A red polka dotted balloon, almost knotted at the end to conceal it’s robust filling, slipped out of my hands and emptied itself of the air my lungs had worked double time to inflate it with.
I watched it fly spastically around the kitchen to land defeated on the counter by the coffee maker, and I cried.
I had been feeling a lot like that balloon. Exhausted. Worn. Tired. Full, but quickly deflated. So close to the end – nearly with the knot around this winter season – and then I lost it.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the purpose and importance of winter. I’ve discovered that pressing in to this vulnerability, despite how uncomfortable it is, pushes me towards healing.
Maybe you’re like me: when things get hard, when winter shows up unexpectedly, I try to run. Not so much away from the problem, but through it. I figure if I pick up the pace, the days will pass faster and spring will come sooner.
But what I really needed to learn in this winter is not how to get out of it faster. No, I just need to know that it’s okay to be in winter.
Did you need to hear that, too? It’s okay to be in winter.
It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to want to stay inside. It’s okay to lock the door and shut the blinds. It’s okay to mourn.
It’s okay to cry in the wake of the changing seasons, to petition the earth to stop it’s rotation, if only for a moment, that you might regain your sense of direction.
It’s not just okay; it’s essential. Rushing into autumn leaves something in summer undone. And waiting for everyone else to be ready, or being pulled along by the ones lighting bonfires and baking pumpkin treats in August isn’t fair either.
And sometimes more than knowing that it’s okay to be there, we need to know that it’s okay to let others be there, too. We have this funny tendency to get uncomfortable when the people we love are hurting. And so we give advice and we say, “It will get better soon!” or “We’re here for you!” or “This won’t last forever!”
And as lovely and true and kind those things are to say, sometimes all the ones we love need to hear is “I know that sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s hard. And I’m sorry you’re hurting.”
That’s hard for us, isn’t it? It’s hard for me.
I’m a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to heal. I want to do. I want to say. I want to contribute tangibly to the get-my-friends-out-of-winter endeavor.
I’ve had a lot of beautiful, kind, encouraging, well-meaning folks around me this winter. I’ve heard lots of ‘It-won’t-last-forever’s and ‘Soon-it-will-be-better’s. And ya know what happened? It didn’t bring spring any quicker. It didn’t invoke sunshine. And it didn’t melt the snow. It left me feeling like I need to just get over winter and stop being affected by the cold. And somehow, somehow that made me hurt even more. Oh, the opposite of what was intended became inescapable.
Ultimately, this recent winter season has taught me how to love people better in their winters. I saw how badly I just needed to be validated that winter sucks & it’s hard & we’re not supposed to do it alone. It’s messy, isn’t it?
Sitting with people in their mess is hard and uncomfortable. But may those never be good enough reasons for us to stop.
How can you love your people better in the midst of their winter? How can you fight with them & for them? Do you know someone that needs a “I’m sorry it’s hard. Know I’m always on your team.” text message today? Or someone who needs a surprise white mocha, just so they know they’re loved?
Send those texts. Buy those mochas. It will speak worlds to your frozen friends.