It’s snowing this morning.
It’s so calm and beautiful, I just want to curl up in the stillness. Wrap it around myself like Linus’s blanket, cover myself in a soft sense of comfort and security. Hibernate in that moment until new spring comes.
Winter of 2016 has been a challenging season. It started back at the beginning of the New Year with credit card fraud, and a broken phone, and a really bad case of seasonal affective disorder that hit the whole household and a slew of other minor to major irritants and problems.
I tried to keep my keel through all of that turbulent, exhausting energy, and I even remember writing an essay on my plane flight to Kauai about how a person could learn to breathe their way through anything. That my hope for the trip was to simply enjoy the land and let the sun and warmth fill me back up with something bigger than myself.
Then my brother died the next day.
Then life jumped the tracks.
I remember thinking after, that I would give anything to go back to the beginning of January and have those same problems be my biggest concerns. For awhile I couldn’t relate very well to other people and the challenges of their daily lives. Just a scant week earlier, I too had been one of them and could easily go grab a drink and trade stories on isn’t the darkness getting to you this year, and this is what’s going on in my relationship, and I’m stressed about this at work, and omg can you believe this happened?!… and so on and so on.
Then in the blink of an eye this great divide came down, and all of the sudden I had different stories.
Like what it’s like to try and comfort your parents as they try and accept the reality that their son left this place before they. Or what it’s like to stand by your brother’s body one last time, placing roses on his chest and a letter of last words you want cremated with him, so he leaves with love. Or what it’s like to wake up every day and stare out the window at the bare tree in your yard wondering if this will be the day the sadness fades.
My life feels like an old car trying to start some days. I keep turning the key, pressing the accelerator, hearing sounds that it’s trying to get going, until it sputters and once again goes quiet. It occurred to me this week that maybe what I need is a new car, and that I completely understand why some people make drastic changes to their lives after a major loss. Is is achingly difficult, maybe even impossible for some, to pick up their threads and keep on going.
They need new threads so they can try and start over.
New threads or not, life doesn’t stop just because of grief, this world will keep on spinning. And since the loss of my brother, life has spun a host of other stressors into my fabric that have hit so fast and hard, I can almost feel my seams straining against their bulk and weight. Brighter days are ahead, I keep saying as I wonder when those days will be, and try and remember that any seam that splits can learn to be mended with something stronger than before.
Love is always a good material to start with.
When I was younger, I was more prone to asking questions like why is this happening to me? and shaking my fist at the universe as I raged against how unfair it all was. Time, a bit of experience and some wisdom have changed that. These days I’m not much for self-pity, having learned that kind of thinking pretty much buys you a one way ticket to an indulgent, self-absorbed land of hopelessness and despair.
That is not a place I want to visit, and so I’ve come to accept that sometimes Life just happens fast and hard. It’s not fair. It isn’t intended to be. A lot of growth can happen in this space.
Sometimes there are difficult seasons where we don’t see the why, and we realize the idea that we were ever in control is just an illusion. The only things we can control is what we choose to do with the seasons given to us, how we choose to entreat with life, and how we choose to order our mind and spirit and heart.
Having said all that, I will admit to you that over the past few weeks there have been numerous occasions where I have raised my eyes to the sky and had a conversation laced with both skepticism and resigned acceptance that goes something like this:
Really? This is happening? This is the timing you’re choosing for all of this? Help.
I started my week off with this kind of conversation while I was running on the trails. I believe nature has answers if you learn to listen, it’s just that most people discredit what it has to say or expect it to sound different or grander in some way.
It’s really very simple though. The clouds may part and the light shines down, and you’ve been told to keep hope. A bird flies across your path singing along, and you’ve been reminded to find joy. The sky changes in tone and shade and you remember so it is with life. No state lasts forever.
Sometimes you can be outside and a new idea or thought or shift will come to you. I’ve wondered how many people realize that as they take their walks or hikes or bikes, or sit by the lake or river or sea, and think their thoughts and sorrows and dreams for this life; that they are engaging in a conversation with the land around them. Of course it answers back.
Nature loves a good chat, and there I was running and chatting. Offering my thoughts on this particular season in life to whoever was listening. I took a barely a trail, side trail into one of my secret places, a tiny glade surrounded by moss and trees that glows green when the light shines through just so, and leaned against a tree for awhile.
Help, I said.
The words came to my mind very clearly, Help Is On The Way.
I had to smile, I’d recognize words from my husband’s favorite band anywhere. You’re going to use the title of a Grateful Dead Song to offer me reassurance?
Fine then. I will take whatever words I’m given. Life does have a good sense of humor, and I’m reminded to keep mine.
Help comes in unexpected forms.
A day of grace that shows up every now and then, and things feel a little lighter, a little easier. A soft breath in the tired, raspy lungs of my family system. A Brent penny.
The friend who reaches out at just the right time. A heartening quote that reminds me to breathe and keep moving. The calico kitty curled up beside me as I write these words. A sadness that inexplicably shifts for no reason, replaced by peace.
The dream I had last night where everybody else was ice skating on a shimmering, glistening pond, while I was trapped below the surface, stuck in the murky deep. I woke up to the words, You’re being asked to live beyond the surface. Remember what is real. This is not a new dream for me, just a reminder and encouragement of what I already know.
Help is on the way.
And sometimes help arrives softly. In small flakes that cover the dirtiness of the season and bring thoughts of white light and snow angels and how life can sanctify anything- even the dusty, gritty, brown of a season- with a covering of new bright.
This is grace.
Life is full of it.