I think possibly I have developed some faith.
I have been thinking about winter. It is hard to NOT think about winter, since we are smack in the middle of it here in Atlantic Canada. My smarter-than-me phone told me this morning it was ZERO degrees American. That’s cold, for me. When you translate to the 19.6 degrees Celsius it is less compelling for someone raised on the Fareinheit system, but zero….whew. It is winter.
Winter conjures a lot of negative stuff for me. Old family of origin stuff, of course. Winters were long and hard in Maine when I was a kid. My family was fairly poor, but only as poor as most of my classmates, so we all knew what it meant to have the house barely warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and that when we went out to play it was wearing extra layers of clothes we already had, not special technical fabrics or down or polyester filling to our coats and pants. Down was for rich people and polyester hadn’t been invented yet. So there was a lot of cold and wet involved in winter, and that special, awful, burning feeling in your hands and feet as they start to warm up again after playing outside for hours in the snow.
I also had the spectre of my mother, who was not a warm, positive influence at the best of times. She was at her worst in winter; felt closed in, imprisoned by winter and by being a mother-at-home without a car. So there are some negative things that just arise for me when it is cold and snowy.
I have worked hard to restructure that part of my brain. In 1994, when I moved from Louisiana to upstate New York, I was determined to make winter my friend. I got snowshoes. I got really excellent snow tires, four of them. None of that “all weather radial” nonsense for me; after my first accidental 360 with my all weather tires, I replaced them. I got cross-country skis and taught myself to use them. (Note: simply translating my running skills to skis was not a good strategy. It was years later that I had to unlearn a whole pile of bad habits). I put on extra sweaters, extra blankets, and sucked up the extra expense to have my house warm enough for me to feel okay.
Fast forward to now. I live in Canada. As my brother and his wife asked, in all kindness, “What were you thinking?” They, of course, live in balmy Chicago. But yes, I live in Canada and suffice it to say that I wasn’t thinking about winter when I made that decision. I am here now, though, and working through my negativity every single day. Every winter day, that is.
I heard on the radio that loveliest of winter expressions from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at the very same moment I reflected that in only 12 weeks, or less, actually, we’ll be celebrating the vernal equinox. And that’s the faith part. I have learned to have faith in the sun rising and setting, and in the days lengthening and shortening. Nothing stays the same but this pattern of change is something I can count on.
BUT…and this is a big BUT………I don’t want to spend the next twelve weeks wishing for winter to be over. That’s not okay with me; that’s like giving away three months of my life and I don’t have it to spare! So it isn’t enough to just grit my teeth and wish for spring, resisting what is actually happening in hope that the future will be different, better, a destination.
That’s a hell of a way to live your life, waiting for the next thing to happen. I think I have had enough of that.
I wonder how much of my childhood self is caught up in my winter blues? The self that didn’t have any hope for change, that had no capacity to take action on my own behalf, the child who was stuck in a family and home where unhappiness was always the order of the day….that’s who is awake and operating when my negative side starts to dominate.
So I need to reconnect with my faith in the pattern of life on this planet: because I can count on the sun, I don’t have to give my winter away to negativity and complaining. I can take care of me. I can notice how I feel and think about winter. I can sit quietly with those thoughts and feelings. I can remember how it was to be a kid in that setting, and also remember that I am no longer that child, no longer in that life. Now I have choices: I can ski, and snowshoe, and eat roasted root vegetables, and drink warm comforting drinks and be present to the winter, without wanting it to hurry by to get to spring. Some days I’ll likely resist the winter, and feel constricted and angry and frustrated by what I perceive as the limits of the season. Whether I resist or not, though, I know this: the sun will rise. The sun will set. The days will grow longer and then, in June, they’ll begin to grow shorter. No matter how I feel about any of it, this pattern of change will go on. On this I can depend.