On Monday the snow in my little town turned to drizzle. Rain poured out of the sky for hours turning the snow on the ground to slush. As I clumsily stepped out of my car, I zipped up my coat, shoved my hands into a pair of gloves, plopped my snow boots into a pile of slush, and struggled to open my umbrella.
Wow, I thought, winter requires a lot of equipment. Sometimes all that extra equipment can feel a little cumbersome, but it also is what makes winter bearable.
My relationship with winter has improved over the last several years. I not only tolerate the season these days, I actually enjoy it, but that probably would not be the case if I had to wear flip-flops and shorts every day in the snow. So I deal with the extra equipment, because my newfound love affair with winter is worth it.
I believe it’s the same way with the stormy periods in our lives. When we are dealing with challenging times, we need extra equipment to help us through it. Maybe we don’t need coats and boots and umbrellas, but we need extra resources to help us stay strong and weather the storm.
All of us have within us a strength reservoir. It’s the place inside of us that we draw from as we face the stressors and challenges of life. Our strength reservoir can be full or depleted or somewhere in between, and we are the ones responsible for monitoring and measuring it to ensure it doesn’t run dry.
Much of what we do every day requires that we dip into that reservoir to scoop up the strength we need for the day. When we are dealing with stormy seasons in our lives, times of crisis, upheaval, and change, we need to draw even more from this reservoir to keep us sane.
It’s important that we continually do our part to pour resources into our lives that help to fill that space of strength. We have to make ourselves a priority, as challenging as that can be for many of us.
How do we do this? How do we fill up our strength reservoir? Of course there is no one-size–fits-all answer to this question. You have to know yourself well enough to find your answer. You have to ask yourself the questions, “What energizes me? What excites me? What strengthens me? What do I look forward to doing?” And then be honest with yourself about the answers.
Maybe you wish that weekly lunch date with Great Aunt Ida energized you, but the truth is it doesn’t and that’s OK. You can still choose to go every week if you want, but you need to be sure you balance that experience with things that fill you up.
Several years ago I asked myself those questions, and I found that my strength reservoir is filled by attending spiritual retreats, spending time in nature as often as possible, journaling, walking labyrinths, meeting with a spiritual director, carving out time every week for silence and contemplation to deepen my connection to God, reading poetry from the great mystics, like Rumi and Hafiz, taking daily walks, collecting inspiring quotes, having deep meaningful conversations with others, and the list goes on and is always evolving.
Your list will be different, but I hope you will take time to make it and then live it.
I am waiting for the day when life is effortless, when I can do all things with complete ease. But until then I am working on balance, balancing the ebb and flow of my strength reservoir, the scooping from and the pouring in. I have to be intentional about this.
And then there are those times when life gets heavy and hard, and I need to pad up my resources. I need to find a way to pour more strength into myself, so I will have enough of it from which to draw.
Sometimes we need extra equipment in life. Let’s not be stingy with ourselves about this. Let’s haul in the extra equipment that makes life more bearable. Let’s stop thinking we are selfish for taking care of ourselves and attempting to enjoy our lives. Let’s finally believe that we need it and that we are worth it. Let’s see if we can reach out and take as much good from the world today as we give to it.
That’s not selfish. That’s loving. And loving ourselves is just as important as loving others. Let’s live like we really believe that.