A few weeks back I came outside and saw my neighbor on her porch. It was a beautiful day, and I grinned and said, “Isn’t it gorgeous today?” She and I both love the sun, something that is often in short supply in the Pacific Northwest. She agreed, and said, “When the sun’s out you just glow. It’s transforming for you, isn’t it?” And yes, it is. It has been lovely here lately, and the impact on my mood is difficult to underestimate. I feel fundamentally different when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I do love it here, am rooted here by children, communities, jobs, and family. But I absolutely yearn for the sun, for a place where I can relax into a beautiful day, knowing the weather will not capriciously change any minute. Having a string of sunny days is heaven. I smile more. I feel pleasure every time I look out the window. Hearing the birdsong, smelling the flowers, being able to walk around in a shirt and jeans, feeling a gentle soft breeze (rather than a damp and chilly one); all of these things ease the rest of life’s challenging events, and enhance its positive ones.
This afternoon as I walked back home from my Pilates appointment, I thought about the “I’m not good enough” refrain that’s been rattling, booming, sneaking, jeering, whispering, and oozing its way around the inside of my head and heart of late. And I thought, life does involve pain. Some struggles are harder than others, and we all have our most difficult issues, the ones that seem intractable and permanent. And many people do carry some of those burdens to the grave. We do not, after all, live in Hallmark cards.
But that pain is what allows us to have compassion and empathy, the understanding that lets us form intimate relationships with other people. Our experience of grief and/or loss is one of the things that helps us as children to differentiate between ourselves and others, and at the same time, gives us a window into how they might feel. So, I had a moment in which I felt, if not precisely grateful for my shadows, at least more at peace with having them, and able to see how their existence informs me in important ways in my journeys as a mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend.