This time of year – the end of summer vacation and/or the beginning of a new school year – is always an interesting one to me. It can be fraught with excitement, tentativeness, exuberance, concern, joy, grief and more. Every city or town I have lived in during this time, is often filled with conflicting emotions and chaos, and an almost super-fixation about getting organized.
Today, as I write this article, I am reminded of the depth of the human spirit and how so much happens outside of people’s awareness. It is such a full time, one of conflicting emotions and it serves as a great opportunity to bear witness to what people attend to everyday in their lives, while they continue to go about their day. Some, trying to reconcile heavy hearts that want to be excited and optimistic.
For a good portion of my life I worked in school settings, as a teacher, an E.A, a learning strategist and a college professor. The heartache of parents stepping up to pass their children over to their communities and a group of practically strangers was never lost on me.
Sure, some are happy to extend the parenting and teaching to others, allowing their children to be groomed by the communal flare that city life offers. Others from whom heart wrenching cries can be heard in houses after children are placed on the bus, or hidden in work washrooms and grieving hands. Others feel the restriction of a multitude of diverse and opposing emotions and actions. For some lets face it, it’s a shit-show of emotions vying for attention.
I am a huge advocate for being non-judgemental of people’s processes. We truly have no idea what another person is dealing or not dealing with. Empathy and witnessing has done well by me.
I know parents often struggle with whatever their process is at this time; what I think makes this process even more difficult, is the expected judgement of others. Sometimes if we are honest with ourselves, the judgement we fear from others is just our own reflection of ourselves looking back at us.
I think it is important for us to allow ourselves to be human and honest with all the conflicting thoughts and processes. To rejoice in our messiness, our beauty, our conflicting and contradictory feelings. And, are they really that contradictory to one another?
I want to highlight for a moment the process of loved ones going to live in another town for the first time, like when young adults head off to college, university or other schools. This process is such a time filled with excitement and when we are honest with the process we also see grief, hesitation, fear, anger, loss, joy and disappointment. It can flush up so much. Moments missed, opportunities gained and lost, relationship shifts and questions of “Have I done enough?” and “Who will I be without them?”
Some parents and siblings will be alone for the first time, families may struggle with financial burdens but put on a brave face, hoping that the investment will pay off for a brighter future. Many families may have been in court or mediation to have divorced and separated parents be on the same page for costs incurred. The list goes on.
People are dealing with a lot. Questions like “Who will I become?” “Who will they become?” “Will I be safe?” “Will I know if my loved one is ok?” Some children are actually the main stability to a hurting family and may suffer the pain of leaving with questions like “Who will take of that person or those people when I am gone?” “Who will make sure my little sister is fed or that my brother will not be bullied again on his way home?” It is a very complex time.
Time and time again, I see the blank stares of shock mixed in with an attempt of a brave face to look “normal” in public as we navigate life through a change of this depth. The face can look different, you may not recognize it. It may look like a fuller set of patrons at the local pub or gambling establishment. Or the person who is nervously laughing at the lunch room table. The “big shot” showing off a new car or suit. The one who is impatient in the grocery line. The crying or angry children. The over-achieving. The extra clean or messy home. The person trying really hard. The one who appears to not give a shit. The forgetful. The hypervigilant. The jealous. The bully. The one who seems to disappear and blend into the background.
I see you. You are not alone. We are all going through this shift. We all have a part in this transition.
We are all dealing with our own process of change – be it the shift to “back to school” or dealing with a new illness diagnoses of self or a loved one or struggling to stay sober or dealing with an abusive relationship or having to cope with “my life never changes,” where nothing exciting seems to happen. And sometimes, just wanting to be a good person or live up to our own goals.
This is an opportunity for us to bring up the best parts of ourselves. Those best parts have emotions. I personally like to give myself space to grieve and feel. I also like to allow myself to be fully happy and exuberant when it arrives as well. I love when people do their best to be kind and to give each other the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best that they can in the moment. I am also all for healthy boundaries and doing your best to not over extend. Over extending can have great difficulties for some.
Sometimes nothing really needs to be done, people just need time to find their way, claim their new strengths, be in a loving supporting community as they process, heal and exist as life is. Sometimes we need others to be with us as we are learning and discovering. Sometimes there are parts of the path we need to walk alone. Even in those we have allies, we just need to walk it alone to hear our own voice deep in the depths of those moments, without interruption tempting us to avoid. Often our best strengths and freedoms and victories come from that alone space. We can only hear it then.
What ever you may be attending to in your life, I hope you are able to, at least sometimes, be kind to yourself and allow the truth of the process to liberate you and offer you some character building.
I also hope, if you wish it, you find an opportunity to connect with others who will share the load with you, relate to you, hold you and laugh and cry with you. As I write this I am reminded to be kind and patient and gentle with those in my community. It takes little from me and I may be the only kind, smiling face they may see that day; maybe that smile will land on the face the child a mother is missing.
I remember once while I was at a grocery store I was joking and supporting an action of a fella I met in line. We shared a few high fives and a hug (both things I love to do) and the person I was with asked. “Where do you know him from?” I said “That grocery line.” She said “Do you know him?” I responded “No, but someone does.” I don’t think I fully understand that comment I made until just now. I realize that it is a fundamental thought process to bonding with strangers, maybe something my Newfie upbringing has offered me.
It’s important to be invested in the people around you. Chances are that someone you like and love, also honours, likes and loves that person. You get to fill in for their loved ones when they can’t be there, when they are at home wondering if the other is ok out there without them. You can be the one to be kind as they are navigating their world, even if the way they are dealing with it seems not right to you.
Some days, and I hope there are many, you will also be the recipient of gentleness, kindness, a supportive smile and gesture, even on the days when you can’t feel that way. Even on the days you can barely get out of bed and put on a brave face to greet the day that feels fraught with fear or loss or confusion. I hope you are met with the eyes of support that will give you as much or as little space as you require in that moment. That would be a great gift that non-judgement of your process would offer you. May you be as kind to yourself too.
I would like to conclude with a blessing to each of you reading this and to the loved ones you hold dear:
May you have all you need, and some of what you desire.
May your burdens be shared, that we can all navigate the terrain together.
May you know that you are not alone, and have a community of loving folk around you, even when that’s not clear.
May you build character and resources during trying times, and feel good about what you’ve achieved.
May you navigate to peace and hope and joy, and truly know that all you feel is a wonder of being human. And being human is a big part of why we are on this beautiful blue-green planet together. You come by it naturally.
May you remember who you truly are.
P.S. If what you need is a high five or a hug I hope you see me around. I likely have several on reserve waiting for you.
Edited by Pat Dockrill and Angela Mahler