Monday, May 23, 2011

There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun."

I've spent the great majority of my life looking back, wishing upon falling stars, jumping at shadows, trying to reinsert myself into a time in the past that I have learned to appreciate more as I've gotten older. Elementary school, for instance. I had a best friend whom I knew would never betray me, and we spent every waking moment together whenever possible. High school, when I could eat a Supersize McDonald's meal AND a double quarter pounder with cheese and still weigh 110 lbs for four years. College, when I felt a sense of accomplishment in class because I was actually learning something. Vacation in New York City, when every step I took in Times Square felt electric, and I was never more alive and sure of myself. Right after my divorce, when I moved in with my "Francine" and we lived a happy-go-lucky two-girls-against-the-world life. When I fell in love with my own Prince Charming, we had our own little apartment, and smiling was the easiest, breeziest thing in the world.

But I've come to realize that there is a season, just like the verse says. Seasons pass. True, seasons come along again, but they're often different. Summers can be smoldering or they can be mild. Winters can be frigid, or they can be damp and messy. Autumns can be crisp or they can be balmy. Springs can be torrential or they can be misty. One smile is not as good as another -- a smile of contentment is different from a smile of glee is different from a smile of "I hope nobody realizes I'm not really smiling underneath of this facade".

I'm growing up.

Peter Pan was a story that my elementary school best friend and I were somewhat obsessed with for a season. I'm not sure if it was the flying, the mermaids, the 'never growing up' part -- but it really spoke to our young hearts. Recently, we went with our daughter's middle school drama group to see a production of Peter Pan in Chicago, and it brought back so many memories to me. One of those memories was crushing. At the end, Wendy grows up. Wendy is a wife and mother. Wendy has a child of her own. Wendy is perfectly content.

Peter is devastated.

I'm growing up.

I always said I wouldn't. I'd grow old, but not up. I would keep a child's heart -- no, not in a moldy trunk somewhere or a glass jar on my desk, I mean inside of my own body. A youthful heart, a merry heart, an optimistic heart. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I forgot. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I let myself grow jaded, pessimistic, sarcastic, arrogant, fatigued. I allowed the world to seep in and break the very spirit that set me soaring.

It occurs to me that I hate so many things, and I hate that about myself. I continue to try and make changes, get a step ahead, get a leg up, dig out of a hole, find a higher plane, go to a happy place, find myself, find contentment, do what I really feel like I should be doing -- and it seems, consistently, that it's all for naught. Every time I think I've made some sort of breakthrough, or gained a little ground, it falls out from beneath me and I'm sinking again.

I'm growing up, and I hate that about myself.

I wonder if part of why I so desperately want a baby is so that I'll have something youthful to cling to. Even our kids are growing up. Eighteen, sixteen, and thirteen. One graduating high school and going off to college, one graduating in a year, and one entering high school. Where did the time go? Was I off in my own world, wishing for a better time, back when I could pig out and not gain weight, or when riding a lawnmower around my parents' backyard was the biggest thrill of my life? How did I get to be thirty-four years old? I wasted so much time. So, so much time.

I remember reading "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin" in either high school, or college, or both. He goes to a magic man at the beginning of the story because he's disappointed with himself and how the time has gotten away from him, and how many mistakes he's made. He tells the magic man that if only he could go back in time, he'd change everything, he'd be happier, he'd do all the right things. The magic man shakes his head, tries to tell Ivan he's wrong, but Ivan insists. So he gets sent back in time. And he does everything the exact same way he did the first time around, and ends up right in the same place, at the magic man's house, asking for another chance because if only he could go back in time, he'd change everything, he'd be happier, he'd do all the right things. The magic man shakes his head.

I've been down this route before. I know how it ends. It ends with me beginning again. Recycling seasons. I'm not unhappy, mind you. I'm married to the love of my life, I'm going to see my best friend from elementary school next month, I enjoy my writing, I have a great family, and God is good. I'm tired of not being able to breathe, is all. I won't allow myself permission to let my guard down and breathe. My husband tells me it's okay to go sit somewhere after work and read, and decompress. I can't. I can't do it. He tells me that's my own problem, and he's right. I just keep feeling like if I let my guard down, I'll miss something important.

But maybe I'm missing it right now.

Maybe I'm missing it just by wishing constantly that I would get pregnant. If I get pregnant, won't I just be pining for the days that I was 155 lbs, and didn't have a screaming infant at 3:47 in the morning? Maybe I'm missing it just by wishing that I lived in New York, or Chicago, or Las Vegas -- if I lived there, wouldn't I just be missing the clip-clop of horses down the road, and the silence, and the bright stars perfectly winking at me from the black night sky?

Why does growing up have to be so nostalgic? Why can't it be fun and exciting and relaxing and sweet-tasting, all at the same time? I know, I'm thirty-four, I should've grown up a long time ago. But this is why I didn't want to do it, you know. Because it hurts.

At the dentist, I used to hide under the desk so that he "couldn't find me" because I knew that, when he found me, he would take me into his office and whatever he was going to do to my teeth -- it was going to hurt. Playing soccer, when a bigger kid would run at me, I didn't defend myself or the ball, I just ducked out of the way -- it was going to hurt. Perhaps I've avoided growing up for so long because I thought that I could postpone the inevitable.

Nothing in my life has turned out the way that I expected it to. But, luckily, I suppose - nothing in my life has actually turned out. My life isn't over yet. God willing, I've got at least a few more years in me, huh?

Looking back, I realize that this post sounds like I'm depressed. I'm really not. I'm really quite content, most of the time. It's just that... I don't know. From time to time, I want to break out in song and have an entire back-up band and tightly choreographed back-up singers to follow me around for ten minutes before I go back to my regularly scheduled life. Periodically, I want to wipe the fake smile off of my face and pour a cold latte over someone's head when they are rude to me. On an off day, I want to break free of all responsibility, get in my car, not tell anyone where I'm going (not even myself) and just drive until I get wherever I'm done driving to, charge up my credit card in a posh hotel and get room service and watch VH1 all night long. I want to hop a train and not know where I am when I hop back off. Sometimes I want to sell everything I own and get on a plane to an island somewhere and build a hut and fish for a living with my husband.

I guess today is just one of those times.

Stephanie Jean


  1. I've felt that a lot lately. Nothing is as I planned it. Things I'd hoped for haven't happened. Hard to let go of the deep-seated desires and try to forge ahead with new ones (or none - staying open to whatever).

    love the pic!

  2. Read the books, dear... read the books.


  3. @Kelkel -- thank you.

    @Bill - I know. And I <3 you.