So where do we get the stamina to handle long, miserable seasons of weather? Where do we get the strength?
I have lived in many places with very cold winters. The first was Connecticut and I can still remember the first snowfall I ever experienced there. It was mid-October, and the white flakes falling from the sky mesmerized me. For the next few months, I was the star of my own Christmas special, only without red-nosed reindeer or elves handing out presents.
But when January came, my mood changed. It became colder and colder, until the temperature dropped so much that it was too cold to snow. Instead, sleet fell from the sky sideways and pelted me in the face and body. Freezing wind blew like hurricanes, turning the ground into a solid block of ice. It was like walking on a skating rink, which meant slipping and sliding and ultimately falling down on my rear-end, over and over and over again.
By the end of April, in all of the cold winter places I lived, my mind and body was angry, bruised and weak. Spring seemed like a destination on the other side of the world that couldn’t be reached. Depression set in until the sun made its appearance to melt the frozen ground so I could finally walk again without stumbling.
When I moved back to Louisiana, short, mild winters welcomed me. Even on the coldest days, it seemed like the sun was shining. I’d go for long walks in the fields behind my mom’s house and sit out there for hours. The crispness of the air energized me and made me strong.
But the Louisiana summer is another story. The sun’s rays are so intense to me that it feels like they’re shining through a giant magnifying glass directly onto my face. Combined with the humidity, insects, poison ivy and the deafening sound of lawn mowers and weed eaters, it feels like punishment for everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life.
This summer was especially hard for me because I came to the realization that I won’t be able to make a living as a writer. Although there are success stories like J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King, there are millions of other writers who make little or nothing from their work. I am one of these, and now have to start over and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Through most of the summer I felt like a failure. It seemed that no matter where I turned, there was a mirror reflecting that image; the image of a selfish man who had wasted his youth chasing something that he didn’t deserve because he hadn’t worked hard enough and because he’d chosen wrong. Now he was too old and too far into a meaningless life to change.
I didn’t have the strength to block out the heat of the Louisiana summer to see the crispness of fall just a few months ahead. My mind was soaked with the humidity of depression. It wasn’t about self-pity. I was and am still aware of how fortunate I am for every thing I have, especially the support of my friends and family. This depression was about self-worth and the fear of my unknown future.
As my forty-first birthday approached on September 10th, the temperature felt like it was rising, and every day seemed like the hottest on record. The heat of the world was on my shoulders and I thought my body, mind and soul would burn up and drift away like ashes in the sky.
On my birthday, I woke up sadder and hotter than ever. It was like I’d reached an expiration date and it was official that I’d failed. All of the motivation and positive energy within me seemed to have melted away, which meant that I’d spend the rest of my life only going through the motions.
\ This past week was the beginning of fall and I can feel the changes in the temperature. There are cool breezes and the morning sunrises aren’t as intimidating. I can walk to the mailbox without sweating, and my mind has become clearer so I can see a positive future. I have made it through the Louisiana summer, and am now feeling stronger than ever.
It wasn’t only the first day of fall that ended my depression and gave me hope. It was the many stories of strength surrounding us that encouraged me to keep moving forward towards cooler and energizing breezes. It was the final capping of the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the kick-off to a season with our amazing Saints, the sound of school children preparing for their future.
It is the way of the world for us to have seasonal dismay and moments of weakness. But if we continue to look forward, work hard and do onto others as we would have them do onto us, we will find the climate for love, happiness and success. If we believe that a new season of hope is only around the corner, we will find strength.