I sat across from my counselor and I took a deep breath. My throat tightened, like a hand was reaching around my windpipe and slowly squeezing.
“I don’t know how to do life.”
“I can see where I am, and in my mind’s eye, I can see where I want to be, but I have no idea who to get there. It seems like I try and I try and nothing ever changes. I never change. I’m so tired of trying. I can’t do it any more.”
He stared at me for a while. (He is one of those people to whom discipline comes more easily. I am pretty sure at this point I am beyond hope, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with daily disciplines.)
Counselor: Do you really think that you have never changed? Are you the same person you were in your 20’s?
Me: (I turned 50 this year.) Oh, heck, no! Thank God I’m not the person I was in my 20’s! I learn a little with each cycle, but it just seems like I’m struggling with the same things over and over and over again.
Counselor: What is it you think you need to do?
Me: (sigh) Stop eating sugar. Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Be organized. Manage my time. The list is endless. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. I make lists, I make plans, I start out great – for a while. Then I slowly lose steam, and finally everything comes crashing down around me, only to remind me that I’ve failed at life once again. (and now my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball and the tears are stinging my eyes).
It doesn’t help that I am married to a man who is the perfect example of discipline. He exercises and has his morning quiet time regularly – he rarely misses a day of either. He is the kind of person who exercises when they are sick. What is wrong with this guy? He exercises faithfully every day, while I will make a check list for myself with exercise and weight loss goals, and give myself gold stars when I make the smallest step towards those goals. He picks up his socks and puts his clothes away, while mine find themselves in piles at the end of the bed, and I am smelling them to see if I can wear them for one more day.
What kind of life is this? And why can’t I be more disciplined? I try, I really do. And I do well for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But then I get sidetracked, or bored, or something more shiny comes along . . .
Counselor: No – what is it that you REALLY NEED TO DO? None of the things you mentioned are moral issues.
When it comes down to the very core of your life, what is important? What do you need to do?
Me: Love God, and love people.
Counselor: And are you doing those things?
Me: Yes. I am. (I really am. Not perfectly, but I am loving God and people.)
But I feel like I should be doing all of these other things . . .
And therein lies the problem. That pressure of the ‘shoulds’. Those things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing. Who told us we should be doing those things? And why do we feel pressure, guilt, even shame if we don’t?
Counselor: What if you look at it another way? What if you set aside the should’s that are imposed on you, and look at how God made you unique.
You are like Old Faithful – you start with a dream or a goal, and you build up and up and then have this beautiful, creative explosion – for a while. Then the water subsides, and there is a time of quiet until it begins to build up again.
Me: Hmmmmm. That’s true. But I like the explosion part. It’s beautiful and wonderous, and people are watching and cheering. I don’t like the part when the water subsides, though. The ground is broken and cracked and the air smells like sulfur. And the people walk away.
Counselor: What if you reframe it?
What if you are a seasonal person? You have Spring when the buds begin to blossom, and Summer when you grow and thrive, then Autumn when the growth slows and you prepare for Winter, your season of rest, so you can grow and blossom again.
Old Faithful would run out of steam (literally!) if it were going 100% of the time.”
I thought about that for a long time. It didn’t set well with me, not at first. I didn’t like it. I would much rather be slow and steady.
Or would I?
Actually, I think that might be rather boring. But then that internal argument started. I am so tired of starting strong and usually not finishing well. I have always been that way, and I have learned my limits. After a big project, I need down time. After a busy week at work, I need at least half a day just lounging around, recharging.
I told my counselor I thought he was right, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.
The next day I had lunch with my friend who is wired very much like me. I told her what my counselor said about being a seasonal person. She said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard! Doesn’t that just give you a release, a sense of freedom, that it’s okay to just be who you are?”
I had to agree, and as I let it sink in that I am who I am, I began to appreciate that I am uniquely made. I am not saying that I should not strive to be more disciplined, more organized, more structured. But I am not going to beat myself up for not meeting a standard of performance that does just not fit me.
When I am focused, I am very focused, and can accomplish more in a week than many people will in one month. And that is why I need to time to rest and recharge, to get ready for the next burst. The next season. The next eruption. And I am learning to appreciate the winters. I am learning that they are not dark and barren, but they are peaceful and regenerating, and that without those times of rest I would not survive. It’s also very freeing to know that those down times are a necessary part of how I’m wired, and I don’t have to feel guilty, as long as I don’t wallow in them. And I’m going to treasure my seasons of focus and not waste a moment.
I am a seasonal person, and that’s not just okay – it’s beautiful.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (NASB)
Beautiful words! I love that we have our seasons…I am pondering when my down-time season is! Some days I just feel LAZY…maybe this is my time to rest and get ready for my next burst of energy!! Thank you for sharing!
Yes. Yes. A thousand times YES! Those “shoulds” will just eat us alive, won’t they? But we are seasonal people. The world is a seasonal place. God himself tells us “to everything there is a season.” What a blessing that you have found grace in this truth. I am refreshed by it today as well.
I have to be really careful with my downtimes. There’s a fine line for me between downtime and lazy.
Thank you for sharing! That was so insightful for me and explains a lot!
You have no idea what a gift you are giving people with this article! Thank you so much for sharing this! While a certain measure of self discipline is good, we beat ourselves up if we aren’t all the type like your husband! I myself have lived in regret for years thinking I’ll never be the person I want/should be because of my lack of discipline. But God doesn’t make us all one mold! He gives us grace and freedom to be unique! I so wish I read this years ago and will be sharing!
What a great post! I so relate to this. I think one of the reasons we struggle is because God made us creative people, and by that I mean writers. I think our seasons, and our creative eruptions come with the creative/writing personality. I too strive for more discipline, setting goals, following through, being disciplined, but I also love the creative expression of writing and reading other people’s great writing. We all have areas to grow, and I think part of that is embracing who God made us. Blessings to you in the New Year!
I appreciate this post so much, thanks for sharing your story
This is wonderful! I am JUST LIKE YOU. start strong finish weak if I finish at all. very encouraging thank you.
Your post just reframed everything for me. Thinking of myself as seasonal is eye opening. I always say that life has seasons, it’s ok to focus on your kids while their little and let the housework go a little and nap when you can, but the thought that I’M seasonal makes so much sense. Thank you!
Thank you! I appreciate this especially in the season of goal setting. Beautiful writing!
It has taken me a while, but I am starting to really treasure the concept of seasons.
Thank you, Melanie.
Thank you for your encouraging words, and for so graciously sharing this post. I spent years striving to fit a model that I wasn’t made for. I wish I would have learned this years ago.
Thank you so much, Robyn. I have just recently started writing again after taking a break for MANY years, and opening that gate of creativity has set me on an even more uneven path. But it’s exciting. I feel alive again!
I’m glad, thank you.
Thank you, Martha. I know there are a lot of us out there. It’s encouraging for me to know I’m not alone.
I’m glad you connected with this. Thinking of myself as a seasonal person has really helped me start to rethink many areas of my life. It is starting to make sense to me.
Thank you, Maurice. That means so much.
I so so so love this. I am like this too. I am not very good at being disciplined. I am very much have these explosions of creativity and then need downtime. I think the diversity of humanity is just breathtaking!
I LOVE THIS! Beautiful, hopeful, real…
you sounds like the reverse of my husband and I – I’m the M-F/8-5 marathoner. every morning I wake up at 6:16, drink coffee, read my Bible, then head to work. sometimes I’m envious of his set up. he is self employed, busts his rear for a couple months then crashes into a heap for a month of recovery. yours seems like the exciting story to be sought after, not your hubby’s.
We balance out one another, and we learn from each other’s differences (when we’re not driving each other crazy 🙂
I am exactly how you describe, but I fail to see how it isn’t still a problem if projects never actually get completed. Great so I am seasonal and in a burst of energy i will do 1 month worth of work in a week and almost finish something. Then ill go into my cocoon for 3 weeks and accomplish nothing and miss whatever deadline there was. I don’t see how re-framing the perspective to be warm and fuzzy actually solves the reaility of the problem, and it is a problem.. It is a nice idea and it is mildly re-assuring but i think it is actually dangerous because it glorifies an actually objective major disadvantage in accomplishing anything.