This article’s timing fits right in with the weather as we are beginning to move from Summer into Autumn. That wonderful time of year when the season’s temperatures start to shift from hot to tolerable and then cooler. The hot temperatures that we all longed for throughout the cold winter have finally gotten old, and we are ready for a break in the heat.
Seasons of life
Funny how that seems to correlate with my mentality as well here lately. I have been in the heat of my youthfulness, taking full advantage of adulthood in a fashion of never stopping, always working, being involved, parenting, sometimes partying, and ultimately packing as much into my life as humanly, and seemingly not humanly possible.
That is how it goes. We move from the spring of our life, our youth. The days of carefree living, of imagination, of games, and sports. When waiting on dad to take us fishing or hiking was our most significant stressor, other than knowing mom would force us to eat the Brussel sprouts that night. Which I still hate, by the way.
Looking back 30 or 40 years ago and fill our minds with the warm memories of trick-or-treating, Christmas morning, birthday parties, and camping trips. As we got closer to summer, girls and friends, school, and sports filled our lives. We began looking into our future and imagining what the world had in store for us. Now I know we all did not have a wonderful childhood, but where we can come together is the truth that many of these things still applied just slightly differently.
Then came Summer. College, work, marriage, kids; this is how the summer season started for many people. Some of us chose the military instead, but the same basics applied. I found that during the summer, there are three primary groups of people. First, you had the workers. These are the ones that took it seriously. Started a job, a family, a 401k, buying property, stocks, bonds, the whole 9 yards. These people have a laser focus, a drive, a desire, and nothing distracted them.
The second group is the sloths. These took it easy—living with mom and dad well into their 20’s or even 30’s—worked bare minimum jobs, filling their life with fast food and video games. Trolling the internet, lurking in forums, and looking for the next easy or free ride.
Lastly are your partiers; this is the group I fit into: drugs, Sex, Thrills, and self-satisfaction to the max. There are not many drugs I have not tried, many cocktails that I have not mixed, and many thrills I have not sought. As summer draws to an end, I do not have much to show for my life either. I have worked hard in my 30’s to accomplish what I see young men in their 20’s doing, better late than never, though, right? At 37, I am still slightly behind where I should be, though.
But as I approach 40, the “midlife crisis” talk from my family and friends begin to increase, and I started to think about it. What makes this seasonal shift so much different from the others? The responsibilities are still there; the stresses are still there; so, what is it?
One day, while thinking this over with my trusty pipe, my brand-new Peterson pipe I might add, it hit me. Literally. While smoking my pipe, I felt a sudden shift in the wind. What had been a hot southern wind all summer suddenly hit me from the northwest and felt instantly cooler. That is the difference! The temperatures are changing.
We have spent our entire lives with the weather getting warmer and warmer; the days get longer and longer. Suddenly, something new has happened, there is a chill in the air, and we have not even noticed the days have begun growing shorter.
We all know from life experience that as the temperatures cool and the days grow colder, there are certain things you cannot do anymore. Long days at the beach in the surf, swimming pools, chasing fireflies, etc. Everything we have grown to love, we will not be able to do anymore. And so, it goes for life. There are things that are much more suited for a 25-year-old than a 45-year-old.
Now I know the mantra going around fitness circles and whatnot.” 40 is the new 20; I’m in the best shape of my life”. And while that may be true in some respects, it is not in others. Run a marathon at 25 and then run one at 45; how do you feel the next day at both ages? I think the dreaded” mid-life” crisis occurs when you deny the seasonal change and hold on to Summer for longer than you should. You are that guy in shorts and flip flops in the snow, “I don’t even feel the cold” yeah, whatever.
Signs of the season
Back to the changing of the seasons, if you spend any time in nature, you understand that there are signs in the wilderness that point to the coming changes.
For south Mississippi, it’s the dreaded lovebug swarms. Insects with no shame or morals go to town procreating on every surface, including you. Mid-air sex is quite normal this time of year as well. As most everyone around here does, I hate the things, but they are also a tell-tale sign of the season change. They show up every spring, and within 2-3 weeks, the weather gets hot, they show up in the late summer or fall, and 2-3 weeks later, the temperatures are noticeably more comfortable.
Your body, life, and mentality give you signs of your coming seasonal change. Remember the marathon example? Maybe your knees hurt a little more than they used to. What about that song you used to love, that is suddenly less appealing, how about your wardrobe, any changes being made there? Politics? Religion? The signs are there if you stop and think about them.
The winds have changed from the south to the north, temperatures are shifting from hot to cold, signs are happening, and some people just do not know how to deal with it. They panic, they get frightened, and as men do, we withdraw into ourselves to figure this out.
Recapture to Acceptance
Sometimes, what comes out of our monk mode is desperation. Some men grasp onto their youth for dear life and refuse to acknowledge the weatherman. Some men buy sports cars, youthful and fast; some men change their wardrobe to match them in their 20’s (please don’t do this), some men go further.
Men have affairs to regain the old thrills, or they straight out abandon their family, striking out on a new adventure to try and find the fountain of youth, something that can pull them back to their younger days. Some men cannot handle it and choose to live young or not at all, and they take their own lives. Statistically, men from 45-65 years old are twice as likely to commit suicide than at any other time in their life at the two cold-weather season changes.
There is a separate group, one that I feel like I belong in, the ones that embrace the seasons and their changes. Some people welcome the maturity and wisdom that comes with the gray hairs. Some people accept that the grave is closer than the day of birth. Some men look forward to gracefully gliding into the next season. Sure, summer activities are over, but fall and winter bring their own glory. They bring their own activities.
There are harvest festivals, and county fairs and long walks down dirt paths with the trees ablaze with yellows, oranges, and reds. A crispness in the air that makes your woman snuggle a little closer for warmth. Pumpkin pies, and thanksgiving turkeys, candied apples, and candy corn. Cooler nights and crackling fires.
Finally, winter comes. I have no experience with this myself, but I can see those around me that are changing seasons, such as my dad. He is slower; he is more tired and tired more often.
The weightlifting, marathon running man I saw as a child now needs help to get off his knees. He is more considerate of his choices and more cautious in his actions. Over six decades of life has beaten down a man that I have never seen work a job that did not leave him bloody, beaten, and sore at the end of the day.
He worked hard, and life is now rewarding him with an ever-growing coldness. But he is happy. He laughs often and smiles readily. He is kind to others and more caring than most. He lovingly refers to his lunchtime snoozes as “my old man power nap.”
But the correlation of slowing down in cold weather, less activity on shortened days, and the tiredness that I see in his eyes continually is not lost on me, and I know the death that winter brings in nature will come to every man as well.
The path forward
The problem is when we fail to see the good that the seasonal changes bring. When we fail to recognize our life as a book and understand that chapters end and pages turn, what mattered ten years ago will not matter ten years from now. I have written two different articles just this year about yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I finally recognize it as a sign of my seasons changing. Time has been on my mind a lot for a reason.
Thinking back over my life, I discovered there was one dream of mine that I had never fulfilled in anticipation of fall. A dream that for most men, and probably me as well, cannot fulfill as time ages us. I want to go on a 2200-mile lunting trip. I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. From Georgia to Maine. A 5-month walk.
I mentioned this to my fellow scribes on Barbarian Rhetoric, and much to my surprise, many wanted in on this insanity, and I gladly accepted the offer for the company. I am sure each man has his reasons for wanting to embark on this feat, and I will not speculate as to what they are, but I would like to explain it for me.
It is how I intend to change the season of my life; it is spiritual, and it’s emotional, it’s physical and symbolic. You see, I intend to walk it in 2023. I will turn 40 that year; I will shift into the Autumn season of my life. I will have walked through life, up that point, through Spring, Summer, and into fall. I will begin the trail in the spring, walk all summer, and end in the fall.
It is the symbolic and physical representation of my life’s journey to that point. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a deeply spiritual man; I love God and serve Christ as best as I know. What many do not realize is that I am quite an emotional man as well. No, I do not mean random sobbing daily, but I am a bit of an empath and have spent my life burying my own emotions to help others carry theirs.
Before I become a statistic, I need an emotional reset. I need to release what will be 40 years of buried emotions and walk out with my bottle empty and thrown away. Five months of pain, exhaustion, frustration, and isolation in the wilderness, for me, is the perfect reset.
After all, as the Army taught me, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” And forgive me for sounding like a hippie for a moment, but I also cannot think of a better place. The wilderness is where the spiritual side comes in. I cannot think of a better place to heal, transition, and build my walk with God than surrounded by his creation 24/7 for an extended period of time.
The children of Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years, seeking after God. Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for his ministry. John’s entire ministry took place in the wilderness. Obviously, to me, if one is seeking the creator, why would you not seek him in his creation?
Where I am from, being in the middle of nowhere, is called being in God’s country for a reason. So, I intend to physically represent my life with 2200 miles of wilderness. I plan to start in the spring, full of energy and excitement for the journey. I intend to enjoy my path throughout the summer, making the most of what a simple nomadic life can offer me.
I intend to reach the fall, exhausted, worn out, on top of a mountain, knowing what all I have accomplished, knowing that I have defeated the wilderness of the trail and the wilderness of my soul. To quote John Muir, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I know what I am seeking, and I can’t wait for all that I receive.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these do not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of mankind.”
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