The sunflowers are dying.
My squash plants have powdery mildew, and their leaves have turned brown. The tomato plants are dying, too. The flowers in my organic garden are at the end of their life span here in the Rockies where I live.
Leaves have changed colors. They’ve turned into those vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges that people pay thousands of dollars to see every year in this part of the country. It’s crispy in the mornings now. It is time to pull out the jacket, scarf, and hat. It’s autumn, and it’s a time of transition, a time of change.
About a decade ago, I had to embrace abrupt change: I had to leave my abusive marriage.
At one point, I wasn’t sure I’d survive on my own with a six-year-old. I never expected to become a single mother. When I married, I married for life and hoped to create a family and never get divorced. I wanted the life-ever-after and all the good things that come with partnering with someone who loves you.
It didn’t turn out that way for me, though.
Stuck in a funk for years, I wanted to believe I was imagining the abuse. I tried to deny that the gaslighting, manipulation, put-downs, lies, passive-aggressive behavior, and talking behind my back were my reality. I wanted to believe I could fix it, and boy did I try over and over again. I wanted to believe it wasn’t as bad as it was, that it wasn’t abuse. Only people who get punched in the face every day are abused, right? I blamed myself for the constant arguments and misunderstandings.
And trying three different marriage counselors only made my relationship worse. (One pulled me aside and told me I needed to leave my ex.)
Little did I know back then that there was nothing I could do to “fix it.” A big CHANGE in my life was coming – a new season, a withering away of my current life and the preparation for a new dawn. My autumn was here, and I would soon experience a hard winter.
It happens to all of us. Our flowers wither and die for a short time, and then they spring back to life again. They bloom differently the second time around. They are stronger; they learn to not fret.
Change happens to all of us.
Making sense of it all. Change is all there is.
We spend our entire lives searching for life’s meaning, don’t we? We search for some deeper truth to soothe or heal our wounds, some meaning behind the madness we experience. We try to find meaning in other people, achievements, status, fame, money, stuff, relationships, community, and family. None of it fully satisfies because humans are never satisfied.
This is a pattern throughout history. Scientists, philosophers, writers, artists, and the like have searched for meaning and tried to explain life and its unwanted changes. Thousands, maybe millions, of essays, sacred texts, and books have been written about this subject since mankind learned to read and write – so many books to consume on the meaning of life and suffering. We can’t forget, of course, the 20th century’s classic by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor believed life’s meaning came from love, purposeful work, and courage in the face of difficulty. I can’t argue with any of that!
Do you know why you strive for more and why you are not satisfied with what is? Or why you are suffering and fight to keep things as is? I don’t have the exact answer, but I know you are not alone, and I know you will get through whatever change you are experiencing.
Here’s a thought. Like plants, maybe we should NOT care so much about life’s meaning. What if we learn to be satisfied with what is? What if we let go when change arrives at our doorstep?
Plants sprout, grow, bloom, do their thing, and then begin the dying process. As humans, we experience life similarly. We start as a merging of two cells, a zygote. Then we become an embryo – the size of a pea or smaller. After weeks, we turn into a fetus on our way to becoming a person. When we are born and take our first breath, we have become fully a person. We grow from an infant to a toddler, to a small child, to a teenager, and finally to an adult. Then we experience old age and finally die. The transformation that occurs is miraculous if you think hard about it.
The birth and death process is universal. Flowers, plants, or humans, we all live and die. But, do plants look for meaning? Do they spend any time wondering about life? Do they worry? Do they ponder if there is a god or heaven or hell when they die? Do they care? I suppose they don’t.
Maybe we shouldn’t either.
Maybe we should allow life to happen, to let change come and go as it pleases and be okay with it.
This fall, be ready for your transition. Be ready for parts of you to die and new parts to emerge. Make it a point to allow those changes to happen. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to control it. It’s all part of the mystery of life, the undeniable change that we all experience. Be ready and let the next seasons of your life come forth. You will suffer, but it will be temporary.
Let that person go. Let that thing go.
If you are going through a rough, dying phase, know another spring and summer will emerge soon. Hang on and experience your autumn. It’s okay to wither for a while. Be like a plant.
You will be okay.