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Lessons on Honoring Life

For me, life is a series of iterations. It's a continuous building of what previously existed; an interwoven landscape of moments, experiences, and achievements. Along our journey, we encounter different seasons filled with challenges, growth, and hopefully success.

I love the practice of thinking of life in terms of chapters or seasons. I love that we can look back and distinguish each moment, and in hindsight reflect on how one moment so intricately tied into the next.

How often do you look back on the chapters of life? How easily can you recognize when you're smack in the middle of a new one? How do get ready for the next? Really what I'm asking is, how do you embrace and honor the seasons of your life?

Recently, I celebrated one of my closest friend's birthday. We've created somewhat of a tradition where I (emotional support), another friend (the photographer), and the birthday girl coordinate a themed birthday shoot. Even though she won’t post the pictures (this is absolutely shade for when she reads this), I’m glad that this has become a yearly routine for us. I’m glad that we can look forward each year, to helping her honor the year that has ended and signal the newness that will begin.

The whole practice and the passing of her birthday brought something to the forefront of my mind—how have I been honoring the seasons of my life? How have I been observing the endings and beginnings? I'll be the first to admit, not such a good job. And that means my inability to pause and recognize the good or attempt to bulldoze through the bad. Either actions are just extremes, neither is rooted in mindfulness which is something I preach about with a fervent passion.

I mentioned birthdays because it's a common experience we all share. But that's not the only milestone that should be celebrated. I'm all for big hurrahs. I love a good celebratory pat on the back and there's nothing I find more satisfying than an actual physical activity to go along with it. Not many of us take the moment to pause and look at how far we've come. So often we'll find ourselves in a hurry to tick the next thing off on our checklist that we fail to recognize the things we've actually accomplished.

But you absolutely owe it to yourself to attribute some level of importance to your efforts, your accomplishments, and those good seasons of your life. And it doesn't have to be some grandeur feat either. There will be times when your most daring exploit will simply be getting up each day. And in those seasons especially, you'll recognize how important it is to acknowledge and validate your efforts.

All this to say, I can't implore you enough to celebrate your progress. It's a key pillar in fostering a positive self-image and keeping the momentum going to take on another day. I encourage everyone to think of how they can commemorate their accomplishments in a way that is special to them. And that might look like a celebratory lunch with your friends because you just landed your dream job, or a gratifying bowl of ice cream because you got through a hard week.

Now what about the seasons that don't call for celebrations? Most people will call them rough patches. How do we embrace those seasons with the same gravitas as we do our more fortune-favored ones?

Honoring the seasons of our lives, to me at least, is twofold. In some sense, life can be akin to walking a tightrope, carefully maneuvering the good and the bad. So while we honor the good parts by celebrating them, so too do we honor the difficult ones by wholly embracing them.

Embracing the bad patches in your life may require a bit more work than the good bouts. And by work, I mean patience, compassion, and grace. During these, as I like to refer to them, transitional stages, you may be called to dive deeper into self. You won't have the stability of external forces and that's when it becomes imperative to cultivate internal stability. As I said, it's not easy. It requires self-understanding, recognizing the needs that are actually yours and aren't influenced by others, and then creating an internal system of support to carry you through.

I've had a few bad patches in my life and I can tell you without a doubt, what made them worst was pretending that it wasn't happening. It was a case of the colloquial "elephant in the room." The more you try to ignore it, the more it appears in your peripheral vision until it's right in front of you. You can't go around it, only through. And that's exactly how it is with these uncomfortable phases. You can't bulldoze your way through a season—I'm telling you from experience, I've tried—you have to embrace it fully.

As is above, so is below because human beings are guided by nature. Much like the rhythmic cycles of nature, our lives are comprised of seasons of change. As we celebrate, we also have to sit with sadness, disappointment, and periods of stagnation. It's a natural trajectory of human life to which, unfortunatley (or fortuntaltey) none of us are exempt. So the question is, how can you we delve into the significance of recognizing the value and lessons embedded within both the challenging and not just in the joyful seasons of life? As I reflect on my own chapters, I feel inclined to share how I learned to embrace my less-than-shiny eras.

I'm nothing if not systematic so of course I have a framework that I use. It's built on three simple words: acknowledge, accept, and action.

The first thing in embracing any change is to recognize it as a change, which means acknowledging it and being mindful that it's happening. So many of us don't like actually calling out something for what it is. But I feel like putting a name to a feeling or a transition helps even more. This is even more reason to call it a season rather than labeling it as the determinant for your entire life.

Which takes us to acceptance. I for one, have found life to be incredibly easier now that I accept it for what it is; at any given moment.

I used to rely on the promise of a future self, a sense of happiness that wasn't here but was 10-20 years ahead and guaranteed. I'd fantasize about a better time than all this. And of course, it's imperative to have hope and to be optimistic. But I wasn't either of these things. I hated where I was, and you can't hate yourself into a better life. It's simply counterproductive and it's a sucky feeling to have.

So I had to accept my life for what it was while being open to what it could be. Because life is just a series of transitions. And just as nature seamlessly transitions from one season to another, I've found solace in knowing and accepting that change is an inherent part of life's journey. It takes a bit of effort, but it's a labor of love, where I embrace the flow of life, instead of resisting the changes that come with it. I think if we can learn to flow with it, allowing ourselves to adapt and grow, then we can be better equipped to navigate different seasons; especially the difficult ones.

I know it can become so easy to get caught up in the stormy or less-than-glamorous period of our lives and we get to a point where we simply hold our heads down and wait until it passes. But I think we miss how potent and promising of an opportunity this is. Which is where action comes in. What would happen if instead of viewing this moment as a moment of stagnation, you reframed it as a moment of stillness? And what if from that stillness, you learned to listen?

Many of our less than glamours periods are actually here to force us to slow down, to pause and contemplate, and to embrace our lives as they are while we build on what they could be. These moments create friction, that while uncomfortable, are often catalysts for the next stage of our lives. So, instead of forcing yourself through a bad phase and trying to bypass the lessons you need to heed, think of it instead as a time to reflect, recharge, and gain a fresh perspective.

By acknowledging and appreciating the different phases we go through, we can find beauty, meaning, and growth in every season. The challenging seasons teach us resilience and strength, while the joyful seasons remind us to savor the present and cultivate gratitude. Embrace the beauty of transition, for it is through change that we evolve, learn, and discover the true richness of our lives. I hope you take the chance to discover the richness of yours.


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