"My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present."
- Steve Goodier
Happy first day of summer! Sunny skies, warm temps, lush green grass, and a multitude of blooming flowers. Can it be only a few months ago that we were wondering if spring would ever arrive? Thankfully it did and it now appears that the summer-like weather is here to stay (hopefully)!
Earlier in the week, I decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and walk on a trail that I hadn't been on for awhile. Much had changed since I had last walked there in April. Trees had fully leafed out, greenery covered most everything, and plants that were nonexistent then were now starting to encroach on the pathway. As I looked around, all I could see and hear were the beautiful signs of summer.
I still remember the harshness of winter. I can easily recall the long cold days when darkness came too early. The streak of grayness when it seemed the sun had forgotten to shine. I remember the unrelenting nor'easters of March. The great delay in warmer temperatures and blooming plants. I don't think about it often, but I do remember. Is that wrong?
Should we look back and think about winter when we are in the middle of a glorious summer? Is it self-defeating to take ourselves back to an unpleasant time when we have the current pleasure of good times? I'm not sure. I certainly don't want to dwell on the cold winter, but is it good to remember that it happened? Does it make us enjoy this summer more knowing what we had to go through to get here? Is it helpful to know that not too long ago we had a horribly long, cold winter but we survived it?
If we are to develop resilience, then we need to look back and reflect (not ruminate) on what we have overcome. When winter comes around again and I am feeling like it will never end, I can reflect on the fact that I felt this same way last year and winter did end, and I did survive.
Nature can offer guidance on this. As I walked through the woods in early April, I could see all of the signs of spring- budding trees, early flowers blooming, birds chirping. But I could also see the signs of a destructive winter. Large trees pulled out of the ground, branches broken and dangling over the path, piles of debris from storms.
Nature does not try to hide the difficult season it has been through. The forest bears its scars forever. Trees that are down will stay in that spot until nature reclaims them as part of the earth. Branch piles remain until they break down into rich soil. Damaged and misshapen trees continue to stand or lean until they grow tired.
But as time moves on, nature eventually does its work. Greenery grows, groundcover thrives, and the forest begins the process of reclaiming itself. The damage becomes less obvious. The new growth conceals the sharp edges and jagged branches of the damaged trees. But if you look closely, the scars of winter remain. Nature manages to quietly acknowledge the past while continuing to move forward steadily into the future.
There is a purpose to that. Nature's clean up crew is slow and subtle. It wants us to see the process, to see the work. Nature wants us to know that there was once destruction, but "I am doing a new thing! I am restoring the forest, bit by bit, day by day!" If we only focus on the beauty and don't look back at the difficulty, we miss the sacred process of renewal, and we miss the gift of restoration.
Winter may have left its mark, but we have triumphed. Spring did its thing! Renewal is underway!
Winter is the example I use here and thankfully we know each year that it will end (eventually), but your personal winter can be any difficulty you've experienced and the end isn't always as guaranteed. When we look back on hard times, we have a choice in how we view the story. There is power in revisiting the negative event with fresh eyes. By looking back with purpose we can see:
1- What we have overcome
2- What we learned from the experience
3- How we have been restored (or how we are still being restored)
This is how we build resilience. When we experience negative events but can look back and see our personal growth, it helps us to view difficulties differently in the future. Resilience reminds us that we have been through tough times before and we have survived. It reminds us that we have reserves of strength that we are not yet aware of, that we are capable of dealing with far more than we think we can, and that we can bounce back from situations that seem insurmountable at times.
The scars of winter may remain, but the flowers of spring are already starting to grow. Wait and watch for the restoration and take time to congratulate yourself on surviving another winter!
*Speaking of summer--if you still need to buy a swimsuit, read my post before you go. Consider it a public service announcement ;-).