Death begets life.
“Even in the desolate wilderness, stars can still shine.” -Aoi Jiyuu Shiroi Nozomi
A few weeks ago, I was surprised by my family and friends with a birthday party to celebrate my impending (now present) 30th birthday. My wife threw the whole thing together, and it turned out to be quite a fun occasion. At the time I still had about 2 weeks until I officially began a new decade, but the celebration was timely, as it happened to fall on the coldest day we’ve had this Fall so far.
I think November is a great month. There are the obvious reasons, of course, like the weather, the leaves, the holidays, but it’s an extra special month around my house because my wedding anniversary is on the 10th, followed by my birthday 9 days later. The novelty of November always sets in when it arrives. I love the warmth that the celebrating of year-markers of major life events brings. And who doesn’t love just stuffing their face on Thanksgiving? (Oh, is that not what it’s about?) The scents are fuller, that air crisper, sentiments greater. There is a certain exhilaration that ushers in this season of change.
And with that exhilaration is an inescapable sting. I went into a funk when I turned 29 last year. I don’t know, y’all, I guess I thought that my youth only had a year left to stick around, and that any vitality I had left in me was about to run dry. It didn’t help that, added to the sadness I felt for that particular birthday, I get seasonally depressed. I know there are a lot of you (if not all to some degree) who struggle with the same thing. I typically gain weight (not just from the holiday sweets, either), become numb to just about everything (except my children – MAN they carry some dang joy with them), and I go into a mental hibernation. The things I love about Autumn are mudded by the things I dread about Autumn.
The death that cold brings about is twofold. The earth retreats and withers, is cloaked bleakness and numbness, and shrouded in bitterness and dreariness. And so am I. So you can imagine that, in a time of year when I already feel lifeless, going into the last year of my 20s was an extra blow I wasn’t ready for.
But not much longer after the cold began, I could see Spring on the horizon; a new season. Turning 29 started to signify new life instead of loss…the brink of change, the first line of a new book. I started to realize that 30 isn’t old. My youth hasn’t actually escaped me, and actually, I get to begin a new decade with youth AND wisdom
hopefully. It’s like when you restart the computer: there is still life, everything starts fresh, and some things begin again with new improvements. Yesterday has been shaken off, and today is a blank slate.
The outside is deceptive in Autumn and Winter. Plants shedding their foliage is actually an act of conservation: nutrients are kept within, cell membranes are maintained, proteins are broken down and re-made. I have finally realized that the same can actually happen to me. This time of desolation is a time of refinement, the cold a preparation for warmth. 29 has been a year of internal investigation. I’ve been trying to take account of my make-up and rearrange and strive and grow.
Growth…maybe that’s it.
Maybe the pain of Winter is actually the pain of growth…growing pains. Maybe the ache of losing my exterior is actually the ache of something greater welling up within. Maybe the pain of this temporary dormancy is the pain of the dam beginning to burst from the life building up behind it…like a web of bones around my heart is coming undone*, getting me ready for the zest and bounty of warmth and Spring. Or a new decade.
So, welcome, Fall, and welcome, 30. I have to believe that joy is waiting at the end of the slumber. It HAS to be waiting. Color of a new dawn, words of a new song, life of a new season – of weather and age…all awaiting, being refined in the death that precedes them. I’m going to accept this death in light of the joy that will come because of it.
I would say that it’s appropriate that I celebrated my birthday on the first bitter day of the cold season, wouldn’t you agree? I think that evening was the impetus to me really understanding this process. Instead of glooming and dooming in the sadness around me, this year (even if I still retreat) I’m going to strive to hold onto the hope I’ll be revitalized. It’s possible to celebrate a new age in the cold, because they are both signs of something greater to come.
*This is a direct quote from a song written and performed by Audrey Assad called “New Song”. I am posting the video below if you want to take a listen. I think it goes well with this post, and possibly fills in the blanks, as this particular blog post feels a little scattered. The song might not be your taste in music, but the lyrics ring incredibly true and speak to this theory of death begetting life. It’s about the yearning for something to breathe life back into the mundane, for the things that typically bring joy but somehow seem to do be doing the opposite be renewed, that even after a difficult season, there is something greater to live and feel: a new song. Water still flows underneath a sheet of ice. Enjoy. 🙂