Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Ode to Winter

I'm a person who craves seasons and all the changes they bring to the scenery. I'm drawn to the smells and the emotions; the freshness of spring, the activity of summer, the excitement of fall, but above all, I love the stillness of winter. Dare I say? It might be my favorite season.

Cue the uproar.

Winter gets a lot of flack. Happen to say to someone who lives in a cold and snow drifting location that you love the weather and they will look at you aghast. Then they will try to persuade you that you are totally misinformed. What about driving in the snow? Cleaning off the snow? The delays and cancellations that encroach on your neatly scheduled life? The cold! Can we talk about the below zero temperatures and pipes bursting and the seasonal depression disorder, the lack of sun and did we mention how cold it is?

I sit, patiently, listening to all of these reasons, but itch to share my view.

Winter. You are appreciated too little.

In November, you glide towards us, your presence becoming known as the temperatures cool and weathermen begin to share reports of flurries and snow storms. With anticipation, you carry us through December towards Christmas. Songs regale your beauty and the children remind us of your wonder as they dash about in fresh snow, building Frosty anew with fresh button eyes and a carrot nose. Talk of hot chocolate and curling up by the fire entrance us as we survey the opened gifts. Our bellies are full and our hearts happy as we stare out our windows as intricate snowflakes fall from a darkened sky. We are content to bask in your beauty.

But the enchantment of Christmas fades with the newness of another year and we bustle to accomplish our new list of resolutions. The grumbles begin as January lengthens. Delays and cancellations interrupt our lives. The beauty that once held us captive is now a burden to be overcome. Winter, you have outstayed your welcome. When do you plan to leave?

The darkness persists and cabin fever runs rampant. Children become restless, parents and educators irritable. We wait expectantly for a glorified rodent to give us hope: Will spring come early this year? Cheers or groans accompany the answer, but either way, the population slouches doggedly on through February towards the newness of spring in March.

We refuse to acknowledge you anymore, Winter. We are done with your dance. Back up your belongings and get onto the road. We dislike your appearance and despise your company. Goodbye and good ridden.

But Winter never changed. The magic and beauty of that first snow fall doesn't escape with the second or third. Winter has always brought with it snow and shorter days. Winter is upfront with her personality and gifting; we are the ones who have lost our perspective.

Now let me be clear. I am not exempt from the irritation or after Christmas blues, and I certainly cannot understand nor relate to deep Northern winters (I live in Southern Ohio. We are lucky to get snow some years.) My perspective, however, focuses on the stillness.

Have you ever noticed how quiet it becomes when the snow begins to fall in earnest? I read somewhere it has to do with the water particles interacting with sound waves and it literally quiets the landscape. It's. So. Quiet.
There isn't much you can do. You're limited to activities that keep you inside, which are honestly a dream to this introverted, book loving, cat cuddling, tea drinker. Give me an excuse not to interact with the outside world and I will happily burrow under a blanket. But the stillness gets me every time and holds me captive.

Maybe it's because God has been speaking to me about being quiet and still, but I'm saddened to see winter begin to say her goodbyes. I want to linger in this space, gazing at the snow falling. It calms me and helps me to ignore the clamor. As the temperature rises, I foresee the demands of life encroaching. Do this, go there. Winter is the only season that reigns over our posture, making us bow to her will. She will leave soon, though, and I will wave, wishing her back again next season and hoping for a more beautiful display than the last.

Until that time, bring on the snow.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How A Lampshade Debacle Changed my Perspective

About two weeks ago, my husband and I made a trip to Target to finally purchase some
replacement lamp shades. Over a year ago, during a crazed dash through the house, one of our cats crashed into the lamp shade, succinctly cracking the inside layer. We sighed, shook our heads and added lampshades to our wish list. Though cracked, it still did the job and we couldn't justify spending $50 or more on fixtures when loans, rent and gas were top priority. We placed it on the back burner and quickly forgot about it.

However, with the dawn of the new year, I resolved to stop waiting. We had the funds and I knew the exact shades I wanted. So we made a date, happily purchased the shades and brought them home. My husband, eager to see how they would look, quickly removed the cellophane and placed it atop the lamp wire.

It. Didn't. Fit.

All joy evaporated. Over a year of waiting and those hand-me-down lamps that had served me so well during college were too tall in design. You could see the light bulb clearly. They looked ridiculous and were a far cry from my vision of an elegant upgrade.

I numbly rummaged through my purse for the receipt, plucked the new, beautiful lampshade from its perch and stacked the betrayers on the floor. "Chalk up another dream to failure," I thought and turned away from the pain that confronted me.

Lampshades shouldn't incite such a dismal declaration. I tried to shrug it off thinking I was being overly dramatic or emotional, but it wouldn't go away. Instead of continuing to avoid my reaction, I sat down and wrote, my stream of conscious flowing across the page.

This wasn't simply about a lampshade. This was raw grief. It was deeply rooted, going back further than when the lampshade cracked. Pinning down a label for the feeling, however, evaded me. I continued to write. As the pages filled with my cursive scrawl, its name began to emerge. It had chosen the moment of the lampshade debacle to finally burrow out of the depths of my heart and rear its ugly head: Shame.

Finally, I could see it in all of its twisty and gruesome glory:
My twitchy, unwelcome companion at house warming parties and baby showers, making me feel awkward while acting celebratory.

My towering judge, causing me to evade questions about careers and five year plans.

My cynic, heightening my senses to the mess, the shabbiness and hand-me-downs of our cozy, yet "quaint," home, stirring up a restless anger.
My Shame knows no grace. It constantly flaps the Before and After photos of Dreams vs Reality, until, finally, I snatch them out if its gnarled hands and shove them deep into a dark drawer of forgetfulness.
The disappointment hurts less there, in the dark.
But I didn't realize that by avoiding the pain, I had become paralyzed with a severe case of hope deficiency.

When did I stop trying? When did making simple improvements with unforeseen obstacles cause my fortitude to crumble? When did dreaming stop bringing joy and start bringing agony?

Shocked, I tried to pin down a point of origin, to no avail. This was a slow invasion, one disappointment building upon one another, growing and mutating, until Shame emerged. Disappointments were personal failures. My life stage didn't look like my friends who are buying houses and having babies. "Something must be wrong with me." Cue blame and resignation. I stopped moving entirely. I was frozen, as if I had entered a cryogenic chamber, preserving what life (and dreams) I had left. Inadvertently, I froze my heart too.

But no more.

Today, I'm choosing to thaw out and embrace the grief. I'm unpacking those dreams my 23-old self had at the beginning of marriage and holding them close; that dream house, those ginger haired babies by age 30, that creative writing career. They may not yet have happened or may not have happened at all, but they're still precious and still hold hope.

I'm choosing to act instead of waiting and hope instead of despair. I've started to change my perspective from impoverished lack to innovative wealth. I'm asking myself questions: What do I have? What can I control? What can I change? I have to actively work to continue moving forward.

 I began by manipulating those lamps to fit the new lamp shades. There was definitely an adjustment period (I literally had to leave the apartment for an afternoon to give the new look time to grow on me), but now I cannot imagine a better fit. A bit of creative engineering, some patience and the dream prevailed. In life not everything comes easily, but the things worth having are always worth fighting for.

 I've joined One Word 365 and declared 2016 to be my year to #move. If you could choose one word for your year what would it be? 

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