summer’s done, fall’s begun, what’s next?

end of summer SOM

Well, I had yet another crappy summer. Even as I type, I feel very weary of writing about this topic of loss again…but I always feel like I gain new insights.

Ever since I was about 16 or so, I haven’t really had the best summers. That first bad summer, my mom went to Ghana for the first time since she had immigrated to the States. But that meant my summer trip with my youth group was scuttled–even though I had planned that way before she thought of her trip.

Her trip was about six weeks long. Mine would have been two. I didn’t think my dad and brother would have been helpless without either of us. But I remember the one time I went to the grocery store by myself–that was the only real thing I did to keep the family going, something my father could have easily done.

I basically had fallen into the role of eldest daughter in an African family. I was the de facto matriarch of the family without any of the benefits. I wouldn’t learn of these expectations until last Mother’s Day when someone tweeted Happy Mother’s Day to women like me.

And almost 25 years later, that still stings mainly because I didn’t know of the cultural expectations that had been placed on me. And, well, as much therapy and time have done to heal a lot of the wounds that come with having two narcissistic parents, there are moments when you can see how your trajectory was thwarted–even if it was for some trip so you could spend time with your beloved youth pastor before he moved away to Virginia.

As I grew up, there seemed to be less and less time and space for fun, for just taking an unrestricted breath.

This summer, even though my life has been circumscribed by not having enough to even go to the movies or strike out to meet new friends, I really wanted to have a great summer.

I burned candles during the Summer Solstice and the full moon in Capricorn.

The evil roommate finally left.

I had found a pretty good business coach to barter my writing services for her coaching services.

I had picked up extra work from a client.

A marketing agency found me to do some work at a price that I set.

I met some new interesting people online, including some foreign guy that I had a crackling month with.

I ghostwrote an op-ed and got paid really well for it.

I had started to consistently reach out to businesses and organizations for my work.

And then things started to unravel.

I lost that client I had extra work from.

I had to fire another client because they didn’t respect the value of my work.

That guy and I parted way in a really ugly, dramatic fashion.

Prospecting clients hasn’t netted anything yet.

The marketing agency respected my rate so much, they decided not to give me work this month based on a lower rate. But that also meant no work this month.

Summer is my favorite season, yet it often seems to be tinged with disappointment and loss, to the point I’m just glad it’s all over.

I live in a state where even being out in summer is just too hot. I didn’t really go out and do anything fun–nor did I have the money to do so.

At this point, I’m just fortunate to have a roof over my head, and I am grateful for that.

I am grateful that for most of the summer, it was peaceful living here.

So now, it is autumn, which doesn’t mean much right now in Florida except right now, there are a lot of lovebugs, which means if you have a car, your paint job is being pummeled by this acidic, horny bastards.

They’re all on my window, mostly in their butt-to-butt mating pairs. Or, they’re flying the air in hordes.

I didn’t think asking for a good summer was such a big ask, but apparently it was. The real good that came out of it wasn’t what I asked for–per usual.

What I have wanted more than financial support was consistent emotional support. So when I don’t get that, it makes me wonder, even just for a second, is something wrong with me? Why can’t I have good friends like I’ve had before? Why is addressing my pain seemingly like a bother to other people when I show up and check in on them?

It’s just like that unknown yet demanded expectation of being an eldest daughter in an African family. People rely on you to be there for them–because you’re so good at truly caring for them. But they don’t necessarily care about how you’re doing, or at least in the same capacity and intensity.

It’s a way that The Golden Rule seems to backfire. It’s not done out of anger or malice. It’s an oversight, a backhanded compliment to your resilience.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized and appreciated for you who are.

And what looms larger is that was my desire when I came to grad school, a desire unfulfilled and smeared with betrayal. I had wanted to find my people, but I found a long, mostly solitary, spiritual journey of transformation instead.

I keep looking back at my journey, just in Florida, and cringing. Even though I know so much has changed in my character for the better, it’s like being a piece of marble, chipped and chiseled away. I can’t see what’s going on, just pieces of marble flying off and away.

The thing is, I’m not festering in pain right now. I feel rather solid, which is in deep contrast to how I felt just two weeks ago–alone, frightened, and frustrated.

I felt great firing that client, even though it took a big leap of faith to say yes to my work’s value–and my value.

The ache that is here and now is how do I make sense of the past six years? What are the other stories, the redemptive threads, I’m not seeing?

And then even going further back to my 1995–how can I redeem that time, too? What is the bigger story that isn’t marred with hurt, anguish, looming depression, and disappointment?

Sure, there’s some societal pressure to put some big red bow on this harrowing story of mine. But as I’ve been kind of moaning about for the past few weeks and months, I want the story to change, too.

I wish there was comfort knowing that, as much shame and anguish that I feel, I should also be feeling proud of my countless feats of survival. And I do.

Part of that change in my story is continuing to let things hurt so I can heal. I can’t speed past this part–where I have to, primarily alone, deal with and accept all that has happened.

Grief takes as long as it takes.

But just when I think I’m OK, I get pulled back into the past.

Last week, I was talking to an old online friend from my college days about how I was depressed back then, and I thought I was OK about how college turned out. But that still stings, too. It took eight years to finish.

I could focus on the ending, that I finished–as so many people want me to when I tell this story. The story is definitely one of ultimate triumph. But again, like grad school, I was looking for my people–and I had actually found them this time.

But due to nonpayment of my tuition (because my family’s financial and legal upheaval), I wasn’t allowed to return for my senior year and lost pretty much all of my friends. And that’s the part that still hurts–not even the time that it took to finish.

The theme of connection and disconnection is a big one in my life, and I’m just exhausted. It really shouldn’t be this hard to connect to like-minded people, right?

So what’s next? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a business opportunity that seems promising, but I don’t want to deal with the roller coaster of my hopes being raised and dashed.

Still, things are turning around? I guess?

Whatever happens, the burdens of misery and dread are now going to be laid down, that I can find some sort of empowerment in how I feel about my life, even if it feels like circumstances have continually clipped my wings.

So ultimately–this isn’t about money, and it never really has been. It’s been about people.

As we’re in Libra season now (Happy Fall or Spring!), I feel that pull to keep calling in my peeps. I have to remind myself that I haven’t changed so much that I don’t deserve real, tangible support.

It’s almost like being gaslit by life’s circumstances–if you don’t receive the things you need for an extended amount of time, you start to think you don’t deserve them.

When I was talking to that old friend about college, I was reminded of how supported I was, even in the darkest moments of my life as I suffered from clinical depression.

I’m sad I don’t have that sort of support now. It was support I took for granted.

Doing life by yourself isn’t how life is supposed to be lived, and yet that’s what’s happened for me for a good while now. And whether that’s made me a stronger person or not, I’ve lived off of veritable scraps and crumbs of human connection.

And that’s not a healthy diet.

So, as heavy as this hope is to find my people, I have to keep carrying it.

I must remind myself that although I’m highly resilient and adaptable, it’s OK to want to be around others even if I’m unable to be right now.

It’s OK to give voice to that grief, even if the grief is persistent, even if the grief rankles myself and anyone who reads this post.

It’s OK to keep trying to bravely and openly make sense of my life.

I have to remain positive that things will eventually work out, especially because the human brain attenuates to things that are bad because that’s a survival mechanism.

So if I have to fight my own biology and societal mores, just so I can find true joy and be at peace, then I will fight on.

I’ll end with this tweet from Dr. Elliot Adam, a tarot reader. It’s his tarot card of the day reading, about the Wheel of Fortune. He talks about how you should be in the inner hub of the wheel, where you are not as affected by the outer rim of life’s circumstances.

My hope is that in every blog post I’ve written here, in every conversation I’ve had, in every prayer I’m whispered or thought, in every meditation I’ve had, this has been a steady progression to the inner hub of life.

And as tired as I am of tending to my wounds, of even discussing my wounds, I am not my wounds. I am the person being healed.

So I had another shitty summer, but I am ready for the harvest and abundance of fall.

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A Season for Oranges

orange-tree-1057334

Orange tree by Herman Brinkman

I would put an epigraph of Ecclesiastes 3 up here, to be all dramatic and pensive, but I’ll just link it here. How’s that for anti-dramatic?

This little, or not-so-little, meditation stems from a convo I had with an astrologer about another topic that I desperately want to write about–the prosperity gospel–but I need to write that like it’s an actual for real essay–research stuff. Ironically, being underemployed makes it tough to have a focused amount of time to do that. Less time = more focused time? I guess so.

So, oranges. It’s wintertime in Florida, so since November, the citrus season has been well underway. I have an 8lb bag of navel oranges…from California. Before, I had some ruby red grapefruit and navels from Florida–for once! Usually, our state gives the rest of you our good stuff; and we get, I guess, California’s good stuff. I never understood that, but that’s commerce!

I remember being in junior high at my Christian school, selling boxes of grapefruit and oranges. I hated going door-to-door selling anything–it has never been my bag. But I had always wondered why we did this in the fall. Now I know. It’s the season.

Maybe it’s through some wicked marketing that I’m too lazy to research, but I always associate oranges with the summer. But citrus time is really wintertime. After May, we’re kinda done here, and then we get dusty oranges from South America that taste funny and not ripe. We’re also kinda addicted to having orange juice 24/7, so you’ll see oranges around all year long.

And it’s weird and unnatural. And you can taste it.

My favorite fruit of all time is the Rainier cherry. Named after Mount Rainier in Washington State, these hybridized cherries–a combo of Bing cherries and Van cherries–are sweeter than a typical cherry, and are red and yellow in color.

I actually got into Ranier cherries because of some slick marketing. I was shopping in a Jewel grocery store in Chicago years ago, and in the produce section, there was a video playing about these delectable delights–about how if you see them go brown a little bit, that’s the sugar. Ever since then, I buy them every summer. I can easily eat a pound of them in one sitting.

This fruit, though, has a very short season. Even that site says that the season lasts from May – August (May for California, June-early August for Washington), but it seems like just one random month and then they are gone. It’s a true summer fruit. You’ll see other types of cherries out for longer periods, but this one is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it phenomenon. So, I buy them every chance I can. You’ll never see Rainier cherries outside of the summer months. You rarely see stone fruits like plums and peaches, as well as other berries, outside of the summer months as well.

As Americans, we sometimes have fallen out of step with the earth’s calendar, of what the earth can yield to us at what times. If you see orange juice on the shelf all the time, you’ll forget that oranges are really a wintertime fruit. Wintertime is also a root vegetable season, but we usually see them all the time, too.

Because we now live in a global economy, we can take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s wintertime, along with shipping methods, and feed our orange juice addiction all year round. That goes for oranges, too.

But still. It doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t taste like the sweetness of a Florida winter.

This was one long preamble to how I’ve been feeling lately about my own life, and how out of step I’ve been with what I’ve been able to yield from my own earth. It also ties into that prosperity gospel mess, too, but I’ll touch on that a little bit.

As a child of the winter, being a Capricorn, I feel like I’ve lived through a very long winter of the soul, where everything looks seemingly dead, fallow, quiet.

I may have realized, through exhaustion, that I’m not in the season of Rainier cherries just yet. I have oranges. And tangerines. And tangelos. And grapefruit. But no cherries or any sort from any location.

It’s the same story I’ve been telling for months and months and years and years. It’s the same story that ends up in my dreams.

I want to be there, but I am here. I can’t get from here to there. I keep getting lost or stalled or abandoned.

There’s been a bit of shame with this. I feel like I should be in some certain place in my life. I should be having Rainier cherries right now. And that gets into the abundance mindset a bit, that you should have money and wealth all the time. There are no seasons of saving and harvesting and planting. It’s just harvest all day every day. Even astrology can show you that there are times to plant (new moons) and times to release (full moons).

You can’t have good oranges all year and you can’t have Rainier cherries all year, let alone all summer. It’s weird. It’s unnatural. And you can taste it.

Yesterday, I saw news that my Capricorn college roomie got a huge promotion in her job in municipal government. Not to blow up her spot (although this was in the news), but it’s a six-figure position. She’s been working in public service for at least over a decade. She’s made her steady sea goat way up the mountain as her former boss has gone onto another position at the state level.

The comparison game is a scary one, and I have been trying not to play it. I don’t want her job. I know I’m a writer. And, I know what I do want–stability: in relationships, in finances, in housing, in everything. I want to be a happy Cappy, not a sullen, bitter one.

But summer isn’t here yet. Even if I get some sort of heat wave, even if I get to feel the stirring of the earth within me, waiting to sprout new and exciting things in my life–it’s still winter. And I have oranges. And clementines. And tangelos. And grapefruit. Even though all I really and truly want are Rainier cherries.

I’ve been in a citrus season for a while. I haven’t been grateful for it, either. I’m tired of trying to create new ways to eat all these types of citrus fruits.

But, this is the energy I have to work with. I can’t necessarily extend this metaphor into what my oranges are–

  • Freelance gigs that pay horribly, maybe?
  • Online friendships that I rely on a lot.

But I do know that if things aren’t changing as quickly as I want them to, then it really is a season.

I can’t “manifest” cherries out of season, no matter how much I positively think about it. I can’t plant azaleas in alkaline soil. I can’t plant bougainvillea in Chicago.

Like with my job search. I was lucky to have gotten a couple of phone interviews in the fall as I did. I met with a recruiter on Monday who told me that his clients were in a wait-and-see mode because of the presidential elections.

Now January is starting to pick up. He feels like he should get me something within the month. It feels promising, but I only have known oranges for so long. It’s hard to think that the seasons do change.

With the Mercury retrograde energy, which is now in a shadow period since Mercury went back direct on January 8th, I had been thinking about that engineer I met back at my last full-time gig. I never got to say thank you for his kindness towards me. As a Capricorn, I usually like to cut to the chase and just ask people out–why waste time with games? But that can be perceived as being pushy (especially as a woman).

My real agenda was to express gratitude, something I should have done before I left, but whatever–gender role confusion, etc etc etc. Although I didn’t even say, “I hope to see you soon” or “let’s hang out sometime”–I’m not stupid: I did slip my business card in there. Whatever happens, though–at least writing that thank you note and mailing it off yesterday feels like a push towards summer, let alone springtime.

The energy, though, still feels like I should be waiting. And I have cabin fever.

Also–sidenote: I’ve gotten a little more used to rejection. I’m surprised that I’m not taking it as personally anymore. I think they call that growth. I’m realizing that I do have to be like everyone else and painstakingly, but respectfully, weed through people.

An adage I’ve been using with love and with money: whatever is meant for me will not pass me by. I’ve had to cling to that this month as the circumstances in my life look bleak and shaky.

Things are slow, period. There are no flash-bang episodes of brilliance or help or connection. I’m not used to the pace–yes, even as a Capricorn who took extra time to graduate from college and grad school. And maybe that’s why–everything feels late, almost like an out-of-season orange. But it’s what’s on the calendar of my life.

At the same time, the urgency there isn’t necessarily bad. Things are maybe starting to thaw out. Maybe seeds are sprouting underground and I can’t see them yet. Still, fighting against the orange tree, shaking it and hoping cherries will fall from it, is stupid and desperate. And that’s part of my exhaustion right there.

How can I be thankful for the season I’ve been in for years? What fruits have I been enjoying? What have I been ignoring that can still provide me nourishment and comfort? Am I ready for summer? Is summer ready for me?

These questions need answers, and as I look at today’s unyielding medium grey skies–I don’t know all the answers yet. Maybe with time and distance, I’ll appreciate what seems to be a rather fallow period in my life.

The impatience of 39 years and counting is valid, but it needs to be harnessed and channeled into something a little more productive than trying to change the season.

Maybe it can be cultivated into a joyful anticipation instead of hate and derision and shame. But even that process takes time–the process to realize that good things take time to grow and mature. It’s a time to meta-wait.

Spirit is still speaking, still supporting, still guiding. I pull tarot and oracle cards and see my journey reflected back to me. It’s comforting as I take a deep breath and try to see my circumstances as temporary.

The urgency may be the energy of the changing seasons itself. Things are already changing, but not as quickly as I would like. It’s OK for me to want to leave the orange groves of Florida and head up to Washington for a cherry festival. It’s also OK that it’s not yet time to take that cross-continental trip.

It’s OK to say “yay, you!”  and celebrate successes of my friends. But it’s also OK to say, “I’ve got next.” and wait for my bowl of Rainier cherries.

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