Like the birth of all new things, spring is born on the undulating waves of contrast: the expansion of warm, sunny days followed by the contraction of grayness and snow. She arrives resplendent in her scarves that speak of freshness and possibility, then retreats behind clouds and drifts of winter. She is, of course, the consummate symbol of the rebirth for all psychological transitions, so as I watch her birthing herself I think of my own births and the births of my clients.
Last week I worked with a woman whom I had counseled through her wedding transition last fall. She’s been married for several months now and has found herself feeling restless lately for a change, aching for something new. At first she thought the restlessness was related to her marriage, but quickly realized that, while an easy target for her projection, it had nothing to do with her husband. I explained to her that, while the engagement is time for letting go and grieving as she separated from the old lifestyle, fantasies, and identity, the first year of marriage is a time of expansion and possibility where the newly married often find that aspects of the old life just don’t fit anymore. She quickly admitted that she hates her job and knows that it’s time to leave. It’s a comfortable job in that she’s been there for many years, but it’s constricting her to the point where she dreads going to work each day. It’s clearly time for her to move on, to ride the wave of rebirth initiated by her transition – and serendipitously supported by spring – and pursue work that will bring her joy.
I think about the birth of my two sons and how they each birthed me as a mother. I think about the emotional/psychological contractions and expansions I experienced as I rode the waves of the pregnancies that culminated in the birth of my mother-identities (mother of one then mother of two), and the physical contractions and expansions as I birthed my babies into the world. The births – both metaphoric and literal – couldn’t happen without the shedding of the old life, the shedding of blood and sleep and water, the profound letting go of the old self, the cutting of the umbilical cord. And only when I fell massively in love with the miracle of each child did all of that grieving and sacrifice make sense.
I think about my 5 year old birthing himself into a big boy, how he teeters between big boy and little boy, regressing into a fetal position then carrying himself with the maturity of a young man. As I watched his face falling into sleep tonight, something in his features had shifted into an older stage and I could see him at 20, handsome and fully formed. But just hours earlier, after he suffered a small scratch on his arm, he cried so hard his lips were quivering. I watched him whimpering in my husband’s arms and thought, “He needs to be small right now. He doesn’t know how to be a big boy yet.” He was retreating and needed to retreat so that tomorrow he can practice being big again: holding his baby brother’s hands as he learns how to walk, protecting him from “chokables”, inventing elaborate games as we walk along the creek where spindly branches are secret keys and owls have left infrared recipes written onto the surface of stones.
I watch spring’s birth with awe each day, and I have to wonder: Do the daffodil bulbs and violet seeds quiver with restlessness as they wait to be born? Do they sit in that unknown place of stillness that precedes the brave birth of something new? Do they wait in the dark underground unknown, wondering if they can survive that adventurous leap into the light?