The cherry blossom festival in Washington DC is in full swing. Having suffered the cold of winter, the trees began to bud in early March and with some warmer weather, the famed cherry trees will be in glorious bloom for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 13.
Long before Mother’s Day, the trees will lose their blossoms to make way for the fresh green leaves that will feed the tree through summer and prepare it to survive the next winter.
We all experience seasons in our lives. Our lives suddenly turn cold with grief or hardship, or gradually chill over time under a sustained assault of addiction or neglect for ourselves.
Eventually, through our own courage and an intentional journey of personal growth, spring always comes. As the wounds heal and the scars form, we begin to emerge from our winter and experience a period of reblooming. We may be permanently altered by irreversible damage or changes in our lives or to our bodies. We may forever struggle against an addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex or other life-sappers, but we have the tools to maintain an upper hand. If ours has been a winter of silent neglect, we learn how to again speak for ourselves and to insist that others listen to us.
As spring follows winter, so too does summer follow spring and we learn to get on with the business of living with our new normal. We again nurture ourselves and fill our role in the social ecosystem of our community.
When we’re watching others else experience a season of winter, we can draw upon our own experiences, recalling to ourselves how we felt in a similar situation or using our imagination to put ourselves in their place and gain some sense of how we might feel if their circumstances were our own. When we can do that, we are able to express our empathy with them for their hardship. In those cases when we have no such experiences from which to draw and cannot fuel our imagination, we can express our sympathy for them by acknowledging their emotional hardships.
Warmer weather alone does not bring spring and then summer to the cherry trees, the trees do their part. So too is it with us. It takes our own courage and actions to make the journey from our emotional winter into spring and from spring to summer.
Words of empathy or sympathy gently warm the spirit of one in winter and can bring a glimmer of hope for a future spring. We must choose our words carefully, offer our help judiciously, and be willing to let spring come in its own time. We cannot hurry the journey.
And, spring always follows winter.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: We all experience seasons of winter. When winter comes to a loved one, we use empathy and sympathy to acknowledge their current circumstances and give support to their journey towards spring. Whether the journey is ours or theirs, it has its own timetable and cannot be hurried to suit others.