By Paul Flynn
I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life. I’m used to cold lonely winters with bleak nights
that seem to stretch on for life-times, or at least I should be. And yet every November
I’m reminded what a difference a little bit of sunlight can make. The dusk comes earlier
and earlier, and as the daytime wanes, often my mood is swept along with it.
In the spring, everyone’s legs start to ambulate in strange ways, carrying them to new
and exciting destinations. The air is fresh and every breeze carries the scent of endless
possibility. Smiles start to appear more readily, not just around the mouth, but in the
corner’s of the eyes, beaming and hopeful. On patios and in parks you can hear talk
of new plans and ambitious ventures. Imaginations are running wild, and the future is
just waiting for us to dream it up. While talk is cheap, and meaningless chatter is easy
to come by, something seems different in April and May. Along with the awakening of
the earth to the warmth of the sun, the mind seems to thaw, exposing the raw potential
that’s been there all along.
Flash forward to the end of January, it’s just past New Years but not quite Valentine’s
Day. Whimsey is a little harder to come by as of late. Those same feet that celebrated
the coming of summer now trudge from home to work and back again. Faces look pale
and expressionless, and discussions of glamorous endeavors are faded memories.
Many who have enough money fly to warmer climates to escape the gloom for a couple
weeks. Those with a hobby get lost in their craft, relying on busyness to ward off the
doldrums. Countless more stay inside gorging themselves on carbohydrates and
starches, pissing away their time in front of the television.
In the midwest, the juxtaposition between our extremes in weather can be comical.
On the other hand, the effect it can have on the psyche is not always a laughing
matter. Some folks seem more impervious to the change, but it never goes unnoticed.
Many are left to wonder where their inspiration went, blaming the frigid temperatures
or the snow piling up in the streets. It’s pointless to deny the wisdom of nature, it’s
cyclical patterns and seasons. Each one has it’s place, and each is due it’s respect.
Appreciation for the warmer months can be effortless, but rest and relaxation is just
as important as activity. Yet as in most things, there is a balance to be struck. The
dark winter nights encourage a certain amount of hibernation, but it can quickly slip
into apathetic passivity. There are those of us who easily fall into depressive states,
allowing the weather to get the best of our motivation. The grey sky seems to be a
painful reminder of our inner landscape, lacking vibrancy and joy.
Every problem has it’s solution, but when it comes to understanding something as
complex as the mind and human emotions, the puzzle can be daunting. I’ve come
to believe that much of the secret lies in the thoughts we entertain. Most things we experience in life, be it the weather or otherwise, are out of our direct control. One
thing is certain though, we are solely responsible for our thoughts. Sure, it’s true that
we can be swayed in our opinions by a convincing argument, but it’s still a choice. It’s
always easier to stay positive when things are going our way, but we all know that it
doesn’t last long. Instead of resisting or complaining about what we cannot change,
we will find a greater peace simply by accepting it. Often what we perceive as chaos
in our lives is nothing more than shortsightedness on our part. Usually it isn’t until we
have time to reflect back on the past that we see the correlations. So, in all things, a
little bit of faith is necessary. Take comfort knowing that so long as we make the best
of every situation, there will be forward motion. Our greatest trials become our greatest
triumphs. Anything that isn’t growing or evolving, is dying and becoming extinct. We
can succumb to apathy and entropy, or we can embrace the growing pains and refuse
to let circumstance dictate the quality of our lives. Even in our darkest hour, that same
raw potential is always there, waiting for us to set it into motion.