It’s early February in snowy, icy, and blustery Eastern Pennsylvania where we experience all four seasons in their full glory. February is the armpit of months here. It is the month I find myself thinking that our retirement to the ocean is way too long to wait. I really want to run today, but the cold in my bones is fighting with that thought. We have been pummeled by snowstorm after snowstorm and our Starbucks is just killing it these days. Even my dogs look like they have the winter blues as they hesitate at the threshold of the door when I go to let them out first thing in the morning. It’s almost like we cannot take one more day of winter. We are all hungry for the warmth of spring, and we’re as anxious for the crocuses to burst through the melting snow as weary sailors are for a lighthouse at the end of a storm.
On a much more pleasant spring morning run earlier last year, I recall something that happened to me. I was engrossed in my running rhythm, trying to figure out the exact lyrics to a song, when suddenly I flinched and leaped, dodging what looked like a giant snake. Collecting myself, I went back to examine the thing and found it was actually a beautiful snakeskin shed by one pretty long serpent. Snakes renew themselves just like the earth does in the springtime. Oddly, as my brain works in this way, the snakeskin caused me to think about how relationships have seasons as well.
I wrote this little poem about summer when I was like twelve years old (okay, it’s stuck in my head) called: “Music Box”.
Music box, play me a tune
Of summertime in the month of June.
Of straw hats and bare feet
Of fields of flowers and strawberries sweet.
Play it, sing it, until the end
And I will wind you up again.
Our summers here can be brutal as well, often with stifling heat. As much as we enjoy the pool and the beach and the fun stuff that summer brings (as my poem illustrates) we don’t want to “wind it up again” for more by the end of sweltering August. Usually, by this time, we are anxious for the crisp cooler autumn days of September and October.
Winter… well, you can see, the same thing happens around here with winter as I indicated in my opening paragraph. We usually cannot wait for spring – its beautiful rebirth when there is a renewal of all things. We spring clean, flail open our windows and let in the fresh air. We admire the budding trees and welcome the awakening flowers. If we were snakes we would shed our skins. The earth goes from brown to green. I happen to live in a pastoral area with idyllic rolling hills and tons of horses. The sun shines brightly, the birds chirp, and the world seems alive and almost perfect here in the springtime.
Relationships have their seasons as well. We go through winters together as couples when we just cannot bear the idea of certain conflicts, circumstances, events or problems anymore – but it’s our job to stay united – even in the dead of winter. It is the idea of keeping the faith that spring will follow because, as we know, every hard time in a relationship is usually followed by a better time if we persist. Spring is about growth, and every cold winter gives way to spring growth.
Summer is a respite, a vacation from issues – a siesta from everything. In a relationship we often need this. We drop all of our worries and just enjoy one another and the companionship without all the baggage. Autumn comes just the same, and summer fades away and we go into a season of change and recuperation. We take inventory, look at where we are, look at our losses and lessons and learn from them. We collect ourselves.
These seasons exist is every relationship. Relationships are constantly is a state of change, much like the seasons, and we have to pay careful attention to what season we are in. Two people may be in different seasons in the same relationship at any given time. The key is being in touch with one another and being sensitive to the season your partner is in, or where you are together as a couple.
It’s important to accept the season that your relationship is currently in. Whether you’re in the “growth” phase of spring, full of novelty and excitement, like when one of you is embarking on a new career, or if you’re facing the “dead of winter” where there is darkness and sadness from something like the loss of a loved one… remember that your relationship needs to weather all the seasons. The same holds true for the autumn of a relationship, like when you are working on some “issues” together. Envision raking up and gathering your problems and figuring out how to work through them and, before you know it, old habits will fall away just like the leaves. No matter where you are in the seasons of a relationship, just remember this: it is where you need to be. It’s about accepting the season and working through it – actually it’s about making the most of that season.
Back to that blustery, frigid February morning… I did put on my running sneakers and pushed myself out there. And you know what? It was just what I needed. The cold air in my lungs energized me and I could see the snow laying over the stream and the tiniest bit of water trickling through. I felt a relief that spring wasn’t buried too far beneath, and it was reassuring to see. Much like life and relationships… if we can weather the rough snowstorms together, we can be that much more grateful for the spring.