A friend once quoted some of the best advice she was ever given, and it has turned out to be some of the best advice I've ever gotten, too. I've since heard it quipped by dozens of other care-worn but still smiling women in my life.
"It's only a season."
In other words, nothing lasts forever. Sicknesses, up-all-nights with babies, jobs that keep husbands out until all hours of the night, horrendous class schedules, financial trouble...it's all just a season. Most everything eventually passes and changes.
I once sat on a bus across Ireland chatting for hours with an elderly woman next to me. Her Irish accent was enchanting, but so were her stories. She had gathered her stories under her for 70-some-odd years, and she gave them out like cookies to eager hands. We chatted about family and last names and life in general. I was a 22-year-old, starry-eyed, college graduate with a whole life in front of me and in love to boot. She was well-traveled and well-seasoned, had raised the children and loved the husband and worked hard the jobs she'd had.
I remember her mentioning that while she'd lived in or near Dublin most all her life, she and her family had lived for a few years in London. I was struck by how, in the vast space her life had filled, those few years seemed so minuscule. She mentioned them so off-handedly, as if those "few years" were so fast and ultimately affected very little. I had just finished four of the best years of my life, ones that had seemed so long and so short at the same time. I felt like everything was huge and a year felt like an eternity, no matter how quickly it passed.
Her words made me realize that maybe a few years of something, whether it's being away from someone you love or having a job that's awful or pursuing some degree or anything else in life that can feel like an insurmountable mountain really maybe isn't so huge and awful in the grand scope of life.
Each season of life certainly changes us, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I've learned though, in the some of the darker parts, to take a deep breath and remind myself, "This is only a season." On days this past year when I was home alone for 14 hours on end, I knew that (eventually) my husband would come home. I knew that (soon) grad school would be over and he would be home more. I knew that (one day) we would be a little more financially secure. Those reminders helped me make it through those harder days, and guess what? That part of our lives is over now, we're better for it, and we have new joys and challenges peppering our path.
Having a child was what really helped me see the brevity of seasons. Folks often quip to young, bleary-eyed parents that "this too shall pass." Me? I don't want this to pass. I love these tiny days, I love the newness of each special moment seen through the eyes of a happy baby. This is a season that I wish I could keep forever. Even in all of that good stuff though some days do get long and tiring, or different life challenges or frustrations arise. On those days I have to remind myself (again) that these baby days are so fleeting. In spite of what life throws at us, this is a joyful season that will be gone just as fast as any other. Then I need to stop and soak it in and enjoy life to the full instead of getting wrapped up in those other messes or frustrations.
I know too, that eventually the tides will change. Our season of life will pass from these precious baby days. We'll face something else big, but I'll keep reminding myself "it's only a season," and that no matter how hard or awful it is, there will be goodness there too.