“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” - Emily Dickinson
“Renewal: restore (a living thing) to a vigorous or flourishing state," also figurative, of spiritual states, souls, etc.; from re- "again" + Middle English newen, neuen "resume, revive, renew" (see new). A Latin-Germanic hybrid formed on analogy of Latin renovare. From early 15c. as "be restored, flourish once more.”
- Etymology Dictionary
Spring Equinox is here in the northern hemisphere and the word renewal has been rattling around in my being. For many springs, I would see the flowers begin to emerge and I would have grief. Grief that the world around me was returning to a vibrant state, and I inwardly was still in winter, still in the vulnerable, raw, sucking energy from the depths state. Many springs greeted me with this grief. My practice was to be tender with myself, reminding my wintering being that one day I will see the flowers emerge and the sting of their arrival would be lessened. Maybe in this moment you are a person that is hoping I say I have found myself aligned with the flowers this year, or maybe you find yourself wishing the flowers would stay hidden. But for me the deeper question is how can we honor where we are? How can we honor our own time, without society and others trying to dictate how and when we emerge renewed?
In my springtime grief, I would look at the Dickinson quote and remind myself that everyday I am newer, even if no one else could see it, heck even if I couldn’t see it. Each day, new cells would come alive in my body, each day a new thought, or a new movement. Sure, maybe it was the same old thing, but I was new because it was a new day on a planet that moves forward in the universe as well as around the sun. Newness is built into our lives on the microscopic level, and the moments when grace touched me, I tried to remember this profound simplicity of life not to move myself out of my winter but to honor the complexity that resides within.
As a society we have a habit of encouraging others to strive and live up to the potential we see in them. And while this often stems from good intentions, it can be harmful. What would it be like instead to companion someone right where they are at? Yes, to hold hope that they will renew in their own time…AND to recognize none of us know when that time is for others (and really for ourselves). And what would it be like if we didn’t internalize this need to live up to our potential? This internalized “I should be someplace else in my journey.” So much of us struggling to get to someplace else is often that voice of compulsory culture that says “we should….” My springs spent in grief would have been easier if I had not tried to meet everyone else’s needs of what I was supposed to look/act/communicate like in spring.
This spring, looking back on other springs when I have been in a more wintered place, I can see that staying more inner, more stripped down, provided me the time and space to deepen in ways I would have caused harm to myself and others if I had emerged prematurely. The last several years have stripped away compulsory timelines, so I could see for myself my own rhythm and cycles. I could see where I was constricted by outside structures, unwelcome, and in other places where I was the norm and therefore privileged.
Of course as with all spiritual initiations, sacrifice and loss color the renewal. But I remind myself what truly is to be cherished remains. And with the loss, newness has the chance to arise. To me, this is the process of our renewal, the stripping away of societal/familial/cultural "shoulds" so that we can truly see and embody ourselves. This is also the beginning of making a world that is more divergent and dynamic - where we can flourish instead of being constricted and oppressed by social structures that isolate so many of us.
So during this spring equinox, my inquiry is, “where do you find yourself at this moment of renewal?” If you find yourself “out of rhythm” with the outward season, what are ways you can assure yourself that your timing is right timing even if no one else can affirm it for you? And if you need permission (as many of us do), I honor and see you in your own season. It's ok. It's more than ok - it's natural. Take as much time and space as you need right where you are. The natural law is that seasons change, catalyst happen, and the same is true with human seasons. We will renew and emerge in our own sacred time.