On Fall and Long Goodbyes

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography
Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Fall tends to be a somewhat polarizing season, I have noticed. People either love it. Or they hate it.

There are so many things to love about this time of year. Football and school routines. Bright red and orange trees. Pink and purple sunsets. Pumpkins and apples. Boots and oversized sweatshirts. The clean air and excuses to stay indoors under a blanket.

Fall is elegant and romantic and nostalgic. And I love it for that.

But…

There are so many things to hate about fall too. Homework and school nights. Cold and rainy football games on Saturday mornings. Leaves to be raked. The way wildflowers start to look like ratty weeds. The hassles of Halloween. The impending dread of winter.

Fall has a melancholy flavor to it, as well. A twinge of sadness, and an almost desperate fear. In many ways, fall feels like a long goodbye. And I hate it for that.

I absolutely hate good-byes and transitions, the moving on from one thing to something else. And yet, here we are, right in the thick of it, this transition from summer to winter, from warm to cold, from this to that. We are saying goodbye to leaves on trees and long, sun-filled days and sandals & shorts. But like all goodbyes and transitions, I suppose, there is kind of a sophisticated beauty to the timid sorrow of this season, too.

If there is one thing that is certain it is that life is filled with goodbyes, changes, and transitions. In fact, it has been said that parenting is one long goodbye. That as soon as you get comfortable, things will change. And as I wade my way through the murky water that is motherhood, I am finding this to be profoundly true. Parenting, I am realizing, is a clumsy and erratic – yet, at the same time, dizzyingly beautiful – dance that consists of a constant pulling away and coming together, a perpetual holding on and letting go. Jackson, my oldest son, turned eight a few days ago and this absolutely blows my mind. How did this happen? Where have the last few years gone? How is it that the days are so long but the years are so short?

It is almost as if the past few years were pulled up into the whirlwind that is the everyday – planning playdates and buying birthday gifts and cooking dinners and breaking up fights and reading bedtime stories and driving kids home from school and reviewing homework and worrying and wondering and hoping.

Fortunately, with an 8-year-old and a 4.5-year-old, we are in the sweet spot right now. We are still in the summer of childhood. We are in the popsicles-and-ice cream-and-running-in-sprinklers-and-walking-barefoot-and-watching-fireworks-and-catching-fireflies season of childhood. It is (mostly) bright and warm (okay, sometimes, it is downright hot and sweaty), sticky sweet, and full of possibilities.

But, believe me, I am all too keenly aware of just how suddenly things can change, just how quickly the years go by, and just how soon summer fades into fall and the long goodbye begins. Soon enough there will be curfews and desperate pleas for an iPhone and tween crushes and teen angst and locked doors and SATs and all these other things that I am completely unprepared for.

And what I have realized is that so often it is the goodbye, the transition, the moving from one thing to the next that is the hardest part. And not just with parenting, but with everything. It is the lead-up, the preparation, and the waiting that hurts the most. In some ways, fall, with its long goodbye, is the saddest season of all.

But we can’t just jump from one thing to the next; there is always a transition, a goodbye to one thing before we can say hello to the next thing. Whether it’s a new job, a new home, a new friendship, a new season of life, a home, or a new “normal,” there is always a goodbye to what we once knew before we can say hello to what will be. There is always – always – a goodbye.

And so here’s what I’m wondering: How can we make the transitions, the goodbyes a little less painful? How can I steady myself amidst all of the unknowns and uncertainties that swirl around in the transitions from one season to the next? And how can I move through the long goodbye with as much grace and resilience and peace as possible?

I don’t have any answers. I wish did. I wish I knew how to handle transitions and changing seasons and goodbyes with grace, resilience, and peace, but my default reaction is usually just a lot of tears and fist pounding and snapping at my husband for who-knows-what and yelling at my kids not picking up their toys.

But what I do know is that those times when I have rigidly planted my feet in the ground, when I have clung to what I know, when I have feared the goodbye, I have been much more battered and bruised by the winds of change than those times when I surrendered a little, loosened my grip a little, and let myself be carried a little.

And here is what I also know: Bad shit happens. Transitions are hard. The unknown is freaking scary. And life is filled with goodbyes, long and sad goodbyes.

But it is also filled with warm and happy hellos; it is filled with little gems of goodness and hope.

Sometimes they are just hiding deep in the weeds or the piles of fallen leaves.

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Tell me: How do you feel about fall? And how do you handle change, transitions, and goodbyes?

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This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. She sends a photo; I write a post inspired by that photo. Please make sure to visit her website or facebook page. Her work is amazing.

2 Comments

  • I actually love fall, and it has long been my favorite season. I love the colors and the spicy scents and the cool air. As I sweated out July and August, I have always looked forward to fall. But this year, for the very first time, I found myself mourning the end of summer, wishing it would stick around for just awhile longer, not ready to give up the long, hot days that, in a very real way, brought me back to life after a tough spring. But now that fall is in full swing I am happy to be here and loving it all over again. And I think that’s the way change sometimes works. We dread it and mourn the loss of the way things were, but then find that we are perfectly happy with the way things are right now.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…An Unintentional, and Perfect, EditMy Profile

  • We have had such a beautiful fall here in Minnesota. At the end of every sunny, warm(ish) day I can’t help but get a little sad wondering if it will be the last beautiful day of the year. Change is hard for me, transitions make me feel stressed, and goodbyes make me really sad. Although goodbyes take more time to accept, I am often surprised by how some big changes can have such a positive impact on my life. Change is hard, but sometimes the negative reactions I have to change prevent me from being able to see all of the opportunities that may come with a change or transition in life. And then I feel silly for getting all worked up about it. Yes, I’m sad that this fall is coming to an end, but now I’m seeing that there is beauty in change, too (even during winters in Minnesota).
    Aimee recently posted…Our home: A tale about going all in.My Profile

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