Respite: To every thing there is a season

I lived in the South for over 20 years, although I grew up in Minnesota. I fell in love with spring there; Bradford pear trees, dogwoods, azaleas. It was glorious to watch nature awaken with brilliant pinks, whites, reds and greens and birdsong filling the air.

In Central Minnesota spring takes a long time to manifest. It is mid-April now and there is not a spring green to be seen. It is still gray and chilly, and it reinforces my claim that April is the toughest month for me to be back home, as I greatly miss those blossoms and the warm air while waiting for nature to wake up here.

That brings to mind another spring theme I am thinking about lately: awakening. As we all have experienced two years like no other, adapting to Covid-induced changes to the way we function, I find myself trying to wake up from a unique form of hibernation. Staying home, comfortable on the couch, taking naps with the cats and binge-watching British murder mysteries, I have felt half asleep. Part of the reason is that I’m learning how to be retired, but it is a big change and out of character for me, in a way, as I have a drive to produce, and struggle with guilt and “shoulds” when I don’t accomplish something of value.

It is an interesting paradox, because I am finally learning to let go of the guilt and self-judgment with which I have always lived, but those things also drove me to accomplish and produce. No guilt is good, but getting off the couch is good, too. So, do I push myself to get moving, or bask in the new world of no self-judgment on the couch? Is it time to wake myself up and get things done? As I have spent plenty of time of time basking in the respite, yes, now I think it is time to wake up.

Like everything, there needs to be a balance. Respite is needed when we are drained by stress, worry, illness, busyness, demanding schedules and others’ needs. In many ways the pandemic has forced people into respite, causing them to let go of many things that were, in fact, draining them. Time at home helped people reconnect with family members and renewed a knowing of what things really matter.

But we also need to know when respite or down-time is avoidance. It is easy to pretend there are not major challenges being experienced by people I know and love, or that the world isn’t out of balance in every way and people are suffering because of it when I am lost in tv marathons. 

A month ago, I had a small epiphany. I noticed a small stuffed animal on my shelf I hadn’t paid much attention to, and he seemed to want my attention. He’s a small black bear and has a mechanism that makes him snore. He snored to me a few times, then it stopped working. I thought to myself: “It’s spring, he’s come out of hibernation!” I took his message to be a sign to me that it is time for me to wake up, too. I also printed an artistic graphic of a bear claw and hung it on my cabinet to remind me that it is time to quit avoiding the hard things, get busy, and return to the world. This means exercise, social activities, and my new passion—social activism. My relationships need some attention, too. Spring is the time to start again and get back out there.

You may have a different list of things you want to do, but the point is, we need to know when it is time to rest, and when it is time to move and produce.

To everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

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