Looking Past the Rain

I don’t know where you’re living, but where I am there’s nothing but rain. Michigan weather can be ridiculously unpredictable at times, but every single day this week has been the same. (Okay, to be fair, it hasn’t rained yet today, but it’s still cold, it’s still rained every other day this week, and it looks like next week will be the same.)

It makes it hard to get stuff done, and if you’re like me, it makes you feel gloomy, too. I guess they don’t kid around when they say “April showers.”

It reminds me of this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

I like this poem a lot, and the main reason is that although the first two stanzas sound really depressing, once you get to the third one you realize that the poem itself is quite encouraging.

Some days (in Michigan’s case, weeks) are going to be gloomy. And there’s nothing we can do about it, except remember that the sun is out there, somewhere behind the clouds. We can’t control the weather, but at least we can control our outlook on life. Besides, if every single day were sunny and bright, I don’t think we would appreciate those days as much as the first sunny day after a period of rain. I guess this way we don’t take the sun for granted.

And hopefully we’ll get a lot of nice flowers because of the rain. 🙂

I personally have a really hard time with gloomy weather because it affects my mood. It may have something to do with SAD; I’m not sure. But whatever it is, the lack of sun gets me feeling rather depressed. When this happens, it helps just to remember sunnier days of the past or look at pictures of tropical places I’d one day like to visit. I have a calendar on my desk with a photo of a tropical island for each day. I also have vivid memories of my trip two years ago to Florida. This might sound silly, but if I try hard enough, I can almost feel the sunlight on my back.

A photo of me in a place I’d rather be at the moment – relaxing in the Florida Keys on a sunny day!

It reminds me a lot of the book Frederick, by Leo Lionni. You can read more about the book here. It’s a children’s picture book, and it’s very nice. I would definitely recommend reading it. It’s quite inspirational and the pictures are beautiful.

At any rate, I think if we can just look past the rain and remember those warm, sunny days we’ve had, we can make it through the gloominess. Just try not to let those dark days get you down. Here’s to brighter days in the future!

Learning to Breathe

There are many times when I feel so ridiculously caught up in work and school and stress and whatnot that I drown.

I drown in the sea of homework, tests, quizzes, obligations, extracurricular activities, etc. I even drown in my own writing – because all of a sudden even the things I love to do, like reading and writing poetry, seem like work.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world who feels this way. But I think I’ve figured out a sort of solution.

You have to learn to breathe underwater.

It’s not easy to do (it’s anything but easy!), though it’s very easy to say. But there are different ways of doing it, and I think if you can find what’s right for you, it really helps. A lot.

I started this thing a while back that I like to call my Journal of Inspiration. It’s basically a collection of things that inspire me or brighten my mood – pictures, poems, Dove wrappers with inspirational messages, etc. Any little scrap of motivation goes in my Journal.

On the very first page is my oath:

The Oath

1. No worry or fear is to enter this notebook.

2. This notebook is meant solely for non-academic purposes.

3. I am not allowed to use pencil in this notebook because I should be AM unafraid of making mistakes.

4. I promise to write what resides in the very depths of my heart.

It might seem silly, but this is what lets me breathe underwater. Today I sat at the kitchen table and taped a picture of a flying baby in my Journal. Underneath I wrote, “If a flying baby isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is.”

I have poems by Shel Silverstein and Rudyard Kipling in there, along with some of my own poems. I even taped Halls cough drop wrappers in there – because there’s “a pep talk in every drop.”

I guess learning to breathe means finding something that you really love to do and that makes you smile. For me, it’s taping things into my Journal and flipping through it on gloomy days – days when I don’t feel motivated to work on my manuscript or start hacking away at that mountain of homework.

Obviously none of the work I have to do is going to go away. But I think motivation is important – and my Journal serves not only to motivate me, but to remind me why I work so hard for the things I love. I work on my manuscript because writing is my passion. I work hard in school because I value education and want to be more knowledgeable.

And I think sometimes we ignore that little voice that screams “Don’t give up! You can do it!” But if we can find something that makes us smile, that allows us to breathe underwater when we’re drowning in work, we’ll be much happier. And I think we’ll find more meaning in the things we work so hard for in life.

Each Word Carefully Chosen

I read this poem once, and I wish I could remember what it was called, or at least who wrote it. I can’t even remember how it went exactly. But the reason I bring it up is that one thing stood out, and that one thing is something I’ll never forget, something that I’ll keep in mind for the rest of my life. Whether I’m giving a speech, talking to my friend, or writing an email. It doesn’t matter. That poem had a beautiful way of saying it, and it was something to the extent of this:

 Every word that comes out of your mouth is like an arrow shot through the air. You don’t know where it will land, and it could easily pierce someone’s heart.

Sometimes we say things too quickly, without bothering to think about how someone will feel. You could carelessly toss a word away, thinking nothing of it, but to someone else it might mean a great deal. Maybe you say something, thinking it’s a joke, but your friend doesn’t feel that way at all.

I’m not saying that you have to think carefully about every single word that comes out of your mouth. But just be aware that what you say might affect someone, even if you don’t think much of it.

I was taught in elementary school – and I’m sure you’ve heard it at some point in your life – the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

But here’s the thing: what might not affect you might affect someone else. Maybe you wouldn’t mind if someone made a joke about the way you look or speak or act, but maybe someone else would mind. But… how the heck are you supposed to know what the other person is thinking? You can’t read minds. How do you know if what you say will make someone feel bad or not?

Obviously no one is perfect. No one expects you to be. But as you talk to people, as you talk to your friends… you notice what people’s personalities are like. Especially among people you know really well or are close to – you know if someone is more sensitive than you are, you know if someone will be able to handle the joke or not. And if you’re not sure… then maybe it’s best not to say it.

Choose your words carefully… try to anticipate where the arrow will land.

But you know something? It’s true the other way around, too. Maybe you say “hello” to someone, just to be polite, but to that person, it means a lot more than just “hello.” I know for a fact that my friends have done seemingly small favors for me, but those favors have meant a lot to me.

A birthday gift, a letter, a small handwritten note… they all mean a lot. A kind word from someone can mean a lot too.

I think you have a choice with your words: either you can shoot arrows, or you can bestow unexpected gifts. It’s up to you.