As a mom of four children, ages 10, 9, 4 and 3, one of my go-to sayings is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” When something happens that you are not prepared for, not expecting or beyond your control…remain calm and consider your response before reacting. Easier said than done, but the more we practice this, the more natural it becomes. Each life experience we endure — which likely involves change of some sort — allows us to learn and grow if we open our minds to the idea of growth.
Changes in our daily schedule occur regularly, and that’s okay. Remaining compliant and just going with it helps us have a better day and not get hung up on it. I think about my younger children who cannot yet comprehend when our plans change. It is hard for them to accept that we may end up doing something differently than we had originally planned. I can hear them now, “But Mommy! You said we could go to the park.” To which I answer, “I did say we would go to the park. That was the plan, but now brother is sick and we are not able to go today.” Despite my explanation, they are still upset because the plan was to go to the park. I comfort them and reassure them during their confusion. They eventually stop crying as they accept and trust the change.
I get it though; change is hard.
Fall is proof that change is beautiful. We’ve heard some variation of this seasonal saying to describe the shift that occurs this time of year. After all, the night sky is beautifully lit by the moon. There is a cool breeze that meets you in the morning as you rush out the door. Not to mention, those colorful leaves covering the tree branches, creating this stunning landscape around Chattanooga. So yes, while fall is proof that change is beautiful, I sometimes insert a few of my own words to describe this shift.
For example, fall is proof that change is unavoidable.
Fall is proof that change is inevitable.
Fall is proof that change is certain to happen.
Fall is proof that change is necessary.
Fall is proof that life will remind you of your loss.
Fall is proof that regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, the changes around you are beyond your control.
Admittedly, my phrases aren’t as uplifting as the initial catch phrase, but they are practical and hold great truth. While I give myself a pat on the back, saying I’m pretty adaptable (depending on the circumstances), change is sometimes tough to accept and difficult to comprehend, even as adults. When I think back to one significant change that occurred six months ago, I could not and still cannot comprehend the change of plans which occurred. Plans were made, Friday, April 29, for my mom to be in Georgia to stay with us for a few days, but instead, we sat in Kentucky at her funeral.
That was certainly not the plan. I did not like the change, but it was beyond my control.
It never fails; for the past 11 years since my dad has been gone, as summer fades into fall and fall shifts into winter, I am reminded of him. There is something about the weather changing that serves as yet another reminder of him being gone. Now, it is the first year to endure these seasonal changes without my mom. While we are talking about firsts, we might as well dive in whole-heartedly here and add this is also the first seasonal change while mourning a loss of an 11-year marriage. So many firsts.
The trigger could be those vibrant oranges, yellows, reds and purples which consume the leaves we see falling so gracefully from the trees. Maybe it is the silence of the night as I sit in wonder of the vivid moon hanging in the sky. Possibly it is the aroma, not-the-candles, but the true outdoor autumn scent that fills the air. Maybe it is the cool morning breeze hitting my skin as a reminder that I am not as numb as I thought. It is likely all these (plus more) that remind me during this time of year of loved ones, who were once such a big part of my life, the most important people who I shared these seasons with for 10, 20 and 30+ years, are no longer here.
As I sit here, I can hear the lingering sounds from one of the wind chimes we received at my mom’s funeral. Even though I can hear them and think of her each time they chime, I also would not think twice about her pulling into my driveway right now for a surprise visit because six months is entirely too long for her to go without seeing her grandchildren and her daughter.
Some days, I catch myself thinking about the last fall I had with my dad (fall 2010) and now my mom (fall 2021). They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and I couldn’t agree more. It is so easy to take those closest to you for granted; they have always been there, there’s not a day you could imagine they wouldn’t be there. I think about things I could have done differently; hugs that could have lasted a little longer, phone calls that did not have to be so rushed, things that should not have been left unsaid and other things that did not have to be said. I also think about how, if they were still here, my children would have spent part of fall break in Kentucky making memories, how my mom would be encouraging me to decorate for Christmas (she’d even drive down and string up my porch lights).
In these moments of reflection and thinking about the could have, would have, should have beens…it is all beyond my control. I am broken; I am completely broken. There are some days I don’t know how I am going to make it through. The first step is getting out of bed; I begin by putting one foot in front of another, walking through the day with as much prayer and as little expectations of others as I can, remembering life is 10% what happens and 90% my response. With everything 2022 has taken and all of the plans this year has wrecked, I feel like a child in the midst of our Heavenly Father, confused, saddened, asking why. Just as I comfort and reassure my children when things do not go as planned, I can feel His presence doing the same for me. Whether it is something so small or something life-altering, He is with us on those hard days. He will not leave us.
During this weird in-between stage, between the person I was and the person I become, I keep on keeping on (as they say). I keep showing up, I keep doing what I know I need to do for the kids. Some days, it is nothing more than going through the motions but nevertheless, I am maintaining faith that one day, on the other side of all this brokenness, pain and transformation, there will be a beautiful testimony. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I will not lose faith.