There will come a time this winter when I forget what summer feels like.
It will have been cold too long. There will be piles of snow lining the roads, and it will be turning black from tires and dirt. My toes will have been cold for months, never warming or getting enough blood to them.
And I will forget the existence of summer. I will forget what warm air feels like. I won’t recall how the sun feels. Driving with windows down and the smell of sweet corn from the fields will be unrecognizable.
This happens every year.
It will set in after the new year, once the shiny lights of the holidays have faded and the Christmas trees are dragged to the burn pile. We’ll settle into dark mornings, overcast days, and nightfall before 6:00 PM. The excitement of cooler temperatures will have faded, and the reality of winter will have covered like a wet blanket.
I forget good in the midst of hard. Suddenly when something isn’t enjoyable, I decide nothing has ever been enjoyable. Suddenly when something isn’t fun, I decide fun no longer exists and my life is terrible.
So now, right now, in the humid Indiana August, I am looking around to remember.
I’m walking barefoot around my garden beds to remember what warm ground feels like.
I’m closing my eyes as the lawn mower carries me across the yard to memorize the smells of fresh-cut grass.
I’m sitting on the back porch as the sun sets behind me even though it would be cooler outside.
At some point, I will want to be here in this moment and won’t be able to. At some point, it will be painful to breathe through my nose, the icy air cutting straight to my brain. So I sit on my lawn chair with sweat pooling on my back to impress the heat, the leaves, the smells into my being.
In famine, you forget about the feast. And in the feast, you can’t imagine ever being hungry again.
I am learning that life is rhythms, and it is always one way and never another. Until it is not that way suddenly. And then what was it like before?
Does paying attention more make it less painful later?
Does keeping your eyes open help you recall it better?
Right at this moment, things are quiet. There is no immediate danger or stress to live in and it feels scary. Could I tell you a million things I want to worry about or have questions about? Yes, absolutely. But that I am not currently living in a crisis situation, feels chaotic and out of control.
I have done this long enough to know this moment is just a lull, just a rest, before things go off the rails again. Do I know how it will be? Do I know what my next hard will look like?
Oh man, I sure wish.
But I don’t and you don’t either. You don’t know what the winter holds even as you soak up the summer. We don’t know what tragedy is to come as we rest for a moment, catching our breath on the sidelines before we’re shoved back into a game we’d rather not play.
I am writing about despair from a moment of contentment. Not to wish away the peace, but to acknowledge how wonderful it feels because I remember what it was like without it. Is this what growth looks like? Acknowledging the good, bracing for the bad, and knowing in either you will be okay if you just stay awake?
I am writing to future Mary right now. I am writing to future you, also:
Some time down the road, it will feel cold and dreary and lonely and hopeless. You will believe the lies that nothing ever gets better, that there could never be warmth and sun and lightness again. That would be a lie. You have experienced those things before and you will again. Winter does not last; spring will be here soon.
That it is not constant makes it all the sweeter when it arrives.
So right now, soak in the sun. Consume the warm air and sit quietly in the heat even if the air conditioning is calling your name. One day down the road, you’ll be glad you did.
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