The skies in my area and in life have been somewhat gray this week. While riding my bike last night, I found myself straining to see even a ray of the sunset. Much to my dismay, all I found were a few patches of lighter gray shades mixed in with the darker graphite and charcoal hues. As I looked at the sight before me and pedaled along, I realized that though variety in color was severely lacking, the patterns of the gray clouds did have a beauty aspect that the nature loving side of me could appreciate.
Pedaling further along on my route, I wondered why the color gray and its variations have the potential to make a person feel so blue. After some research, I found it is not the color itself, but rather the lack of sunlight which affects the brain and the chemicals that control our moods.
Gray and Winter Misconceptions
Both the color gray and the winter season often get a negative review because of the darkness they connote. However, after reading the following quote by Victor Hugo, I wonder if some of this darkness is due to one’s perception:
“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
If we can find the sun in laughter or other elements around us, then why should we falsely accuse gray or winter for our woes? The answer is we should not, but we do so because it is an easy explanation that gets us out of doing any work to improve the situation. This brings me to another quote I recently read by Norman Vincent Peale:
“Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow.”
Peale has a good point, for often our heart gives more than the rest of the body to a situation. It is in our hearts that we find the strength to endure, the courage to change, and the mentality to overcome. It is also in our heart that we find faith, hope, and love to lead our minds, bodies, and souls onward upon the journey. If we have faith, hope, and love in any amount, then we actually have light with us all the time. It is our perception of this light that allows us to see or not see its glow.
Seeing the Light in Time
Learning to see the light takes time, and time works both for and against us. What we often do not realize is time is not what changes things around us, but rather the work we do or do not do that really changes things. As Andy Warhol once said:
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
What Warhol recognizes here is we have the power to change within us. Our hearts, minds, and souls are fully equipped and ready. All we have to do is try, which is really what God asks us to do each day:
- Try seeking the light despite the darkness
- Try letting Me into your heart, mind, and soul
- Try coming to Me with your problems
- Try understanding My ways are not your ways
- Try opening your mind, body, and soul to new things
One Step at a Time
Perhaps what God asks us to do can best be summarized in St. Francis of Assisi’s quote:
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
How often in life have we faced a challenge and thought, “There is no way I can do this.” The reality is we can do much, and we can do it with little words like try, hope, love, and faith. The key is to take one step at a time, which often entails patience, diligence, and endurance. Now I know at first glance, this may be asking a lot. But take a second look from a different perspective. Ask yourself some questions, do a little research, take steps to understand what exactly is holding you back.
A friend of mine recently lamented not being able to do a home improvement project. After several conversations analyzing the details, she realized she actually could do the project. What changed during the course of our conversations? On the surface, nothing changed. However, my friend saw the light in examining the details closer and in getting a different view. She broke the problem down into smaller pieces, which made the overall task seem less daunting.
In today’s fast-paced, instant gratification-crazed word, the value of working diligently toward a goal is often lost. What many people do not realize is each step taken builds character. This character lays the foundation of who we are and provides a platform to build upon so we reach our goal of who we become.
In order to get from who we are to who we become, we need a balance of good and bad, light and gray. Perhaps Carl Gustav Jung summarized it best:
“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”
Maybe the skies above me on my bike ride are simply God’s and nature’s way of providing some balance in my life. I saw the sun for a few days a while back, now I see the clouds and the rain falling down. The rain falling down is God’s way of cleansing my soul and clearing my vision so that I will be able to see the sunlight once again when it comes. (At least this is what I have come to believe through years of trying, hoping, and having faith. You may disagree with my view, and that is fine).
I suspect these skies are also a challenge to build character, asking me to try, hope, and have faith in other areas of my life. If I do these things, I will see the light of the sun again, maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the day after, but sometime soon in God’s time frame.
As I wait to see the sun’s light, I can find light in the laughter or smile of a friend, a favorite song, a bike ride or a run alone with nature, or in some other activity. In order to see this type of light, I need to try, which I admit is easier on some days than others. Trying gives me opportunities to balance work, play, and all the emotions that come along for the experience of the journey.
May our journeys allow us to see a balance of colors ranging from bright reds and oranges to shades of gray. May the light and dark, good and bad, happiness and sorrow we experience lead us one step at a time to our destination.
Life’s Balance Beam
The gray in the clouds and the light of the sun
Take turns coming around each day that is done,
Providing opportunities to see and hear, touch and feel
Through colors both seen and concealed
In the breadth of the skies and the depth of the heart
Depending upon time as we stop and start
In our trek across life’s balance beam
Attempting find the lost in our quest to peace.
The falling of the rain and the clearing of the sky
Come calling in the day and the night,
Asking the mind to open and the soul to seek
Through time’s unspoken river that streams
Through the here and now and back again
As the mind figures out why the heart steps
The way that it does upon life’s balance beam
Trying to lift up what the soul cannot see.
The horizon in the distance and the soul within
Learn to coexist after being both broken and mended,
Reconfiguring all the parts and the hues
To light the dark and provide a new
Perspective through hope and faith
So one can live by God’s grace
While walking across life’s balance beam
Defying the odds and living in the dream.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Andy Warhol – http://www.biography.com/people/andy-warhol-9523875
Carl Gustav Jung – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Carl-Jung
Lack of Sunlight and Mood – http://genpsych.com/2014/02/04/does-the-weather-affect-your-depression/
Norman Vincent Peale – https://www.guideposts.org/norman-vincent-peale
St. Francis of Assisi – http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=50
Victor Hugo – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victor-Hugo