I did not plan to write this post. In fact, I had intended to write something very, very different.
Given that this weekend marks the winter solstice and this post will also appear on the UU Collective at Patheos, I had wanted to write something poignant and insightful about the beauty of the season. I wanted to write about the joys that winter brings, about sledding and snow angels and hot chocolate. I had planned to write something spiritual about the way that winter’s long nights give us a chance to rest and reflect. I wanted to write something optimistic about all of the warmth that lingers in the chilly winter, about growth and rebirth, about the the changing seasons as a reminder that everything is temporary.
I wanted to write about these things. I had planned to write about these things, had hoped to write about these things.
But I just couldn’t do it.
Because, honestly, I FREAKING HATE WINTER.
Try as I might to dig deep spiritually and see all the good that winter offers, I just can’t seem to do it. In fact, I hate almost everything about winter. I hate the snow and ice and frigid temperatures. I hate the bulky sweaters and heavy boots and the way my hands are always cold. I hate the muddy puddles that pool by the door. I hate that it’s dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. I hate shoveling. And I hate that it takes longer to get my kids dressed in their winter gear – coats, snowpants, hats, and mittens – than it does to actually get where we are going.
The optimist in me wants to learn to love all of life’s seasons, even the cold and dark ones. And the UU in me is trying desperately to “respect the interdependent web” and enjoy winter for its role in that cycle of connectedness. Yet despite my spiritual, optimistic, glass-is-half-full attempts to appreciate winter, the simple truth is that I HATE WINTER and I’m only hoping to survive the next few months.
I want to be more tolerant of winter’s harsh personality. I want to see God’s beauty in the dormant bud as much as in the flowering bloom. I want to be stronger, more resilient to the bitter and biting cold. I want to be more flexible to the changing seasons on the calendar and in life.
But some days, it is just so hard to be tolerant, to see the beauty, to be resilient. Some days it is really hard not to be consumed by the darkness. Sometimes it is almost impossible not to rage against change, almost impossible not to scream “ENOUGH ALREADY! I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE!” (By now you’ve probably figured out that I’m not just talking about winter here.)
It feels selfish and self-indulgent to wallow in my disdain for what amounts to a minor inconvenience, a slight discomfort. It seems short-sighted and pessimistic to focus on the darkness and the harsh conditions. It feels feeble and gloomy to wallow in the ugliness, desperate and ungrateful to long for lighter, warmer days.
But does loving life mean that we have to hide our disdain for the colder times? Does respecting the web of connection mean that we have to delight in all aspects of a network so complex and delicate that we cannot possibly make sense of it all? And does the cultivation of gratitude mean that we are prohibited from yearning for better, brighter days?
Maybe tolerance doesn’t come from looking with favor on every hassle and indiscretion, but rather through an admission of our unhappiness and a willingness to move through it. Maybe resilience and flexibility don’t ask that we greet bleak conditions with delight, but simply that we acknowledge the discomfort with truth and kindness.
And maybe Grace isn’t found in pretending the dark and cold times aren’t exactly what they are – hard and difficult. Maybe Grace comes from a simple acknowledgement that “THIS SUCKS,” followed by a deep breath and the inherent understanding that, for better or worse, this too shall pass.
How do you feel about winter? Do you love it? Hate it? And how do you deal with cold and dark seasons of life?