“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus
I’ve had a disdain for winter for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid in Iowa, my older sister could get me to go outside only by explaining an exciting game we were going to play in the blistering cold. Her games usually involved making food – pizzas in the ground, snow cones in my hands, or building something else completely impossible. But, just as soon as the negative temperatures grazed my face, my imagination would halt and lay dormant against the frigid ground. I’d quickly become frustrated, irritated, and just wanted to go inside where it was safe and warm.
Recently, I found myself in an emotional and physical winter. While home visiting family and friends in the Midwest, I was simultaneously drudging through my own difficult emotions as the first snowfalls arrived. One day, while shoveling the snow with a friend, I managed to conjure up a few words alongside my sarcastic smile, “thank you for teaching me to love winter again.” Though the fun company and the warming beverages may have helped, these synchronized encounters of winter have challenged me. I’m finally able to consider winter as something I could learn to love, even if only because, it’s here.
“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo
I’ve tried, like so many of us have, to enjoy my winter. To let it be and behold it for the miracle that it is. To cherish the snow falling as if I’m getting to see a snow globe live. To move through my emotional pain and accept it, just as I am. This has proven much more difficult than I ever imagined. It’s much easier to despise the winter or suffer through it knowing spring is imminent, but what if it’s not? What if this is the winter that spring never enters into? What if these are the sorrows that never go away?
Though altering seasons can assist us in embracing the one that is present, what if a contrast never comes again? I so often tell myself to live here and now – that the day before me is all I have, and I wonder what it might look like if I truly lived like winter is all I had? What if I basked in the freezing temperatures and reveled in the sights of snow? What would it feel like to constantly be okay with a flow of tears and an openly aching heart? Could I muster up the courage to keep letting the light in? Loving winter requires a vulnerability I’m still unfamiliar with.
“There Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In” Leonard Cohen
It is certain that in my figurative winter, I’ve been opened up in a way I never knew possible. The rawness of my spirit has forced in a light often too bright to stand — but in my openness, it keeps shining in. Though this can be a painful experience and usually makes me want to dive deeply into hibernation, I’m managing to stay outside longer. I’m learning to be with the light of day. I’m getting in touch with my own soreness in a way that’s made me more aware of those in pain nearby. And in these times, I’m finding myself sitting side-by-side with those in need as we watch the snow fall together. And in our camaraderie, we become ready to shovel out our neighbors, so that we all might play as best we can in this literal and figurative bone-chilling cold.
For one of the first times in my life, I’m listening to the outdoor games of winter and trying to join in their fun. I’m doing my best to forget the pain of the wind against my face. I’m doing my best to be here, now. Sometimes, or usually, my laughter is in vain, and my cheer is fake – but I’m still going outside, I’m still letting the light come in.
At the end of the day, I know winter is a sure sign of spring. But, despite that knowledge, isn’t this winter worthy of my imperfect effort to enjoy it? Especially knowing there are already so many out there scooping the sidewalks of strangers. Especially knowing all of those who have cleared my paths to get outside. Especially knowing, in all our figurative and literal winters, there are imaginative games and laughter that await us as long as we let the light in, as long as we step outside.
“The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Parker J. Palmer