So, they’re here.
I made up my mind, consciously and willfully, not to hate winter. December we had fresh, gorgeous blankets of snow and photo ops straight out of mountain postcards. We endured a week of single digit temps. We had a lovely white Christmas.
Now it’s January. We had the single day record for snowfall and consequently two snow days, one of which we fully, blissfully enjoyed. We’ve had about a week of forecast “freezing rain,” of which we’ve suffered only small doses thus far. But there’s still time.
Wenatchee is buried and icy. The downtown roads have snow piled in the center lane–I’m talking six-to-eight-foot walls–making winter driving just that much more challenging. Of the last two hikes I took, the one to Castlerock was a disaster, with the dogs struggling through deep snow and me falling and postholing and consoling myself, “well, it’s cardio.” The one to Two Bears went okay…except that my drive afterward took literally four times longer than it normally would, due to icy roads, which made me late to pick up Kim, so hard to feel positive associations.
One of the powerful lessons God taught me in Nicaragua, that I probably knew in theory (do we know anything when we merely know it in theory?) but had driven home nearly every day for seven years, is our happiness/joy does not have to depend on our circumstances. Before you role your eyes at such an obvious, remedial lesson, remember that I’m talking about things like going without running water, not surviving a slow internet connection. I mean taking in stride that the previously rough dirt road is now physically impassable because the road crew came in to “improve” it but in reality to get a photo op and left it excavated with a five-foot drop off from everyone’s driveway. If I’m honest, most Nicaraguans living in our barrio accepted with a shrug and a smile conditions that would send most of us frothing and spitting.
I need to dig into this for a second. I’ve learned that very few of us have our attitude improved merely by hearing an abstract “other people have it worse.” We aren’t moved by faceless, anonymous humans who live differently than we do. I could argue that we should be. Truth, though, we aren’t.
The lesson worked in Nicargua because they became neighbors–no, more accurately, we became neighbors, as they were already there and we moved in. Becoming neighbors was more than living in that home. We shared soup. We laughed together and prayed for each other. We set off fireworks together. We shared pets. No, really, we did.
Trust me, I’m coming back around to cold, grey days in Washington. The lesson God taught me went deeper than “you can be happy in difficult circumstances.” I know we’re getting very sensitive to this word “entitled,” but I’m not going to try to find a synomym here because it’s the word I need: I’m not entitled to better conditions than my Nicaraguan neighbors. I mean, I think I am. I am accustomed and conditioned to having them. I want them. But in no way do I deserve them or have them coming as some birthright. That sank in (not as quickly as it should have) because we grew to love some of our neighbors as family. Some were strange, quirky family, admittedly, but loved nonetheless. Mileydi, Juan Carlos, Manuel, and Dora became the opposite of faceless, anonymous statistics. Those are still just names to most of you, but I can feel their laughter and still bask in their smiles, even at this remove of time and distance.
We didn’t live in Nicaragua for the purpose of Jesus teaching me object lessons, yet God was not letting me miss these points, either.
Okay, ready for the big leap back to snow and ice?
I don’t like this weather or this season. I’m trying to see every part of it I can enjoy. Back in December, I told a clerk at Grocery Outlet with whom I always chat how beautiful I think it is and she said, “Yeah, I’m over it.” I told her, “Oh, I get that. I won’t force my cheeriness on you.” The irony was not lost on me. There I was, recently repentant winter-hater—still my fourth favorite season–standing accused of trying to sell happy winter to someone.
“Major League Baseball* starts in April,” I offered as consolation. He shrugged..
I’m over this. But it’s not done yet. We could say the same thing about the pandemic. In fact, we say this in our household about COVID all the time. It may be the truest thing I can say about it.
Sorry, I digress. Back to winter. I have to clench my muscles and try now. It was coming pretty easily, this new attitude, when everything was beautiful and I just needed more layers and to breathe the cold air more deeply. It really worked. I never once grumbled. I lost weight. I took tons of pictures.
Today, I need to apply the lessons I learned–maybe even earned–in Nicaragua. Yes, I dislike these conditions. Yes, some kneejerk reaction in me wants to demand that we stop this bloody freezing rain shite, and I mean right bleep-bleeping now. Guess what? The more I give in to those impulses, the more I hate all this.
I hope you’ve read my blog enough to know I don’t believe in pretzel-twisting our emotions to make ourselves believe something we don’t really believe, just because we should. If you haven’t, um…that. I refuse.
But there’s a tension between that approach, which would suggest that tragedies need to be celebrated because God is good so we’re to “be thankful” for misery, and the spiritual truth of “fake it ’til you make it.” The latter does apply sometimes. I may not feel loving toward some people–okay, I definitely don’t–but I can’t wait until I feel that love bubble up to the surface beore I act lovingly toward them. Truth to tell, often the acts of love will help me feel love toward them; even if it doesn’t, the right thing is still the right thing. I will respect my feelings, but I won’t let them run the show and despise people created in God’s image.
Today, I’m choosing not to let the negative feelings run the show. Two days ago I fell on our icy front step, in spite of having spent real time and effort clearing it of ice and snow. My feet shot straight out from under me and I had no time to catch myself (which would have beat the crap out of my hands), so instead I landed on my left hip and shoulder.
Ready for this? 1)I’m so glad that was me and not Annalise, post-shoulder surgery, 2)I’m grateful I fell on my left side instead of my right, which might have screwed up my ability to throw a disc, 3)I’m appreciative that I’m not yet the age at which a hard fall on my hip means I break my hip and end up hospitalized and maybe lose my mobility permanently, as happened to Kim’s grandmother.
I’m not sugarcoating. It wasn’t a fun experience, I did have choice words for it, and I had to do some deep breathing (not the fun, take-in-the-fresh air kind) to get re-centered, especially since I was about to drive a kiddo to the dentist.
I’m now approaching the entirety of winter drawing out for two more months (or so) as I did that fall. I don’t love this. I’m not pretending to. I’m choosing not to hate it and I’m recognizing that while it inconveniences and occasionally even threatens me, many, many people have it much worse. Real people. Including some people I truly love. I will remember that I have no right to comfort and convenience, however much I like them.
Absolutely, I will seek to notice and soak in the beauty whenever possible, but when it’s ugly and difficult and ranges between uncomfortable and dangerous, I’ll simply do my best to remember that this could be worse and refuse to let myself fixate on what I dislike.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this has been a wondrous and difficult start to a New Year for me. The wondrous: I’ve experienced less depression, and of a lower intensity, than in the past several years. It feels like being able to breathe when I anticipated gasping for air the whole way through. I’m not giving you any “just change your attitude and it’ll all go away” crap regarding depression. Believe me, I’m not. I call it “wondrous” because it has caught me off guard and I don’t know how much of it to attribute to this attitudinal change. I can point to a few other major differences in life this year that likely contribute as much or more to the improvement.**
Therefore, on with winter. The winter blahs have started kocking on the door and I’m doing my best to turn them away, which is a vast improvement over when I invited them in and served tea and cookies. Lots of cookies.
But I likely won’t tell any more clerks how beautiful it is.
*I didn’t mention strikes and lockouts. Sometimes I hate the adult world.
**No, nothing I can package and market. Thanks for asking.