The Spice of Life

The Spice of Life

Recently, I was asked if I would like to help with a group of teen girls in our church. Apparently, they have a younger group leader, but needed a second leader that was – as she put it – “someone more seasoned.”

That made me chuckle. You season a pot roast, not a woman.

I remember thinking, my mother used to refer to menopausal women going through the ‘change of life’ as women in their season. That conjured up images of hot flashes, Geritol commercials and gray hair….

What does it mean exactly, to be seasoned? My immediate thought was old. I don’t feel that old, but teenage girls probably think I’m old. When I was a teenager, I thought 30 was old. So in their eyes, I’m probably ancient!

One definition I found on the internet about a seasoned person:

“They have lots of experience, and they can handle just about anything that comes their way. To become seasoned takes a long time, because it means you are an old pro — someone who has dedicated years to a specific skill or activity.”

Experience, expertise, old pro, they’ve dedicated years to something…..

What have I dedicated years to? I’ve dedicated years to living as a woman, and all that entails, in this crazy world. Growing up, marriage, motherhood, career and just trying to figure out life in general. Fifty years to be exact. I guess that qualifies me as seasoned. Hmmmm…. still not sure how I’m feeling.

The way I see it, a seasoned person is just a person who has “been there, done that.” I’ve already walked on the road you are traveling on, therefore,  perhaps I may have some words of wisdom to offer. Guidance from someone who has already experienced more of life. Someone who has made mistakes and can empathize, or guide your path away from those mistakes, because of my experience. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

In my 50 years, I have experienced a variety of things. The good, the bad and the ugly. I like to think I’ve had a really good life. However, I have experienced plenty of bad things too – life isn’t always easy. Here’s the thing, when you take all of your life experiences and blend them together, it’s the way you’ve handled them and what you’ve learned from them, that make you into the person you are. Is who you are something you can offer to others? It can be a blessing to them if you can encourage them through the wisdom you have gained. I have learned a lot from older and wiser  women in my life and I am grateful for them.

Each experience is kind of like a different spice; some are savory, some may be bitter and some are sweet. But when you mix those flavors together – voila! – the perfect combination of seasoning! One spice alone makes a bland dish, but many flavors together create a masterpiece!

BAM!

Well, there you go. I guess you could call me a ‘seasoned’ woman. Just don’t put a fork in me yet, as I am far from done. I may need another pinch of salt from time to time….

***********************************************************************

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” 

~Psalm 34:8

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

~Mathew 5:13

February

February

February is the month I love to hate.

February sits smack dab in the middle of winter, when the skies are grey, the trees are bare and it’s cold outside. You go to work when it’s dark and come home when it’s dark. No neighbors are outside to chat with, the kids are bored inside and although the days are short, they seem to drag on and on….

Every year for the past 15 years, I brace myself for the arrival of February. Chelsea, my beloved daughter, passed away on February 10, 2001. It was only 15 days before her 10th birthday. So every year, in February, I celebrate her life, and mark her death. You would think that after 15 years it would get easier. Some years have been easier than others, but when you lose a child, the heartbreak never truly goes away. Yes, you learn to live with it. You learn to smile and laugh again. There is even joy to be found, but when thoughts drift to her, it’s just…hard. Would it be different had she died in the spring? I doubt it, but mid-winter only exacerbates the emotion that is as grey as the sky.

What should I do on February 10th? Some years I’ve taken off work, stayed under the covers and wished it would all go away. Pity parties don’t help, but sometimes the tears just fall regardless of how hard you try to not let them. Other years, I try to celebrate her life, remembering the good times and how sweet she was. I can look at pictures and watch home movies, but still the tears…. Sometimes we’ve gone on an adventure she would have enjoyed. Another year I was on a business trip and was so busy that I didn’t remember until I wrote the date. I almost panicked. It made me feel like a terrible mother. Then my own mother called to check on me and I broke down into a million pieces.

I used to struggle with terrible depression in the winter. One doctor diagnosed me with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. He suggested I try light therapy. I diagnosed myself with SAD, but I was just that, ‘sad.’

Then there’s February 25th, Chelsea’s birthday. This year she would be turning 25. That’s hard to imagine… This day is a little easier. We always get a cake, sing happy birthday, then write messages on balloons and let them go. I love to see what Ethan and Charlotte, (my son and daughter who came after Chelsea passed away) say and write to her. They never knew her, but she is every bit a sister to them as Ashley, my oldest daughter. They talk about her like they did know her. Hopefully, because we all have talked about her so much over the years that they feel like they do. I love when they ask questions about her.

Now when the holidays are over, and we round the corner into the new year, I see it looming in the distance. I know it’s coming and I try not to fear or dread it. It’s a time to remember Chelsea and celebrate the life she lived. I don’t make any definite plans as to what I’ll do or how I’ll feel, because every year is different. Awareness and acceptance of my feelings is what has made the difference. It’s okay to feel sadness and even pain, because even though it hurts, it is part of healing. The most important thing is to let yourself feel – all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. Grief is a process and there is no time limit. It really never actually ends.

The best part is that after February is over, spring arrives. A renewal and rebirth of life. The trees bloom and the sun comes out and life is new all over again. I take a deep breath and know it’s going to be okay. My joy and hope is in knowing that I’ll see her again one day. So, until then, I will remember her with a smile, (and most likely a tear) and live my life to the fullest, experiencing as much joy as I can along the way.

chelsea1
My little monkey Abu!