Starting off the new year in the Midwest means cold winter weather. Today is an exceptionally cold day. Although I’ve grown up with winters in the Midwest my entire life, I’ve often complained about the cold temperatures.
I would complain about winter but continued to live in it, as if my complaints would actually change the weather or something. Despite all those complaints, the weather remained! How dare it? Didn’t it hear my agony? My plea for warmer weather! Well, here’s the thing. The only thing I can change about the weather — and Mother Nature and life — is myself. And my responses to the weather. So I started making a conscious effort to stop complaining about the weather, instead focusing on finding positive in it. Even in its very darkest, coldest moments.
It’s become easy to do but that has taken practice and I’ve had some wild and intense experiences for that practice. And I have moments when it’s more challenging than others. Let’s all be imperfect, let’s all be patient with ourselves. It takes a long time to commit to joy in a world conditioned by fear and negativity. But at the end of the day, complaining doesn’t do anything to remove the cold weather but it does remove us from joy. Complaining keeps us living in the complaint.
If I don’t like winter, I could move somewhere warmer. I could do that. It’s in my power. It is my choice. Often times we’d rather just stay where we are, because complaining and staying where we are is more comfortable than the change required to get to the new place. Even though we complain about it. Even though we say we want it to be a different way, we often don’t actually do anything to make it a different way. We confuse ourselves, don’t we? We spin around in our thoughts.
I didn’t want to stay stuck in complaint because it wasn’t yielding positive results so I traded in complaints for joy. The joy of winter gives me opportunity to be introspective and cozy, with time for writing, watching movies and getting lost in good books. Does finding this joy in winter mean it isn’t cold and bitter? No. It does not take the cold and bitter away. It means I’ve found something positive right in the very cold and bitter.
This approach is what I apply to every aspect of my life.
It is an approach that has been working very well after trying all of the other approaches. Approaches I hung out with often as a child, teen and adult such as avoidance, denial, anger and my longtime friend self-loathing. So, I’m sticking with it.
And I promise self-love is a better friend than self-loathing.
The other thing about joy. It doesn’t mean we deny the opposite side of the coin. I’ve had some bitterly cold experiences. Just like everyone on this planet. We all have. I honor that everyone’s experiences are different and unique. They are. But they’re also the same. Kinda the same, kinda different. Love, loss, gain, grief, contentment, shock, pleasure, sadness, joy, disappointment. These are universal terms. All over the world.
Some of mine have been globally unique and left complex scars. Scars from attempts of intertwining two countries and two families with no navigational map in a world that primarily celebrates having one. A world that didn’t leave a lot of space to safely be seen and heard about the complexities of two. A world that makes assumptions. Scars that often times bled internally, hidden from the entire world.
I’d like to see all of that change. I’m invested in my part in this change. I believe in creating safe spaces for all people to be seen and heard with compassion on their journeys. This starts with awareness. Awareness begins with discussing things even if it is uncomfortable to do. We will all understand each other better when we’re willing to listen and become more aware. And I believe we’ll subsequently become kinder to one another.
I spent many years trapped by the anguish of these scars. And somewhere on this road of life, I realized the entrapment of my scars didn’t change the truth. Not a bit. Kinda like how complaining about weather doesn’t actually change the weather. It’s still -50 degrees and that’s the cold bitter truth. We can make the best of it and find something joyful in it or we can be trapped by it.
Some time ago, I’m not sure when exactly, probably because it’s been such an ongoing journey, I decided to get really up close and personal with the truth and my scars. I decided to nurse them with restoration and gentleness. Even when voices in the world told me to not talk about these experiences. Many times I listened to those external voices who told me to not talk about my experiences or be honest — especially traumatic experiences — and to basically deny myself of myself. I suppose we have all subscribed to the whole notion of “well, if we just don’t talk about it…if we just deny it, then maybe it doesn’t really exist.” I certainly have. I listened to those voices who told me wild judgmental things about being an Asian woman in America — words that are utterly absurd to me now that I believed at the time. Then I stopped. I started honoring everything about me. And ignoring everything else. Intuition became louder. What was self-loathing melted into self-love when touched by compassion. What was trauma softened as I realized it could be transformed and made me able to understand others’ trauma. It is what has given me freedom to embrace who I am. With an openness, boldness and spunky joy that I make no apologies for. I encourage us all to live grounded in self-love and be as freaking happy as we choose to be. Dedication to being upset, annoyed, unhappy and so on is a real phenomenon in our culture and I’m striving to live differently than this. I’m an advocate for joy. “I’m sorry that you think I am too happy (how is this even a thing?)/honest/loving for you, I’ll immediately stop loving myself so that you are more comfortable” are words I do not live by. I spent far too long feeling wrong for being me and people pleasing, drenched in self-loathing. People pleasing is the fast track to failure…too much conforming, too little authenticity, too many people who all want different things. Now I am self-love’s loudest ambassador. And this is a freedom anyone can have.
Interestingly, this all reminds of me when you go outside and it’s -50 degrees out and at first you think, “Oh!!! This is so terrible. It is so cold and this hurts too much. So cold. So bitter. I can’t do this. Everything is terrible and I hate everything.” But. Then you stay out there in it and acclimate and by the time you go back inside you think, “That wasn’t so bad! Well, okay, it was really bad. It really is cold out there. But then it got better because I just kept walking through it. One step at a time. And now I’m back inside and I’ve gotten through it. The pain of it has passed. I have conquered it.”
Life has a way of giving us what we need to overcome anything if we have the courage to step in and keep walking through the cold and bitter. Brave the winds. The strength to endure is already in you. It is there if you allow it to come out. Let your strength shine. You might surprise yourself.
Everything, like the weather, changes. Our joy changes. Our pain changes too. And there is always joy to be found in the darkest, coldest places.
This I know for certain.