Realistic Optimism: Is there such a thing?
Here in Minnesota the last week has been grey and damp. Yesterday a fresh snow lightly covered the fading fall browns but the sun hasn’t been seen for days. Our temperatures have been tending milder these past 10 years or so since we’ve been affected, as has the whole planet, by the changing climate. The very cold and sunny days of my northern childhood are fewer and far between; the snow level, like the Artic glaciers, has lowered. That real, though not so new, news— along with other climate and political disasters affecting us humans and animals—doesn’t make the days feel brighter. And dealing with personal challenges as well, like bone breaks or costly house repairs, it’s likely that one could feel as if in a steep decline.
HOWEVER, real as all of this is, there is also a paradox at play. Such situations can also challenge us to look for whatever opportunity might be found in them. Night is not complete without day. If we can train ourselves to be more ‘in the present’ with the full picture of what it holds, we may find unexpected gifts.
For example I have been encouraged to reach out and accept help from others when I’ve needed it and found in that a new source of meaning and sustenance. I’ve fallen and broken both hips in the last few years and through the difficulties of surgeries, mending, healing and continuing physical therapy I’ve experienced a growing acceptance of my aging imitations, a deepening of friendships and family relationships and learned to be a bit more patient! And mostly, I’m grateful not only for the mobility I have but for the love that’s surrounded me. This in turn has helped me to clarify how I want to reach out in helping others and to create the more vibrant life of receiving and giving that I envision.
So the days continue to grow shorter here in the northern hemisphere—until December 21st at 4:23 p.m. CT when minute by minute they’ll start getting longer again. There is, in fact, more light at the end of this tunnel of winter darkness, and in fact, without it, we wouldn’t notice the light or savor it. The stillness and silence of the winter invites us to go in to discover and live by our heart’s desire. This season, this darkness and these rays of light—both are needed for our fullness of being, no matter what age or phase of life we’re in.
Check out this link for a guitar rendition of In the Bleak Midwinter, and sing along with these words. You’ll feel more optimistic! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rZVN8A1G4s
- In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
- Snow had fallen, softest snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
- What then can I offer, empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
- if I were a wise one, I would do my part;
what then can I offer? I will give my heart.