It’s spring! My favorite time of the year - a time to be hopeful and celebrate. Growing up in South Dakota, I learned to hate winter. My hometown in the northeastern corner was a land of snow and ice for 6 months out of the year. Unlike winter in Nebraska and Iowa, South Dakota winters meant snow accumulated over the cold and bleak months to the point that driving included navigating snow packed intersections, never knowing if a car was coming across your path. It took a little bit of faith to creep out into the intersection, like playing Russian roulette. Long story short, I hate winter and all its misery, which is why I am so thoroughly happy that it has, once again, run its course and warmth is returning to the hemisphere that I inhabit.
What do I love about spring? The warmth, the light, the growth, the hope. Most of all the hope. I have long been a girl who believes in the power of hopeful thinking. Not a hope that is fleeting, but a promise that, no matter how dark and dreary the winter, new things are on the way. It was a year ago that I wrote the post, Rooted, addressing the long dark year I had been through. Like punches to the gut, difficulties just kept coming, mental health instability, trying to stay afloat in an increasingly hostile work environment, and my pain over trusting and being let down by the wrong people. It was such a year that I quit my teaching position, took a year off to recover and reflect, and let hope and healing do their thing. I am pleased to report that, a year later, I am well on my way to living a much fuller and happier life.
In honor of my struggle, and, more importantly, in hopes that it might aid you as you face your own dark night, here are some reflections I’d like to share. Number one, If you are a caring and giving person, it is vitally important that you learn to live and give from a sustainable place. For me in practical terms that looks like spending my time and energy on only things that are important to me: advocating for mental health awareness, using my teaching abilities to support and educate students with special needs, and having as much fun as humanly possible. I sincerely mean that last one. I can tend to be an all work and no play kind of girl, but balancing the demands of life with joy and laughter has become vitally important to me.
My second reflection from the past year is this: happiness is a choice. I have a coaster on my coffee table: Today seems like a good day to be happy. For me it’s more than a slogan, it's a way to approach each day. Not with pollyanna-like simplicity that refuses to acknowledge life for the raw journey it can be but, rather, in the midst of the struggles chooses to seek the light that is sometimes obscured behind clouds. In other words, if going for a walk makes me happy, I do it. If there’s a shirt that I like, I give myself permission to buy it. If I want a few chocolates, I treat myself. Self care includes replacing pain with pleasure, and it’s a real and vital part of my daily routine.
Final reflection is this: as the central character in our own story, we choose what role we take on: victim, victor, hero, sidekick, villain. The defining role we take on simply comes down to the decisions we make each and every day. I choose to be the hero of my story, not perfectly but with purposeful intention. And when I inevitably “mess up” because I am human, I remind myself life’s journey is about progress not perfection. So, I am learning to watch and monitor my growth over time, celebrate the victories, and let go of the mistakes.
Finally, people, a simple reminder that life’s too short to take anything too seriously, including yourself. I had a violin teacher who gave me some great advice when I moved away, “Laugh at yourself, find the fun in your flaws.” It’s something I’m striving for more and more. Peace, blessing and love be yours in this season of hope and light. ‘Til next time.