By the time the season of glad tidings rolls around, I am often depleted of comfort and joy. I don’t hate the holidays. I don’t even dislike them. It’s just that the holidays happen to fall during a time when the skies have cast every possible shade of gray, and the sun has taken to retiring earlier in the day. By the time December rolls around, I am longing for the brilliance of a bright blue sky, and I feel the need for a hit of color, preferably one that does not fall into the earth tone category.
I’m fairly certain I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, since I am pretty good at diagnosing myself. Some friends are laughing right now and murmuring something about hypochondria. Let them laugh. It’s true. Look at my blog posts. If you were to chart the number of serious or somewhat depressing blogs, they would fall in the months of November, December, January and February – months that are shorter and darker than the others. Look at the posts that I have written in the summertime and they are as carefree as a barefoot girl on a boat can be.
When my kids were smaller, I could jet to Florida for a little renewal, but once they were in school full-time that wasn’t an easy option. I had to figure out a way to accept that life in the Midwest would always mean enduring the pallid days of winter.
Last year as the final leaves fell from the trees, I felt that tinge of sadness start to sweep over me, knowing that soon everything would look lifeless and bland. I was walking down one of my favorite stretches of Delaware Street, a stretch framed by trees which, most likely, have stood for a hundred years. I stopped long enough to notice the branches on one particular Oak. I studied their form, the way they bend seemingly without reason, the pathways they create and the many hues of black, brown and gray limbs that branch out from a single trunk.
Suddenly I was struck with gratitude that I could see the nakedness of this tree. That I had a different view. That the leaves that had so beautifully adorned this tree just days before had been shed to reveal splendor in its rawest form. It made me think of all the other spaces around me that were now stripped of their blatant beauty. The large blooms covering the lilac bushes were long gone, as were the impressive flower gardens no longer camouflaged the brown earth. Instead of seeing death, I saw life. Life at rest, perhaps, but life at its purest. Life with no pretensions. Life submitted. Life exposed.
I wondered how often I ignore the beauty of this season of life in myself and in the people around me. How often I turn away from the lackluster to gaze upon the dazzling. It’s no surprise that this lesson came to me at a time when our family moved into the city with its toothless, ragged transient men and women roaming the streets rather than the trendy, attractive teenagers I used to watch driving their Jeeps to the high school football games.
Reframing my view has allowed me to see that which I had ignored, or even disliked, as things of beauty and worth. With this view, I now choose not only to turn my attention to that which simply pleases the eye, but to that which is raw, exposed and vulnerable – whether its a bare tree or a stranger passing on the sidewalk.
There are days I still want to crawl under the covers and wait for the blue sky to show itself, but thankfully, these have become fewer. And hopefully, they will become fewer still as I allow God to transform my way of thinking and seeing. When I allow him to shift my paradigm, I find the most contentment and discover that to everything there is a season and to every season there is a purpose.