To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
It is springtime here in New England, and I am actually mourning this fact as I look outside at the dogwood trees and lilac bushes that are in full bloom, and everything else that is blossoming, sprouting, and shooting forth buds that will soon grow into leafs. I bemoan this change of season because it makes it so damned difficult to sit here firmly rooted in my chair and write, when I am finally ready to do so for the first time in months. More over, I feel cheated, because the season arrived more than a month early, while the winter season never really came at all.
Historically speaking, even when I lived in California, the months of February and March have never failed to bring the post-holiday doldrums and consistently grey weather that makes it possible for me to stay indoors, planted contentedly at my desk. Here in New England especially, since the landscape outside would usually be covered with many accumulated layers of ice and snow, with more on the way throughout the end of March. The local lakes and ponds would normally be frozen over, and littered with the ramshackle bob-houses of ice fishermen. It’s a scene out of Currier and Ives everywhere you go, until the pre-spring thaw of early April ushers in the much less attractive (and altogether undepicted) “mud season.”
This year, however, it has felt spring-like outdoors ever since a very brief snowfall came and went back in early February. March felt like April, and April has felt like May, until today, that is – when the mercury is predicted to spike well above 90 degrees. At this rate, summer is just a couple of weeks away, and will likely culminate in a blistering inferno by the time July gets here. Now, I’m not one of those zealous acolytes of manmade global warming theories, but there’s no denying that the climate, it is a-changin’….
Last year, in contrast, was kicked off by one of the harshest, snowiest winters in history, both in terms of frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls that collapsed buildings throughout the Northeast. The subsequent spring thaw brought us hundred year floods, followed by tornadoes, an earthquake, and Hurricane (tropical storm) Irene at the end of summer. Freakish doesn’t begin to describe it – all that was missing was a plague of locusts and frogs falling from the sky. And then, on October 30, autumn was cut short by Nor’easter Alfred, which rained down huge, heavy wads of wet snow upon the leaf-laden limbs of millions of trees – an event that had not happened here in New England since the Civil War, long before there was such a thing as a power grid. Hundreds of thousands of trees bowed and snapped under the unprecedented weight, taking down power lines with them everywhere. For more than 10 days, much of New England and the entire state of Connecticut resembled North Korea from the air at night. Meteorologists declared it to be a harbinger of much worse storms to come, and predicted a winter that would be even more severe than that of 2011, with record ice storms that would decimate the already weakened timber.
As previously mentioned, however, this year has so far been the polar opposite of last, so to speak. And now, of course, the same doomsayers are already saying that we will soon pay a price for these unseasonably mild temperatures. (http://news.yahoo.com/freakishly-warm-winter-4-unwelcome-side-effects-150000944.html)
All this weirdness has piqued everyone’s interest in the Mayan calendar, which ends mysteriously and abruptly, with 2012 as its final year. So far, there has been no apocalypse, but ah, the year is young…
From my personal perspective, these past winter months were a season of blankness that was suspended in time. Ever since that late October snowstorm upended my life in more ways than I can count, it seemed as if my heart and mind were in a deep hibernation. I had fallen into an abyss of despondency and emptiness that I had never known before, and to which, by the Grace of God, I hope to never return.
Speaking of Him, I can say with all honesty that my faith in God never left me. He made it impossible to not know that He was still there throughout it all. I could feel His unmistakable presence and His love, but I was having a crisis of faith nonetheless. It was me who I found it impossible to believe in, because nothing in my life made any sense anymore – absolutely nothing. I had fallen down so many times and picked myself up again, while repeating that same mantra over and over – Everything Happens For A Reason (EHFAR). While it may sound trite, it actually echoes a favorite Bible verse of mine: “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” – (Romans 8:28) And The Lord knows, this foolish sinner most certainly does love Him.
So I’ve always been a big aficionado of stories about second chances, comebacks, and second acts. Rocky is on my Top 5 list of favorite movies of all time – not just the story itself, but the story behind how the story was written, sold, and turned into a major motion picture. I’m also a huge fan of that expression about turning lemons into lemonade.
Just two weeks after Hurricane Irene hit New England, it looked like things were really about to turn around when I was offered what seemed to be the perfect job, in the perfect place, at the perfect time. Things were finally happening for me, because I had been bound and determined to take the bull by the horns and make them happen, with my mind set on a list of goals and objectives. I got the cart before the horse, however. At the very top of that list was settling down again, since I’d had it with dating, post-divorce, but didn’t want to live alone the rest of my life. I met a good woman – an awesome lady – and I married her to make sure she didn’t get away. The problem was, we got married smack-dab in the middle of “or worse,” and we had troubles from the get-go as we found ourselves torn in opposite directions between our two families, and our very different cultural backgrounds.
Nevertheless, I kept telling myself that things would smooth out and get better as soon as I was back to working at a salaried job again, and providing her with the security that is essential to every happy marriage and happy home. It seemed like the hand of Providence, then, when I found myself employed again, selling a high-ticket product that had gone from being regarded as a luxury item and status symbol to a coveted necessity, thanks to Hurricane Irene and the other freak weather events of 2011. So I abandoned the silly notion of being a full-time Freelance Writer, and happily accepted the illustrious title of Sales Manager, managing the sales of automatic standby power generators, of all things.
The stress of the new job was nerve wracking, though – to put it mildly. I was blindsided by issues with my new employer that I had naively ignored or chose not to ask about before accepting the job. At the same time our problems at home (blended family issues) became a thousand times worse, and our situation finally became untenable after that Halloween snowstorm sent the demand for backup power systems through the stratosphere. Overnight, it all fell apart as my “dream job” became a hopelessly insurmountable nightmare from hell, and the very next fight at home was the last straw that sent me packing. I moved out, and moved in with my closest friend, despite the fact that his house was still without power and would be for several more days, since his town was among the hardest hit in the state. The following month, exactly thirty days after I separated from my wife, the job finally came to a bitter and acrimonious ending. It is an understatement to say that I felt lost, beyond comprehension.
The distance between me and my children now seemed more impossible to span than ever. While I was working, there was no time off to get down to see them. Now that I had the time, I was strapped for cash. My marriage hung in limbo as I was still separated and living with my friend, without a place of my own to call home. The truth is, I wasn’t sure where home was anymore. My whole life was in limbo, and I was hardly the beacon of hope – or Major Dude – that I’d hoped to be for other men, as they face their own crises at midlife. I didn’t recognize the life that I was living anymore, because as Steve Jobs would say, I was living someone else’s.
I began to question everything. My marriage had become my sole priority, and in making it so at the expense of all other priorities that I held so dear, I became someone I was not, and very different from the man my wife had married. It was not the first time I had fallen into this trap, and as I denied this truth, I fell even further into a horrible malaise that took its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was in a weakened state that was approaching moribundity. It was time to revisit my list of goals and objectives – my “roadmap” of sorts that I had set out to plan my life, and stage my second act and comeback. The list was thrown out. There was now only one goal and one objective to focus on, and it trumped all others:
Some nameless idiot coined a popular axiom – “That which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” While I can think of numerous exceptions to this, I have come to a major conclusion at this curious stage in my journey here on earth called midlife: That which isn’t going to make me stronger, will sure as hell make me weaker – and eventually end up killing me. It was time to reevaluate my choices and my priorities, and examine the choices I was making that made me weak, and make new ones that will make me strong. In all aspects; physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned, repeatedly, is that there are no shortcuts in life –particularly at midlife. You have to pay attention to the seasons, and know what season you’re in. You can’t reap before you sow, and it’s not as simple as just starting over again. If your field has been salted, it will do no good to plant again in the same soil. It will also do no good to plant until the new soil has been plowed, the thistle has been cleared, and the correct season has arrived to do so.
This past winter, after everything had so obviously broken down, the time was here to build up again. To do so, however – to clear the rubble and rebuild from scratch – would require the strength of Samson and the optimism of Zig Ziglar. It was time to examine what was making me weak, and what would not only make me strong again; but stronger than I’ve ever been. It was time to make some hard choices, and a tough decision…