Friday, April 13, 2012
Start Where You Are Today
Today, I’m feeling soggy—absolutely done-in by days of unrelenting rain. It’s the kind of weather that could bum me out if I let it There’s a very real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder that actually does “do-in” those who suffer from too much meteorological gloom (and a lack of vitamin D). Those of us who are not biologically impaired by weeks of gray skies and saturating rain, however, stand a better chance of turning around those bummed out feelings.
Still basking in the afterglow from the recent performance of my metaphysical blues song, Start Where You Are Today (if not from the “glow” of the sun), I’m reminded that by changing our thinking we can change our experience of life. Sounds simplistic, but is not for the faint of heart. Borrowing from the lyrics of the song, we perhaps can’t change our circumstances (or the torrential rain outside my window), but we can change the way we experience them. It also reminds us that we need to start somewhere—preferably today. Corny as it sounds, today really is the first day of the rest of our life. Just try changing yesterday.
There are examples too numerous to site of people overcoming seemingly unendurable circumstances by shifting their perspective—Viktor Frankl comes to mind (Man’s Search for Meaning), a prisoner of war with no real prospects of survival who became an esteemed philosopher and inspirational teacher. But, that’s a really big example. What about us regular-folks?
What about those of us who feel weighed down by an elongated season of rain? Day after day of no sunshine, temperatures that never rise above fifty degrees, ruts in the driveway that get deeper and deeper with the onslaught of water, potted plants that have drowned and hopefully gone on to a better place—we become morose, lethargic, eat more carbs than we know we should. We drag ourselves to work with a lack of enthusiasm and an attitude befitting Eyore. Can we just “snap out of it”? Possibly not—but perhaps we can think our way through it to a less stressful experience of it.
To look at our thinking, we have to notice the stuck spots, the places of self-sabotage. Back to the song—a guy is sitting at a stop sign waiting for the light to change—talk about self defeating—with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, wondering why nothing is happening. Have you ever been there?
His question of angst is “Why try, we’re all gonna die anyway.” Well, yes, it’s true—we are all going to die. A whole generation of kids who grew up in the era of the bomb shelter in the back yard held the same question. I guess the focus should be on what would you like your quality of life to be between right now, and then? The guy in the song rails about the role of fate, and the admonishment to not push the river—it flows by itself. Again, this is not about controlling the outcome, but rather influencing the process by which we get there. The journey—not the destination is our focus.
So, what are the good things that can come out of all this rain? Even though the ground water is backed up like a bad sewer right now, over time it will seep deeper and deeper into the earth, reaching those tree roots and dormant plants that have been waiting for this miracle of nature to kick-start their growth cycle. My lilac bush has burst into bloom, despite the torrential rain weighing down it’s branches. Trees and plants are good. Imagine a world without them. They need rain.
On rainy days, I’m less likely to busy myself out in the world. I become more introspective; I move at a slower pace; I rest my body more deeply than when I’m running about “getting things done.” Slowing down is actually good for our health.
Natural beauty is its own reward. The dusty greens and musty yellows of the dry season are pretty in their own subdued way. But, the vivid colors that emerge after spring rains are enough to make me dizzy. The neighbor’s plum tree glows with pink flowers snuggling close to its formerly bare branches. The lavender color of my lilac along the back fence soothes my senses. The dust-free green of the vines that will soon spout clusters of purple wisteria, glisten as they gracefully drape from the tree boughs. The deep rust of the redwoods, saturated with water, are not seen anywhere else in nature’s colors.
I’m sure you can make your own list that will help add some balance to the scale of coping. For me, I’m still looking forward to sunshine—which I know will arrive, eventually. In the meantime, I feel a little less hostile as I pop an extra vitamin D, grab my umbrella, and head out into my day. Hmm. The air actually smells pretty good.