When my older son started kindergarten, I felt sadness because my little boy was growing up after spending years attending to his every need as a stay-at-home mom. I also felt anxious because I would be home alone with my younger son, whom we had adopted that spring. He was unafraid of expressing the overwhelming grief his little body felt after leaving his previous life and foster mother behind. What followed were years of suffering as I bore witness to that grief, confronted by the darkness I had spent a lifetime of avoiding.

When my younger son started kindergarten three years later, I didn’t have any mixed feelings. I couldn’t leave school fast enough after drop-off because I finally felt free…at least for a few hours. It gave me the mental and emotional space to finally attend to my wounds, created by the trauma of my son’s adoption and incessant crying, as well as the freshly re-opened childhood wounds that trauma forced me to face. All of it was part of the gift I held in the space I finally had to know who I truly was, to meet myself and return home to my body, mind and soul. Ever since then, Fall has been a sacred time of renewal for me, freshly energized after a spacious summer spent wandering outdoors connecting to nature and feeling ready to come back home to me.

This year feels different even though there are so many new beginnings to celebrate, including the opening of my new studio, The Embody Space, and the kids finally returning to school after a painful year and a half of virtual school. But rather than feeling energized, I feel resistance at school restarting and getting back into the much needed routine. I don’t feel renewed from the summer spent camping and sleeping outdoors among old growth trees and starry skies. It feels a little dark.

I know I’m not the only one.

In our Graduates group of former WomanSpeak members who want to continue their speaking practice after program completion, I provided quotes and asked them to create talks out of them. One of members chose a quote by Fred Rogers,

“Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.”

She gave a beautiful talk about the changing seasons and the big transitions her daughters were about to embark on as they both entered new schools this year. It made her emotional to think about what those new beginnings meant and about the childhoods the girls were leaving behind.*

We haven’t been able to leave things behind and say goodbye because we are still so fully in it, still in this messy transition, forcibly wavering back and forth between new beginnings and old endings.

An important sign of our growth and maturity is recognizing that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time. Her talk was a beautiful reminder of that―of growth, looking to the future and the freshness of something new all mixed in with sadness, the pain of goodbye, and of the versions of ourselves we leave behind. It made me wonder if this year feels different despite the welcome new beginnings because we haven’t fully had a chance to grieve all that we have lost during the past year and a half of the pandemic. We haven’t been able to leave things behind and say goodbye because we are still so fully in it, still in this messy transition, forcibly wavering back and forth between new beginnings and old endings.

I’m far enough along on my journey to know not to hold on too tightly to expectations. I’ve taken too many scary leaps to be afraid of the unknown any longer and I’ve learned the hard way that struggle comes when we try to control too much… But this doesn’t mean things feel easy for me and that I don’t feel angry. It doesn’t mean that I’m not affected by the the lingering impacts of the pandemic whether that impact was directly on me or to those surrounding me… how it left my children longing to see their friends, how the disaster of virtual school strained my relationship with my children, how it further tore at the frayed connection to my ultra-conservative parents, how my mother-in-law, sick with Covid, grieved alone while her husband died without her by her side… We are not insulated individuals and whether impacted directly or indirectly through the suffering in the world, none of us have been left unscathed. It feels messy and this transition where we currently live feels unnecessarily prolonged and ugly.

Things feel really off for me and when we’re in these spaces in our lives, It’s easy to feel bad or judge ourselves as we walk through it and wonder why we’re not above it or further along. But that’s where we get things wrong because our journey isn’t about always being positive or showing up as our best selves. It’s about embracing the messiness of life and recognizing that we’re human because of it―it’s about learning to accept that we’re human and to stop trying to be more or less than human so that we can accept what is.

It’s okay not to be okay and sometimes, instead of trying to reframe or have a more positive mindset, we can be mad and annoyed and wish things could be different.

So as I think about this Fall which feels different, I am saddened and let myself shed a few tears because it doesn’t feel like the sacred space of renewal that it’s been for the past few years. I also realize that’s okay and that I am okay with it. I surrender.

*Mentioned with permission.

This post was originally published in the “I Want to Matter” newsletter. Not all issues are shared publicly so subscribe below!

Photo by Peter Herrmann on Unsplash.