I’ve been learning a lot about stages and phases lately. By stages and phases, I mean parts of a process that will change. That will not always be the same. Not permanent states.
Some of this learning has been with my 12 year-old, enjoying his summer between sixth and seventh grade. He will be entering Jr. High in mid August. He’s not too excited about it and prefers not to talk about it. Beneath that, I’m guessing that he has a pretty natural dose of social and academic anxiety. Who will his new friends be? Will he be able to find his way around the school? Will he be accepted? Will the classes be interesting? Will he be able to keep up? He’s a bit nervous and trying to mask it by stretching these summer days into more digital gaming.
My older son, now 20, is also helping me to learn about stages and phases. He’s had some physical challenge of late that has been discouraging. Continued headaches. Some TMJ, jaw pains that impact everything. A sprained ankle that has created need for rest and caution. And, like it is for my 12 year-old, my oldest just has an evolving life that breeds some natural uncertainties and anxieties. He’s headed back to college in a month and leaning further into identifying a course of study that I hope brings some life to him.
I can feel my own shifts coming that create natural concerns, worries, and excitements. I know that I’ll be traveling a lot in the fall for several work initiatives and programs. All for good things. All with good people. And, I’ve got my own set of worries. How will this impact my family? How will I keep a rhythm of connection with my sons? With my daughter and son in-law? Who will take care of my dog, who is now approaching 14 and showing his age — will he die when I’m not here? These too are natural states of concern or worry. And to be honest, there is some depression and despair in it for me. Old, unprocessed wounds have a way of reappearing in even the best of circumstances. And that tease, even taunt, with feelings of permanence.
Our psyches are oustandingly powerful and proficient at monochroming a situation that can lead to significant despair. It’s not unusual. Lots of people experience this. It’s part of growing up and growing out. It’s part of life’s refinement. But, there are times when we can so easily convince ourselves that what is happening now is permanent. That the feeling is permanent. It will always be this way. My 12 year-old will always hate school — wouldn’t it be cool if he might thrive with the challenge and with the new friends he will inevitably meet. My 20 year-old will always have distracting and debilitating jaw pain — that’s a worry that I can see in him and in me. I believe that our psyche’s are tricksters in this way. They impose a permanence in what is much more likely to evolve. Physically. Emotionally. Intellectually. Spiritually.
Naming phases and stages has proven helpful. And it feels honest. Even when the next phase can’t be named, it’s still useful to be able to know that it won’t always stay the same. My guess is that most of us know this from a deeper place. We know it somewhere inside of us. But life circumstances have a way of steering us away from that inner wisdom.
Remember the old phrase, “Momma said there would be days like this.” True. Not a life. Just days. Stages. Phases.