As I sit outside under an old plane tree that I know very well, I get the sense that summer is slowly coming to a close.
A feeling accompanies this realisation.
A sinking, uncomfortable feeling that I know all too well. It is the same feeling that comes on Sunday evenings as another week in the office beckons. The same feeling that comes when the long awaited annual two week holiday is almost over. I remember the exact same feeling a few years ago when I was travelling – I was sitting in a small coffee shop in Bali when I realised that I had passed the half way point of my trip. It hit me hard then. The party would soon be over. The glass was now more empty than full.
This feeling has been with me in one way or another for most of my adult life. Now, as I sit in my favourite place under this old tree I can feel it again. The days are getting shorter and colder. Soon the trees will be bare. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the sands of time are running out. There is a hollow feeling in my chest.
For years, I would go to great lengths to avoid this feeling. I would busy myself with some mundane task. I would exercise, work, read, meet my friends, text someone… anyone, open a bottle of wine, watch another box set, go for a pint, even meditate or practice yoga. Anything to anesthetise myself and escape this feeling.
No matter what I did the feeling never really went away. It’s always there. I don’t think I’m alone. I think most of us spend our whole lives running from it in one way or another.
As I sit, I can feel the gentle breeze on my skin. I can hear the leaves softly stirring. The blue sky above invites a broader perspective. It’s not all about me. I’m just an insignificant speck in the bigger picture. I am a tiny part of a much bigger whole. The tree I am sitting under has been here for a long time and it will probably still be here long after I’m gone. I feel a softening, a release of tension. I know this place. I feel safe here. I don’t have to run anymore. I don’t have to escape or avoid this feeling. I can just sit here quietly and be with my experience exactly as it is.
What is this feeling?
What’s there at the root of it?…
A subtle, gnawing fear which is always there in the background. We can spend our whole lives avoiding it. We rarely even acknowledge it.
The sands of time ARE running out. Summer always ends. In a few short months, the leaves overhead that are now green will fall to earth, brown and withered. Even this great plane tree which I am sitting under will someday soon die.
What else is here?
I sit quietly for a while…
A fear that I when I die I might not have lived my own life. I might not have fulfilled my purpose.
When the plane tree I am sitting under finally dies, it will do so having fulfilled its purpose. It wasn’t supposed to be an oak tree or a beech tree or an ash tree. It was supposed to grow into a plane tree and it will die having done so.
We always think we have more “time”.
Time to change. Time to be true to ourselves. Time to be brave. Time to do what we’ve always wanted to do.
Deep down we might know that we are on the wrong road. There must be more to life than this? We tell ourselves that we still have time.
Time marches on. The seasons change. Spring becomes summer, summer becomes autumn and finally autumn becomes winter.
You have only one life. When winter comes, when you are at the end, will you die having been true to yourself? Have you discovered what your gift is and have you used it to the full?
Don’t wait too long.