While my Northwest Georgia home has escaped the icy deep freeze wreaking havoc on other Southern states, it is still a cool 21 degrees this morning. My schedule is quite light due to the Pandemic. My adolescents are all at school after a 4 day weekend. Our two dogs are sleeping soundly at my feet and I am in my quiet house with only a soundtrack of a softly swishing dishwasher.
My task list today includes lots of laborious tax preparation, so I am procrastinating by thinking about the changes the last 11 months have brought to my life.
As I stare out my kitchen window at the barren branches of Winter trees, the word that seems to be rattling around in my brain this morning is dormancy. (Of course, this led me down a rabbit trail of researching middle school science facts I had long forgotten about what really happens during a period that mostly feels like a pause.)
I will spare you the whole lesson, but what struck me was the two types of dormancy: Predictive, which happens in anticipation of adverse conditions and consequential, which results from adverse conditions. As a parent of triplet teenagers during this last crazy year, I think I have experienced a double dose of dormancy caused by both the anticipation of challenges (driving, dating, college readiness, etc.) and the actual circumstances of living through 2020-21 (Covid, politics, culture wars, etc.)
I have always heard that parenting teenagers is the loneliest stage of motherhood, but doing so when usual outlets for meaningful face-to-face connection are missing adds a whole different layer. Additionally, my ability to process our challenges out loud through writing has been stifled by my desire to protect my people's stories. The last thing an adolescent needs in their tenuous growth phase is hyper analysis and play-by-play reports or veiled references on the Internet.
Add to this mix that I have a few political takes that don't fit neatly in any box and the result is feeling quite alien and increasingly unknown. The reality is that I am a communicator. I don't know how to 'be' in relationships when I can't be totally authentic. I despise the illusion of connection that happens when people cannot talk about what is really on their minds--so I have been in retreat mode. The upshot to this has been a deepening of trust with my teens, more partnership with my spouse, and increased reliance on and intimacy with the Lord.
As I reflected on all this today, I was drawn to the words of poet David Whyte:"Withdrawal can be the very best way of stepping forward and done well, a beautiful freeing act of mercy and as an art form, underestimated in this time of constant action and engagement... Withdrawal is often not what it looks like - a disappearance - no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again...
...We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice, our life as a sudden, emphatic statement, one we can recognize as our own and one from which now, we have absolutely no wish to withdraw."
-‘WITHDRAWAL’ From CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte
It seems appropriate that I am writing this on Ash Wednesday, as Lent represents the 40 days of fasting and prayer during which Jesus prepared for the next season of his ministry.
And this is why dormancy is such a hopeful word for me today--because it isn't permanent. Dormancy is a necessary phase in a healthy growth cycle. Even more exciting is the reminder of what follows dormancy--explosive growth and blooms of new life.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV