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Love and Loss During ‘Shoulder Season’ Thumbnail

Love and Loss During ‘Shoulder Season’

According to the travel industry, the fall ‘Shoulder Season’ is that quiet period between September and November when fewer people plan their adventures. For the rest of us, that translates into fewer crowds, lower rates, and more freedom to explore. For years I have taken advantage of the season to recharge before the inevitable rush of year-end financial and tax planning. This year, I had it all planned perfectly: a dream trip to Asia’s exotic Silk Road (new territory for me) preceded by an elite advisor conference in Kentucky. But then life got in the way. And death, too.

First, my trips were cancelled due to the Delta variant. When I tried to use that time to visit my grandchildren, that didn’t work out either. I know both of these are first-world problems, but I was still a little deflated. Next, my first husband was hospitalized for a severe illness from which he may not recover. As my first love, we grew up together, built a life together, raised two kids together, and we even share a birthday. I know when he is gone, a piece of me will go with him. As I watch our daughter, Jamie, navigate the end-of-life issues with him, I can already begin to feel the loss.  

To restore my head and heart, I planned a week-long escape to Rancho La Puerta—a posh resort in Tecate, Mexico. ‘The Ranch,’ as it is called by frequent guests, is a short drive from home, yet it feels like a world away. It was an extravagant splurge (though certainly much kinder to my budget than a voyage to Asia!). Still, I found it an ideal vacation close to home, without a companion, and with a vast menu of activities that would allow me to spend my time any way I wanted. I rested, read a ton of books (one of my favorite things to do), ate fabulously healthy meals, had stimulating conversations with interesting people, and took some time for me. It was just what I needed at just the right time. The Ranch is definitely my new happy place. 

After the Ranch, my Silk Road travel companions and I took a replacement trip to New Mexico. With Santa Fe as our base, we visited Taos, Ghost Ranch, Bandelier National Monument, and even a local winery. The land was beautiful, the sky stunning, and the history fascinating. It is a paradise for foodies and shoppers. Visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and experiencing the home where she lived and painted was a meaningful experience—incredibly peaceful and profound. While I was there, I was drawn to something she had written years ago: “Happy is so momentary—you’re happy for a moment and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life. Happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” For O’Keeffe, who painted until close to her death at age 98, her interest in the world did not fade. 

While in Santa Fe, I learned that Alyce, my long-time life and business coach, lost her battle with small cell lung cancer. Her death was expected, but still, my heart wasn’t ready to lose my friend and mentor. 

When life swirls around us, which it inevitably does, loss feels overwhelming. The pandemic taught us the importance of stillness—of taking time to reflect, recognize themes in our lives, and, if we’re lucky, find our own truth. Alyce once told me that we all have two selves: our ‘trained self’ and our ‘true self.’ She said that it’s easy to let our ‘trained self’—the person we present to the world—become our only identity. But our ‘true self’ matters. The older I get, the more I find myself seeking to rediscover my ‘true self.’ Alyce also counseled me to view loss as an avenue to new possibilities.  

As Shoulder Season comes to a close, I have decided to pay close attention to the words of these wise women. Thanks to Georgia O’Keeffe, I am choosing to enjoy each moment of happiness, and to approach every day with curiosity and interest. Thanks to Alyce, I am making ‘possibilities’ my new theme. And whenever the road ahead gets rocky, I will put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Life will never cease to be a whirlwind. The past year (which everyone, including me, expected to be our year of post-pandemic joy) has been filled with natural disasters, global conflict, the ongoing health crisis, and lots of loss. Even the stock market, with this latest wave of extreme volatility, seems to be adhering to the theme. In times like these, the best we can do is strive for balance. Loss of any kind can cut deeply, but as long as we are still here, there will always be a world of wonderful new possibilities. 

(Thanks, Alyce!)

Image credit: Georgia O'Keeffe, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Photos by Lauren Klein.