September is the second January, a time for new beginnings, and also the ending of things. One has to go with the other; one in fact necessitates the other. As Jessie Harrold puts it, “while you are becoming, you are also unbecoming.” This is the dance with grief, and not being afraid to notice it in the corners of your inner dance floor.
It can be as simple as the new season meaning the end of the previous one. Where i live, that means the end of Summer and a crash into Fall. I can’t help but notice that it’s not just leaves and ripe apples that fall to the ground, but us as well, when we are faced with the reality of this change. It does come all at once. So it can be dysregulating, or at least a bit jarring, so we need to slow down and brace for it.
For those of us with school-age kids, it means the end of a summer or seasonal break. However it looked and especially if it meant a bit of ease off the routine and time off for yourself from other responsibilities. If you love Summer like i do, it also means intentionally relishing every last drop of that watermelon, the warm lake water, the fluttering of butterflies.
Not all of us have children, and yet September does mean a fresh start, whether it is for our own work or school programs, or digging up our wee gardens and their bounty. It also means preparing for the cozy season of Autumn.
I am faced with this reality of many new things at once – not just the rotation of Earth and a new season, but as a mom to teens, i now am officially a high school mom. This is a messy and pivotal practice of Radical Acceptance.
There i said it – i am a Mom of teens now. This is a new Rite of Passage of Matrescence. I was just starting to get comfortable with my role and identity as a school-age mom (and i guess i still am with an 11-year old). And yet, i am at this threshold, this sea change of not quite a high school mom, but no longer just a mom to young kids.
One thing i’m noticing is that I’m more familiar with this age because I remember my teen years more. Maybe that is what’s guiding me and also adding a bit of anticipatory worry to my body. My own teen years were not easy, and the start of high school was especially messy and jarring. So, now i need to create a Nurturing Shadow Part for my own Inner Teen who is very much present for me now. Thank-you Rachel Macy Stafford for this reframe!
When i’m faced with this crossroads, i’m using what i know about Rites of Passage to hold me. Typically, this passage is when we move from one stage of life to another. It is marked with ritual and ceremony. Or at least it is supposed to be. Our culture has lost its way in truly marking this transition. We might host gender reveal parties or proms, but that only acknowledges a part of the story. We need to honour all three stages, otherwise our leap into the new experience can feel untethered and overwhelming. And, if we stay stuck in grieving what was, we can spiral into a felt sense of suffering in our mourning. It becomes more than just the understandable period it is meant to be. We resist the inevitable – the only constant is change.
So, we need to honour the Separation from what we were. That can be in ceremony or ritual. We need to say goodbye. We also need to learn what we need to hold us in the Transition. A map, an elder, a book of common humanity. And we can’t forgo the right we have to be honoured in the Integration. A lot of us get lost in the first 2 steps that we either miss the integration of this new phase in our life, or we don’t become the butterfly at all.
I already had my graduation and experience, and yet it hurts all over again – because it wasn’t held in its fullness. My path on the journey into high school is long over. This is their story now, their growth. Their Graduation comes with honouring endings first. We can’t celebrate until we grieve and close what was, even if it wasn’t always good and roses.
All Endings come with Beginnings
We cannot just jump into this new phase of life, and take it for granted. We do need to grieve or at least say bye to what we are separating from. That’s one reason why i wanted to be a part of my kid’s graduation ceremony planning committee – to honour this transition for them, and to also ensure that ritual and ceremony was bought into it. So, i lead the students in some gentle ritual and ceremony. They have been together for 10 years and i felt this was important to be honoured. We tied string together to connect them, and they all shared kind words about each other. We danced, we sang, and we ate – all good party necessities.
We are both going through our own journey of life, in parallel moving forward direction. One thing i had to reckon with is that my path is a few cycles up the mountain. Whereas they are at the mere precipice of this Hereo’s Journey. That’s why i’m so grateful there are elders to guide us both, to offer a map and lightpost. One such reference is Bill Plotkin’s work on the Five Phases of the Descent to Soul. Our Soul Journey includes Preparation, Dissolution, Soul Encounter, Metamorphosis, Enactment. Knowing there is a map or process helps us feel less alone in the unknown version of our own personal story.
Rachael Maddox does a wonderful job explaining this model in terms of the entry into motherhood HERE. She calls it the Motherverse: the transition and integration of becoming someone entirely new, in this case a mother. In my own work with Kimberly Ann Johnson and the MotherCircle program, this concept is incorporated into the arc of transitioning into motherhood and integrating this identity into all of me.
Rites of passage don’t have to be reserved only for the major stages of life like graduating from university, marriage or childbirth. Any change from a stage in our life is a paradox of no longer being something and not quite being something entirely new yet. It is the fine balance of both/and AND ALSO neither/or. When we honour the initiatory process of transformation, it gives our Soul the gift of maturation.
When i come back to my core values as a mom, these are my guideposts – i may not be there to stop the hurt from happening, but a core value of mine is to be present to love and guide them in ways they need (rather than how i might have needed it). This reframe comes from my Inner Nurturer, the one who holds space for my Wounded Teen.
I am initiating myself into this stage of Motherhood and life. So, as life itself is a living ceremony, i thought it was the perfect time to get a tattoo. Ritual and ceremony are so important to me, and i was pondering how to mark this transition. My youngest kid declared ‘about time, Mom!’ when i told them. And, i do find it a fitting marker – not only am i now a teen mom, i am also entering a new stage in my own life maturation process. But i’m saving that for next month’s journal entry!
I am casting a vision of the future, or at least this first year of high school for my oldest kid. We don’t have to have it all figured out just yet – we are a mere 3 weeks into our chapter of high school. Knowing that there are stages to a Rite of Passage gives me grace – i literally have a grace period before either one of us “has to” integrate and accept this new identity.
When we know that it takes time to transition into something new, this gives us agency and also self-compassion to let the feelings of grief and separation linger. It’s when we get stuck in the grief that it can turn into suffering.