Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Doldrums

It is that time of year when even I, the avowed snow-lover, become tired of winter. It isn't the snow, but the gray that begins to wear. Everyone is stuck in sodden, salt-crusted boots, and slogging through snow which has turned into an unappealing amalgamation of gray, black, and brown. Sunshine hasn't been seen for weeks, and with this particular winter, we've had waves on waves of bitter cold. It's this time of year that I begin to yearn for spring - that sunshine induced optimism and lift to my spirits, because mid-February is just so dark. Dark skies, dark snow, dark clothes, and a dark mindset. Try as I might, I can't quite muster much motivation or cheer.

Credit: Rodale News
It seems to take every ounce of energy for me to complete the bare minimum each day. I'm tired, I'm cold, and I all I want to do is be comfortable. To hibernate through the rest of this mess - yes, just wake me when the forsythias bloom. However, there is more to life than comfort. 
The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. - Pope Benedict 
Recently, it seems, I'm hearing this message from all corners, with different words perhaps, but all carrying the same central meaning. Whether it is my job search, the marathon training, my relationships, or even mundane housework - I am not made for comfort. It is too easy to retreat into comfort, to avoid the uncomfortable. It is far harder to be honest with oneself and realize - I'm slacking.

As a kid, I skated through the school, barely having to work but still earning accolades. Other things were more difficult, like the aborted attempt at soccer when I was five which ended with me practicing ballet moves in the middle of the field. Although my parents always stressed the importance of following through with activities and commitments, it was easy as I grew older to avoid pursuits which could cause discomfort. An an introverted, type-A, worrying, control freak, you can guess just how risk-averse I became.

Even as I experienced failure, it wasn't the sort of freeing, liberating experience that so many describe. If anything, it made me more risk-averse. On all those fashion shows, they try to push women out of their sweatpants and leggings, and to dress with purpose. To dress with more than comfort in mind; to choose to be more. The hosts push women to embrace themselves and to take risks, to become their "best self."

For quite some time, I've been mentally living my life in sweatpants. (And sweaters, and gloves, and's cold out there....)

But now I'm really, truly facing the reality that life cannot be lived solely in the pursuit of comfort. Sure, there's a hedonistic sort of delight in avoiding discomfort. But avoiding the uncomfortable, whether its running five miles, or cold-calling companies for jobs, or even just cleaning the bathroom shower, is not much of a life at all. It is inertia. Why settle for that?

The edge of uncomfortable is where you find greatness. - Unknown
Greatness is not success. It is not a McMansion in the 'burbs, or reaching the top of the corporate ladder, or even winning a marathon, although perhaps it can be those things. No, greatness must be a greatness of mind, of spirit. It is an authenticity of the soul. It is not success. It is purpose.

In these dark winter days, I am aimless and without much purpose. The glow of New Year's Resolutions has dimmed; the cheer from the holidays has completely winked out. And this kick in the pants, whether it's a book or blog I've read, a bit in the news, a homily at mass, or a thought-provoking conversation with someone I love - it's all pointing me onward, upward, and forward.

Life isn't meant to be comfortable. It's awkward, messy, disheartening, and trying at times. But it is when you take risks that life is exhilarating and lovely, inspirational, and empowering. It is when you embrace change and discomfort that life becomes truly great. Comfort makes us lazy. In an effort to get past these winter doldrums, I'm choosing to embrace discomfort. I simply need to remind myself, when things seem tough:

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13

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