On the last winter solstice, the longest night of the year, I sat in a car at the mouth of Rock Canyon with my best friend and cried until my eyes were salty and stinging and dry and my chest ached from the heaving and my lips were cracked. Then I stepped out into the cold mouth of the canyon, cried some more, and yelled at God—a long string of angry sorrow and curse words. I stood outside in the dark and yelled until my voice was hoarse and my fingertips were numb. I stood in the cold and felt like a wisp, a shell, such a fragile thing. I was fighting for my life right then, holding on to the edge of a cliff and constantly working to convince myself that I could survive the pain, that I could find happiness, that I was worthy of love. So often I felt that my pesky needs for love and emotional safety and authenticity were making everyone around me miserable, that life would be better for others without me around. Tightly tucked into the dark and cold of the longest winter I’ve ever known, I didn’t know if I’d ever make my way out. I just kept waking up to one more minute of light each day, watched as the day’s light lengthened, hurt and hoped.
Today was summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I slept in until 11, went to lunch with new friends at my favorite park, washed my quilt at the laundromat, rode the train to Murray to visit my Aunt Gwen who reminded me how loved and supported I am, how grateful she is for me, how she admires me. Just past sunset I drove to Rock Canyon again. I walked into the mouth of the canyon to sit on a boulder and cry. There is still so much pain (and more and different pain) but it is softer around the edges, and I am stronger. I talked to my little brother, told him how much I miss his sparkly eyes and his mischievous giggle. The warm breeze blew through my hair as crickets sang their night song. Orange light beyond the lake faded as the stars peeked out through clouds that moved softly through the darkening blue. I talked to God, whispered a dozen thank yous for the beauty of this world, for this life and the labyrinthine journey I’m taking. After the crying and the whispered prayer, I found the tiny stage of an amphitheater and danced to Regina Spektor, sang, bowed to the applauding stars.
Tonight I held myself tight in love and compassion, reveling in the treasure that is me—that beautiful and imperfect person who is always here at the end of each day and each grief, the friend I’m learning to cherish with each waking. As sorrow and anger and loss have ravaged me this year, as so many of the outer trappings of my identity have fallen away, I’ve finally learned to love myself without condition. It is new love: fierce and soft and open and grateful. Tonight there is such light, such light, such light shining through the cracks and the flaws of my wandering soul.
Today joy peeked its head through the soil again, as it always seems to do. Hooray! And today felt like spring. I’m grateful for spring and joy like crocuses that find their way through hard, snowy ground to the light.
I’m grateful I got to cry today. It cleared a lot of things for me.
I’m grateful that I got to babysit Emerson, a sweet one-year-old who “helped” me load the dishwasher tonight. Grateful for his wonderful parents who are two of my dearest friends—two of those rare people in my life that I never feel like I have to pretend with.
I am grateful that I got to hold my sweet Matthew on my lap tonight and stroke his hair. He is so sweet and wonderful and growing too fast.
Life is so good, especially when I choose to believe it is so.
Grateful today for the way my children love me so unconditionally. Even when I’m a little off my game or out of sorts.
Grateful for snuggling and singing and dancing.
Grateful for my Kaitlyn’s incredible sense of humor and the gift of laughter.
Grateful for math jokes, like Scott’s favorite: “Math, I’m not a psychiatrist. Solve your own problems.”
Grateful for a sweet dog. I love our Rusty dog.
This winter is cold and hard. And my endless search for a story where I’m perfect enough or wise enough to avoid pain is met in my mind with a friend’s soft voice: I’m sorry, darling, but you’re human.
Tonight I walked in black clogs along the river trail, my ankles bare and bitten by icy air beneath my long, gray skirt. The bare trees jutted their limbs and sticks into the chill of river and sky, and mallards’ burnished backs and green heads floated on the running water, their quacks and taunts floating up to join the smell of wispy woodsmoke.
The cold pulse of sorrow enclosed me; one warm tear fell down my face. I don’t cry often these winter days. More than one tear and I am drowning in a deep and endless well, surrounded by stones of choices and stories and impossibles, things done and undone, words said and left unsaid, all that is aching and unsustainable.
Why must this be a world of sadness and sorrow?
The river flows on. The sky fades gray, then orange, deepens to cerulean and indigo. Here, even here, I am grateful—not for how I’m filled, but for how I’m emptied. Sorrow is the gift of being hollowed out for hope and future joys. This jagged joy of being human is more than joy. It is also joy’s counterpoint—sadness, sorrow. All of it is a call to gratitude. All. All. All.
This moment. Even this.
Today I feel grateful for barren winter trees and how they feel like sisters and kindred spirits right now. They look so bare, so stark and lonely. And yet… And yet… What green does spring have in store? I think they are so beautiful, just as they are, but also beautiful because of their promise of spring.
Also, grateful for this poem by Carol Lynn Pearson that has been coming to me a lot the last few days.
by Carol Lynn Pearson
Seeing the tree
Beneath a baptism of snow,
You may call her barren.
But is it so?
And for all your watchings
On a March night
When the twigs seem dark
And the bark
Feels cold to your hand —
Can you call her fruitless
And so leave?
Calm in the station
And in the ordination
Of sun, and sap, and spring.
As for me?
You turn away,
Impatient with the promises you’ve seen.
But — inside I fill
And pulse and flow
With the urgency of green.
I’ve a season,
Like the tree.
And all your
Will not destroy
The rising spring