Come, Labor On

My latest monthly “In Good Faith” column for the Hingham Journal was about Post-Labor Day Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Or something along those lines.

Come, Labor On

Can you hear it? That horrid sound is the grinding gears of the post-Labor Day schedule. The transition from the lazy, hazy days of summer back to reality is jarring. Goodbye sleeping in (how, exactly, is my new middle schooler going to make that 7:00 am bus?); dinners at the beach; and drinking an evening glass of red wine on the screened-in porch. Hello shorter days; pulling out my hair trying to help with homework that I could barely do when I was in middle school; and a family and work schedule that would make Paul Bunyan blush.

Unless you are immune to chaos – and if that’s the case, I’d like to come sit at your feet for awhile – the week after Labor Day is a shock to the system. The kids are back in school which is generally a good thing for everyone involved; certainly at my house. Never mind that getting them to that point was enough to cause my hairline to recede a bit more. Let’s just say that our boys are always less than enthusiastic about leaving behind the life of leisure to which they’ve become accustomed over the past couple of months (How old do they have to be to get a job at Nona’s or Crow Point Pizza?). Back to School supplies, Back to School clothes shopping, and Back to School sleep training are never welcomed with open hearts and minds. Rather, they resist like a bucking bronco (them) trying to throw a cowboy (us).

At the root of the protests, of course, is anxiety. Kids aren’t going to wax eloquent about the difficulty of change and transition. They whine. And starting a new school year is fraught with anxiety. For parents, this translates into the inconvenience of whiny and moody kids; for children, the first day of school can be an experience bordering on the traumatic. Sure they adapt quickly but it’s nerve-wracking to be put in a new environment with new teachers and new classmates. When we minimize their stress we’re not being fair to them.

Transitions are difficult for all of us, no matter the stage of life. And yet they are the stuff of life itself. We transition into this world and we transition out of this world. Growing into adulthood is one long transition full of hope and dreams and angst. We transition between relationships and jobs and homes. We transition through times of anguish and pain and ill health. We transition through the grief of lost loved ones. For Christians the ultimate transition is that which takes place on Easter: the transition from death to life. As believers, we will ultimately take that journey ourselves, sharing in the Resurrection to eternal life that is afforded us through faith.

Acknowledging that the myriad transitions we face are difficult, even when they are exciting, is important. Adults don’t have the luxury of whining in public – though it would have the added advantage of embarrassing our kids. But recognizing the conflicting emotions allows us to fully live in each moment rather than simply waiting for the return of an elusive stability. And unless you’re talking about your relationship with God or the foundation of your house, I find that stability is overrated. A truly stable life – if it exists – can be stagnant spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Without some sense of transition, there is precious little to live for.

God is well aware of the challenges of transition which may be why we’re even more attuned to the divine presence when things change. The loss of a loved one, a cross country move, being downsized from a job, making a mid-life career change, even having a child – these are all dramatic changes from the ordinary. But turning to God amid all the changes inherent in this life allows us to focus on the one rock of stability that endures through it all. And that’s a source of both strength and comfort.

In the meantime, I’m just trying to get through the month of September without losing my mind. Soon enough we’ll all settle back into the routine of daily life, that New England chill in the air will return, and dogs will be allowed back on Nantasket Beach.


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