believe I received this letter from my future self:
Hello my darling. I want you to know that I think you are brave. I am proud of the ways that you are choosing to live wholeheartedly. I love that you go down that hidden trail that leads to the riverside so that you can watch the sunset. I love that you take adventures and speak the truth and say yes to the creative inspirations that come to you.
I know that the loneliness can be heart-wrenching. And that it has been so hard to be patient in the waiting. And the not knowing why or how much longer has been so hard.
I want to thank you, from the bottom of my/our heart for choosing, even in the midst of the not knowing, that which is life-giving. For taking advantage of the freedoms you have. Oh Allie, if you only knew what a gift it is to have hours of uninterrupted time to create or read. The freedom to travel and do whatever you want. I’m so glad you are doing this now, because this too shall pass.
Some day, you will have the things you are hoping for now. And it will be beautiful, and it will come at a cost, and it will be hard, and it will be oh so worth it. And you will be so happy about how the timing of it all works out. Promise.
Thank you for not postponing your joy.
Oh I hope I don’t stop resisting the temptation to believe the lie that true happiness will be found only when I get married. Because the desert of discontentment leads you from mirage after mirage off in the distance- like an oasis off in the distance that promises satisfaction- only when reaching it, another one emerges in the distance. A husband, a family, a certain lifestyle, the next idea of perfection. While I don’t think that it is necessary or good to try to deny that I desire things, I want to step deeper into to a trust that leads to a soul delighted by the only One who truly satisfies. To live a life that is marked by gratitude and a deep joy. “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” (Henry Miller) Yes, Henry! Aware of the beauty and glory, of autumn leaves being released from their summer homes, aware of my dear friends and amazing family that love me well, aware of a God who is pursuing this heart of mine. Awareness that leads to a response of delight.
“We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” (Jack Gilbert)