Winters and springs

(Hi friends. How are you? It’s been a while. I’m sorry to those of you who I worried with my long absence, although I appreciate that you were worried because I know that means you care. But please don’t worry! I’m okay, I’m just struggling with my health right now and life is a bit blurry and that makes the whole writing thing rather slow and difficult. Plus I’m out of practice. But I miss it! So hopefully I’ll have another post sooner than four months.)

Spring is here. And it finally actually looks and feels like spring.

Winter seemed to go on forever, eh? Even when the calendar said it was spring, the weather said otherwise.

And while I am speaking meteorologically, I’m also speaking personally. It rained on end outside, but it’s also been kind of raining on end in my life. Nothing major, just the daily grind of life, of living in a broken body, of being sick every day and everything that comes with that. It takes a toll. I know it’s been months since I’ve posted anything here, but with all the rain all of my energy has been focused on not letting myself get washed away.

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Why yes, yes I am related to Grizzly Adams. Have I never mentioned that?

In some ways, the more you deal with the tougher you become, but in other ways, with enough rain, well it all just turns into mud. And there’s been a lot of mud lately. Not quite as much mud as my brother recently hiked through on the Dusky Track in New Zealand, but a lot of mud nonetheless.

As I mentioned, though, it does seem that actual spring is finally here. Outside, at least. Personally, I’m still stuck in winter, but when I look outside it’s definitely spring and that gives me hope. Because despite the unusually long, cold winter, and despite the well above average April rainfall, spring still showed up. Just like it always does. Just like it always will.

No matter what comes before it, eventually it always turns to spring. The tulips always bloom. The birds always start building their nests. All of these things happen every year. No matter how long or cold or dark or rainy or icy or snowy or gloomy winter is, winter always ends.

Spring always shows up. It’s dependable like that. And that’s encouraging.

But in other ways, it’s actually kind of discouraging, because spring is actually a lot work.

Think about it.

Those tulips don’t just appear by magic. They start out beneath the soil where it’s dark and lonely and they have to grow roots anyway. And then they have to find their way out of the soil, but sometimes squirrels dig them up before they even have a chance. And then they get to grow and bloom and be spectacular, except sometimes even if they’re doing a really great job growing and blooming the deer come along and eat them and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s a lot of work being a tulip.

Same with being a bird. Some birds use the same nests each year, but a lot of them don’t. Come spring they start from scratch on a new nest. And birds usually only use a nest once so if they raise multiple broods each year, then that’s multiple nests every year. From scratch. It’s a lot of work being a bird, too.

And a human. It’s also a lot of work being a human.

Because we have seasons, too. They’re not as well-defined and as the ones that result from the Earth’s changing position relative to the sun, but we have seasons. Those gloomy and doomy and dreary and weary times? Those are winters. Sometimes our winters last for three months and sometimes they last for three years, but eventually things change for the better. Those better times are the springs. And just like the meteorological seasons, winter always ends and spring always shows up.

So sure, that’s encouraging.

Until you think about how much work spring is. And until you realize that eventually it’s going to be winter again and that winter is going to ruin everything. Again. So then when spring comes back it’s going to be a lot of work all over again. Finding your way out of the soil. A new nest from scratch. Over and over and over again.

Winter is harsh and spring is hard work.

Kind of discouraging.

But then I spent some time outside and noticed that winter doesn’t actually ruin everything.

img_0618Look at this Angel’s Trumpet in my backyard. Look at that new shoot. It’s growing right up from the middle of last year’s trunk. It’s not starting from the very beginning, from the soil. Winter didn’t ruin it. This tree weathered the long, cold winter, and that counts for something. All of its hard work from last year counts for something.

The new shoot is fragile, but its foundation is sturdy. Because it weathered the winter.

I think humans are the same. Fragile and sturdy. New and old. Finding our way and solidly rooted. All at the same time. Because we’ve weathered a lot of winters and our winters count for something.

Sometimes winter makes us tougher, and sometimes it just buries us in mud. Sometimes it does both. But that’s not what matters.

What matters is that we weather it at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the page

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Well, here we are again. December 31. We’re coming up on that kind of trippy moment where the day, month, and year all change over at the same time. We’re at the end of one chapter, and we’re about to turn the page and start a new one.

Okay so speaking of chapters. Books are made up of chapters.

Okay so speaking of books.

We generally don’t start reading books from the middle. We start from the beginning, of course. However, if we were to pick up a new book, open it to the middle and start reading, we wouldn’t be surprised when things didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t know anything about the characters. We wouldn’t know who they were, let alone why they were the way they were. We wouldn’t know what they had been through or what storyline they were in the middle of now.

And without going back and reading the first half of the book, we would intuitively just understand that we didn’t have the whole story.

People are kind of like books.

You’re in the middle of living out one of the chapters of your life, and everyone around you is doing the same. Every single person. And as you interact with the people around you, you become a sentence in their story and they become a sentence in your story. And then you both go on and become sentences in other people’s stories, and they in yours. And those people’s stories are written around the people they came across before they came across you. And so on and so forth.

It’s basically just a big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context. It’s messy. 

We spend a lot of time stuck in our own books trying to make sense of our own stories. Our own brilliant, devastating and everything in between, stories. Our stories consume us, and because they do, and because beyond our own books is that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context, we lose sight of all the other stories taking place around us.

While we’re keenly aware of how other people are written onto the pages of our own lives, sometimes we forget that the reciprocal is also happening. We often don’t get to read more than a sentence or a paragraph of someone else’s book, and so we forget that they’ve lived through pages and pages of their own brilliance and devastation and everything in between.

Every interaction we have with another person is like picking up their book and starting to read it from the middle. There is always more to the story.

You’re probably familiar with the YouTube Rabbit Hole. You know how when you watch something on YouTube, suggestions about what to watch next show up…and then you watch one of those…and then that next video has more suggestions…and you open a few in new tabs but each new video in each new tab has its own suggestions…and then all of a sudden it’s 3am and you have 20 tabs open and what have you even spent the last five hours of your life doing and on that note what are you even doing with your life???

Trying to make sense of the stories of the people around us, that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs, well it pretty much goes the same way. Is that person upset because of what you said? Or is it because of what that other person said to them yesterday? Or is it because what that other person said yesterday reminded them of that terrible thing that happened last year? And on and on because of all the words and sentences and paragraphs and all the people walking in and out of each other’s books.

It’s a rabbit hole of its own. We will never know the whole story.

But we really don’t need to.

The last meeting I had with my health mentorship program students was centered around my story. After I’d rambled on for a long time about a lot of things that had happened, one of the students commented on how one of the challenges of clinical practice is that they’ll never have the opportunity to actually get a patient’s story. Not just the part of the story that explains why the patient is there and what they need that day, but their whole story. The story that includes how they got to where they are.

The demands and time constraints of their jobs mean they will never get to know the whole story. But I’m going to tell you, now, what I told them, then:

You don’t need to know what someone’s story is to know that it exists.

The thing is, no matter how long we’ve known someone or how well we know them, we will never read every single word of their book. Most of the time we don’t even get to read an entire chapter, but rather we get a few sentences here and there. Maybe a paragraph or two.

But that can be enough. Because we don’t need to know what the story is. The pages are still there even if we never read them, and recognizing that is what makes all the difference. Simply remember that the story exists. And respect its existence.

Other people’s stories.

Our own, too.

And so. Here we are once again. The day, month, and year are all about to change over all at once. New sentence, paragraph and chapter. But our lives continue. The stories continue. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. None of them more important than any other.

May 2018 be the year we honour them all.

10, 9, 8, 7…

Turn the page.

6, 5, 4…

New chapter.

3, 2, 1.

Happy New Year!

Together in the darkness

It’s been a hard week, you guys. And month. And two months…this could go on a long time!

November was…a lot. It was just a lot. It left me pretty defeated.

For the most part I’m pretty open, and I do write about a lot of things that I go through, but there’s also a lot that goes on that I don’t write about and don’t share. Sometimes that’s deliberate, and sometimes it’s just too much to explain. And I’m sure that goes without saying, but I’m saying it in case you’re confused why I’m bemoaning November when the only post I made was about watching Christmas movies.

November was a lot and I was pretty happy to see it go. December, though. It’s letting me down a little, as well.

Especially this past week.

This past week was one of those weeks where it feels like the world is working against you. Where you feel powerless. Where all your efforts end up being all for naught so you start to wonder why you’re even trying in the first place.

I’m pretty done.

I know from past experience that if I start to type it all out, I’ll get halfway through and realize I’m already way past a full length post only to end up deleting everything, so I’m just not even going to try and get into it. It’s mostly all just medical stress, a lot of it bureaucracy. And I mean, yeah, I’m used to it, but this has just been one thing after another, each thing wearing me down a little bit more until I’m all but worn right down into the ground. Which is then of course when another thing happens.

Now, I have a four foot pre-lit Christmas tree in my room. This tree is probably my favourite thing about November and December. I love the warm glow of my tree lights and how they make my whole room feel cozy. They’re set up on a remote (thanks, Lisa!) and so the first thing I do every morning is turn these lights on, and the last thing I do before going to sleep is turn them off. And I know this seems irrelevant but it’s actually not.

Because on Thursday, after Thursday’s stressful stuff happened, I turned off my tree lights. It wasn’t even noon yet, but I was just beyond frustrated with everything and turning off my lights seemed like a good outlet for that frustration. Later that day, still frustrated, I texted my best friend.

Besties at Christmas

Oh my goodness how perfect is it that she’s the star!? Sharing her light with me our whole lives

This is not the first mention of her on this blog, but in case you’re new here, we’ve been friends forever. To the right is a seasonally appropriate throwback photo of us. Below is the text I sent her.

“Everything sucks this week and I’m angry and I kept my Christmas tree lights off all day in protest of the world because I’m mad at it.”

You know, like the mature adult that I am. And then I honestly forgot I’d even sent that text until just before midnight when she replied with the very best reply.

“Oh no, I’ll keep my Christmas tree lights off in solidarity.”

She then asked me what happened, and on Friday, after Friday’s stressful stuff had happened, I filled her in on everything that was going on, including that my lights were still off.

That’s when she told me that so were hers. And sent me the photo to prove it.

And I melted. I just felt so loved. And supported. It made my heart so happy. My favourite thing about how this all went down is that she told me she was turning her lights off in solidarity before even knowing why exactly she was doing it. Because she didn’t need to know. She simply saw that I was sitting in the dark, and she came and sat next to me.

It changed nothing, but it meant everything.

We all have darkness in our lives that we muddle our way through. And yet, we’re oftentimes just so uncomfortable seeing other people in their own darkness. It makes us feel helpless, and so we say and do things to try and pull each other away from it. When that doesn’t work, we end up feeling even more uncomfortable and helpless, and so we shy away from those people and their darkness. And then sometimes, their darkness becomes so dark that we can hardly see them in the middle of it.

Let’s not do that anymore.

Darkness happens. We can’t keep it away from ourselves or from each other. Not forever, anyway. But instead of trying to pull each other away from it, and instead of losing each other in it, we can sit together through it.

It’s harder this way. And scarier. Because we’ve all been through darkness, we all know what it feels like and so why would we ever willingly walk into that? Because. Do you remember what it felt like when you were in the dark? Do you remember how you felt when you didn’t think anyone could see you sitting there in your darkness?

That’s why.

My friend came and sat with me in the dark, just walked right in and joined me. She didn’t try to pull me away from it. She didn’t try to disguise it with some big, blinding spotlight. She just sat with me. She shared some of her light with me.

And then I wasn’t alone anymore. And it wasn’t quite so dark.

So I turned my tree lights back on.

And she did, too.