“If you want to see sunshine, you have to weather the storm,”–Frank Lane
“O sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on earth.”–Roman Payne
“How do people live in Seattle?” I asked one of my co-workers?
“Or, Portland?” she added.
“No wonder our kids are so sick,” added another co-worker, referring to the large number of students that continue to be absent due to illness.
“We need a good frost, a solid freezing to kill off things, but we just haven’t had it this winter,” the first added in response.
We all made our way down the short school hallway, each exiting into our own classroom before the arrival of our students.
Walking into mine, I made my way to my desk, and clicked on school email. There, in my in-box, were numerous emails from sick students or parents of ill students asking for missed assignments, requesting clarification, or submitting make-up work. I was struggling to keep up with the daily correspondence as well as keep up with all the other behind-the-scenes work and preparation as well as maintain the demands of the daily schedule. Sighing, I turned to look out my classroom windows that ran almost the entire length of one wall. Light snow was blustering about, but it was expected to return to the rain that we had seen throughout the week. Another day of gray and gloom. With one more audible sigh, I turned, and began setting up for the day.
Surprisingly, towards the end of the school day, a bit of milky sunlight began to break through the pervasive dullness. In fact, the following day, Saturday, abundant sunshine filled the heavens; and despite strong wind gusts and frosty temperatures, I could feel the positive effects of the sun’s rays. The metaphorical cloud of despair that seemed to permeate my outlook for the past few weeks, began to–momentarily, at least–thaw.
“Not again,” I bemoaned to my husband, John, later that same day. “Another week with mostly rainy weather!”
John and I were on our way to dinner to celebrate his birthday. I had just clicked off the weather app on my phone to check out the forecast for the following week as the day’s dousing of sunshine made me hopeful, and perhaps a bit greedy, for more sunshine in the following week.
“It’s supposed to be heavy at times too. Another chance of flooding,” he added with a voice full of disappointment.
I let his words sink in feeling the weight of disappointment clutching at my chest.
Sunshine, sweet cheery friend, why are you so fickle this season?
Seasonal affective disorder has never felt so real to me as it has this winter. Is it my age? Is it in my head, and like the pains of childbirth, I have simply forgotten how I felt last winter? Surely, I cannot not be the only one feeling this way as February winds down? Based on conversations I’ve been sharing with co-workers, I don’t think so, but maybe we’re more sensitive souls as we work with hormonal middle school students. And yet, I have participated in countless conversations with others outside of the confines of our school building who share similar thoughts. Still . . .
Where are you sunshine? You tease me with a day or two of golden joy, only to hide for days, even weeks, at a time. Please come back to me and stay. Have I been taking you for granted? Have I not admired you enough? Have I not given enough appreciation for your satisfying solar sensations?
Then, it hit me. I have abandoned specific routines that typically nourish my soul. However, my morning meditation and prayer practice has fallen by the wayside. I have further abandoned my morning moment of daily devotional reading. Daily yoga practice has likewise been forsaken. These morning rituals have been supplanted by “to do” lists and hitting the snooze button, one too many times, and/or setting a later morning alarm because I am so desperate for more sleep. While I do need sleep, and I never seem to get enough of it, my overall need for rest is not going to be solved by getting 15-20 more minutes of sleep. Thus, perhaps it is connecting with the Divine through my spiritual practices that I am truly missing–my inner source of sunshine. Insert face into palm!
The day before writing this piece, I encountered a woman at a local grocery store. I was departing the store through the designated “exit,” and an unknown woman was attempting to enter through it. I stepped aside to allow her to come in, and I encouraged her step in out of the sharp wind. She smiled and apologized.
“I know I shouldn’t come in through the exit.”
I smiled at her in reply, confessing that I often do the same thing. It occurred to me then that the store doesn’t mind how you get inside their premises as long as you keep coming back when you run low or out of their products. Hmm . . .
How similar is that to our own faith habits? God doesn’t mind the way in which we enter our faith walk, we just have to keep returning for the love and the lessons that are offered. Otherwise, we will always run low, or in my case, run on fumes–nearly depleted of all inner joy. In fact, Divine Providence, I continue to observe, has a way of continuously placing the same lessons in my life until I am finally ready to learn. While I am not by any means stating that the dismal weather was purposely put into our local winter weather system solely for me to learn this lesson, I do realize now that it was/is my perception of this season, created by my depleted tank and lack of faith habits, that was/is the main source for my personal cloud of suffering, rather than the actual weather.
Winter weather must be endured, or spring would not smell so sweet. However, by returning to my faith routine, the ones that I know nurture my soul, I can begin to, well, weather the downpours of life’s seasonal and metaphorical changes. I believe I see a forecast for the return of earlier starts to my day with morning peaks of devotional reading, prayer/meditation, and perhaps even five minutes of yoga. May they return me to the Ultimate Source of personal sunshine.