How To Navigate Seasons of Change

A mound of sand in the desert

I think my aversion to change began when I was 17 years old. Before that age, I had everything under control or at least I felt like I did. I had a carefully thought-out roadmap for my life. If I just followed it and executed it, then I would arrive at my destination as planned—such understandably naïve thinking for a small town girl with big dreams. 

I remember sitting in my antique bedroom whose walls knew every daydream and nightmare the summer before college held. As sounds from the “Number One Station for Hip Hop and R&B” played in the background, my mind over-thought my plan for the next four years, only to be interrupted by the unmistakable rasp of Lyfe Jennings’s voice on the radio.

“There’s only two things in life that are constant. That’s change and change.”

I immediately turned off the radio. 

The song itself, titled “Never Never Land,” is actually about a man who finally embraces a mature love, but whatever. I didn’t care. That line triggered me, for whatever reason, and I’d heard enough. Perhaps, this natural reaction foreshadowed what was to come for me: a decade (and then some) worth of running from seasons of change. 

Before my mom died, I saw change as a series of manageable events that didn’t necessarily have to change the life trajectory of my life. I could control the effects and consequences of change. It was a selfish lens to view life through, but it worked at the time.   

At 18, my mom’s death introduced me to my first real season of change. I couldn’t control this—not the pain, not the way I experienced grief, nor the time it would take me to accept the reality that I would never see her or hear her voice again.

I couldn’t control this—not the pain, not the way I experienced grief, nor the time it would take me to accept the reality…

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control this. So, I ran. I pretended she was on an island with no access to mobile devices. When I felt called to rise to a challenge that I thought I wasn’t ready for, I ran in the opposite direction. When my mental health began to decline, I ran to the arms of the wrong people and to spaces that didn’t serve me. 

Eventually, my legs began to give. I had to ask myself, what good did running actually do? It offered a false sense of control, prolonged the inevitable pain that comes with healing and created unhealthy coping mechanisms. Running was fear disguised as control. At 29, faced with a new season of change characterized by loss and new beginnings, I decided to try something new. 

What good did running actually do? Running was fear disguised as control.

I paused. I felt. I listened. I moved with the current of change instead of fighting against it. I released control and opened myself to the effects of growth, pain and the joy of embracing change. At this very moment, I sit in a new bedroom, whose walls know my new nightmares and evolved daydreams, staring 30 right in her eyes and daring her to ask me that question. The one that I’ve avoided answering for all of my 20s. 

How do you navigate seasons of change? 

Now, I know that I don’t. But I’m human. So, I’ll say that I try my hardest not to navigate change. 

By definition, to navigate means “to operate or control the course of.” As hard as you may try—and believe me, I’ve tried—you cannot control seasons of change nor the residual effects. Not even the most carefully thought-out plan can equip you for where a season of change takes you mentally, physically and emotionally. 

You cannot control seasons of change nor the residual effects.

There is no right or wrong way to move through seasons of change. No one has the blueprint. We’re all figuring it out as we go, and what works for me may or may not work for you. However, trust yourself and the timing of your life. Let that be your guide. 

How have you learned to navigate seasons of change? How has running from change impacted you in the past?

Image via Judith Pavón Sayrach

Darling Letters: Disappointment Is A Comma, Not a Period

A woman's hands as she writes inside a magazine, one page with a large comma and the other with writing

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

After a long day of frantically refreshing my inbox, I finally got a response, but it was not the one I was hoping for.

Waitlisted.

The small, Arial text seemed as though it spoke in all caps. It felt as if the short message punctuated a dream of acceptance into the program and the subsequent joy that I anticipated. 

It felt as if the short message punctuated a dream of acceptance into the program and the subsequent joy that I anticipated. 

The immediate disappointment that followed this email seemed like confirmation that dreaming and hoping for something that was not immediately within reach was not viable nor worth it. In an ongoing season replete with dissolved dreams, this seemed like another reason to see the present moment as one of isolation disconnected from the future.

However, to dream is to realize that what you see is not all there is and is not all there will be. In doing this, we take stock of the state of things around us while also allowing ourselves to long for something better. When disappointment comes, we can try to suppress our dreams as “outlandish” or “unattainable,” or instead, we can discern a healthy discontent for the present moment while still creating new aspirations for the future.

May we see interruptions to our dreams as commas, not periods. Dream on (even when it’s hard).

To dream is to realize that what you see is not all there is and is not all there will be. 

Sincerely,
Sam Miller, the Darling family

Is there any disappointment in your life that is causing you to feel disillusioned? How can we continue to dream in the midst of disappointment?

Image via Tony Li

How to Analyze, Tear Down and Rationalize the False Narratives We Believe

A black and white photo of a woman standing near the ocean with her hair blowing in the wind

Every word and sentence that people say about themselves tells an enduring and more consistent story of how they perceive and experience life. For example, if someone refers to others as “stupid” and then utters painful stories where they expose ideas of their own worthlessness, it begins to shape a narrative of the way that person suffers.

This person may see things in a depressed light. He or she may believe that life only deals a poor hand of cards, that nothing good could be dealt and that life is meaningless. However, such statements begin to shape a pattern of one’s reality, whether the person is aware of it or not. 

A key to transformation begins with perception. Perception uses the faculties of the senses to come into awareness of something and construct a lived reality. To varying degrees, we perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in. We typically perceive things without being conscious of how sensory information is interpreted and organized through our nervous systems. Instead, we go about experiencing life, sensing and feeling our way through.

We perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in.

Perception helps form the realities we experience. One experience after another begins to build the narrative of our lives just like a story with a beginning, middle and end. Words tell a story of what one perceives. Oftentimes, people are unaware that how they speak about experiences helps organize the mental framework of their personal narrative.

If I were to tell a story about how everything went wrong, then it could be a stand-alone story of bad luck. If I told similar stories every day, then that could become an enduring tale of personal defeat and disappointment, expressed in my daily life.

How do we become conscious of the narratives that we may be writing? Long-term psychotherapeutic work suggests that when we become more conscious of false narratives, we ultimately transform them.

When we become more conscious of false narratives, ultimately we transform them. 

Here are some points to consider for self-reflection:

Reflect on what you call in. 

Perception teaches us that, while we may not be conscious of it every moment, it can help us reflect on how to attract the best possible experience and create the highest quality outcome. This may mean sensing that good things will happen as opposed to the worst.

This could mean intentionally reflecting on and drawing in positive emotions, thoughts, images and energy to help serve the day and fortify a more resilient life narrative for the long-term. This is a daily and even a moment-to-moment reflection.

Listen to the pattern.

Each person has a pattern of internal communication based on word choice and tone, which frames the narrative of one’s life. The way to identify your patterns is to listen to yourself without judgment. 

For one day, listen to the words you use to describe yourself, others and the world around you. How would you describe your language and tone? For example, perhaps you notice that your language is quite defeatist or maybe your tone represents a positive narrative of faith and perseverance.

Do this exercise over multiple days and see if there is a pattern you see emerging. Try to be open to what is and refrain from self-critique.  

Listen to yourself without judgment. 

Reframe the pattern by taking responsibility.

People can attempt to revise the pattern by taking responsibility for their portion of healing. For this exercise, focus on a particular event that recently occurred that was charged for whatever reason. 

How would you describe what happened in two sentences? Take a step back and consider that there may be multiple sides to the story. While you may feel connected to your side of the story, see if you can hold onto it less nd observe things from another perspective. The other perspective may not always feel good to think about.  

Now imagine that you are an author attempting to write the story in a balanced way to present a perspective for greater healing. Would you see the experience in the same way, an alternative way, a mishmash of both or something else?

You are the author of your narrative.

False narratives rely on experiences happening to you without you happening to them. People may perceive things happening to them without their intended participation. In many cases, but certainly not all, you may have a role to play, which could be quite empowering.  

Through the everyday choices you make, you are the author of your life. This is an invitation to step into that experience. You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.

You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.

If you did not get the job you wanted, change the narrative to not a “job lost” but “a future opportunity gained.” If a relationship ends, then rewrite the narrative from “a bitter ending” to “two consenting individuals doing their best with disattaching.” Your version will be better because it is yours, and it will be authentic to you.

Take a moment. Call in a false narrative, perceive it in the light of day as opposed to the shadow of the night. Reframe the words and tone. Write it in your own way. Sign your name under it and make it the new signature of your life: one of truth, empowerment and wisdom.

Have you ever made assumptions about other people or written a false narrative in your head? What power have you found in reframing your thoughts?

Image via Navarro Aydemir, Darling Issue No. 17

A Lesson From the French on How to Rest Well During Summertime

A view of the Eiffel Tower from behind a tree

It’s difficult to put into words what summertime means in France. An analogy that seems fitting is to compare summer in France to a finely aged wine. The French work hard all year to harvest the fruit of their labor, but when it comes to summer vacation, they know that, like an aged bottle of red, the secret to excellence is allowing time, rest and stillness to do the work. So let’s learn the French way to do summer—by taking time to relish in the abundance and harvest of the year through true rest. 

As a lover of California sunshine, living abroad in France for four years gave me a new understanding of summer as I faced my first dark, cold and damp winter in Paris. The short days and crowded metros made me crave space and light. Springtime in Paris was an emotional rollercoaster as weather was unpredictable and thunderstorms would interrupt pique-niques and plans.

The French do not live to work. They work to live. Even embedded within the language, the verb “être” (to be) is often used more than “faire” (to do). Daily life in the summer is centered on being not merely doing. Summers are not just for kids on break from school, but the entire society celebrates and savors all that summer has to offer. 

The French do not live to work. They work to live.

Summer Solstice, June 21, is welcomed with a national music festival called La Fête de La Musique. The festival originated in the 1980’s when the Minister of Culture desired to bring people and music to the streets. 

By allowing amateurs and professionals to play without permits, cost or noise restrictions at the festival, all genres of music are made accessible to the public. On the longest day of the year, everyone celebrates life with a 24-hour nationwide party. In Paris, all you need to do is walk for a few blocks and you will stumble on elderly couples dancing in the streets, punk-rock youth blasting their protests, classical quartets lining cafés and children, always at the front line of any crowd, soaking in the sounds and experience of music. 

This annual festival is just a debut of all France has to offer for the summer months. All year long you hear the French dream and discuss plans for “les vacances.” Embedded in French culture is the value of time for rest more than the grind of work and capitalism. 

Embedded in French culture is the value of time for rest more than the grind of work and capitalism. 

The government by law requires full-time workers to take at least five weeks vacation, on top of public holidays throughout the year. By August, most shops are closed for the month with handwritten notes from owners explaining “on est en vacances.” We are on vacation and will reopen in September. 

The French summer is unlike any other. Located in the heart of Europe, the geography of France allows for easy access to travel and weekend trips to new cultures and countries. All you have to do is hop on a south-bound train and you will be at the seaside in a matter of hours. 

The longer days, full feasts of delicious seasonal food, time spent with family and a nation-wide pause on work allow for a restoration of the soul of humanity. This summer, may we also learn to pause and let time and rest do its work in usmaking us like a fine wine full of flavor and life.

How good are you about prioritizing rest? Why is this so important?

Image via Coco Tran, Darling Issue No. 19

Independence Day and the Ongoing Road to Freedom

Fireworks exploding dimly
Colors splashing silently
Against the midnight blue sky
I stay inside heart broken and awry

I want to celebrate you today—I do
Even if you haven’t always loved me too
Celebration for liberation I cannot feel
For I need space within myself to heal

Land of the free, home of the brave
Oh land of my heart, the blood you gave
To tear away and become your own
The victory won to now stand alone

I love my country: yes, I do
I am proud to have come from you
With your imperfections I am wrestling
With all that is not yet free I am reckoning

I wrestle so I can find truth’s acceptance
Then we can move forward in repentance
Both celebrate the birth of our nation in 1776
And commit to work on what still must be fixed

May we continue to push for the promises
Of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
For all humankind created equal and free
From colonies to one nation we overcame tyranny

Until all experience the same liberation others do
It is growth and change we must pursue
As we wish each other a happy fourth of July
May we commit to help every American be able to fly

To honor all who have fought for our nation, we persevere:
For respect for each other, we fight
For unity with one another, we fight
For liberty and justice for all, we fight

This time, I’ll step outside to look up at the sky
A sparkler in hand to enjoy the festivities I’ll try
To sing a new anthem: I am proud to be an American
This is my country to shape and to liberate is my inheritance

What injustice have you seen in your corner of the world? How can you be an advocate for people or groups of people who are disenfranchised or overlooked?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

Darling Letters: How to Keep Your Heart Tender

A woman in a navy blue suit crouched on the floor

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

My bleary eyes check the clock, confirming it’s already tomorrow. 1:17 a.m. I grab my journal and scribble “I’m too raw and exposed. Just teetering on an edge.” 

I breathe in and out the prayerful pleas on my heart to steady myself back into my body. Now, it’s 6:12 a.m. I’m awake again as my 4-year-old daughter clumsily tries to sneak under my covers. Her big, sleepy eyes beg for a snuggle, and she’s wrapped up in my arms just like that. Down the hall my eldest runs his fingers across the keys of our hand-me-down piano, and music fills the house and my heart too, which is strung out from yesterday’s heartache. Right now, however, it’s so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.

Right now, however, [my heart is] so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.

The kids are antsy for breakfast, but I quickly journal, “My mind reels and wanders. My heart swells and breaks. I need the both/and. I don’t want to dull myself from feeling tender to all that remains good.”

The tender parts of us are a glimmer of our humanity. We remain tender by holding the tension of our “ands”joy and grief, hard and sacred. I want to be soft enough to behold and brim the beauty of it all while remaining unflinchingly curious and empathetic to wade into the deep of what is broken and painful. Hard-fought, deep joy doesn’t deny or look away from sorrow. Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return. 

Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return. 

Author and activist Parker Palmer taught me the etymology of the word humus, which is the decayed vegetable matter that nurtures the roots of plants. It comes from the same root word for humility. Our most humble momentsface down in the dirt, tender and rawmay create the richest soil for deep rooting and meaning. If we harden ourselves, we’ll miss it. Stay tender for truth, healing, beauty and justice to grow wild here.

With a tender heart,
Jessica Mayfield, the Darling family

What negative connotation does “a tender heart” carry in society? How do you perceive “tenderness” and “vulnerability”? How can keeping your heart soft and tender be used to your advantage?

Image via Taylor Roades, Art via Ash (Opperman) Wilson

Darling Letters: How to Take Up Space

A woman with her hands in her hair as she screams

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

I can’t remember the exact moment I realized something wasn’t right—that the “same old, same old” wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Up until that point in my life, I felt confined. So I took a hard look at myself in the mirror and started the work of asking myself why.

What I discovered was that no one was confining me but me. In a subconscious attempt to protect myself from the disapproval of others, I put my voice and my opinions in a box of limitations. In this metaphorical box, who I was wouldn’t rock the boat and I couldn’t step on any toes.

What I discovered was that no one was confining me but me.

It took me years of self-discovery and growing pains to realize that I was living for the approval and applause of others and that the fear of not receiving it caused me to play the role of a lesser version of myself. For a while, this worked for me.

Yet, as I’ve matured, I’ve grown out of the box of playing small for other people. Now, that box of limitations is not large enough for me to fit in and living inside it is no longer sustainable for the healthier, more whole version of myself that I am today.

So I got out. I’m stretching my arms. I’m using my voice. I’m learning to speak up for myself and say what I think and what I want. I’m learning to take up every bit of space I’ve been given, and it feels good.

I’m stretching my arms. I’m using my voice. I’m learning to speak up for myself.

Let’s step out of the tight spaces where we have confined and limited ourselves. Everything about you—your thoughts and your opinions—is valuable and worthy of being seen and heard. There is room for you to be the most true and authentic version of yourself.

Sincerely,
Starla Gatson, the Darling family

Have you ever felt the need to play small for other people? In what practical way, can you start taking up space in your life?

Image via Koury Angelo, Darling Issue No. 11