Gray Days

It’s been a gray, rainy, dark autumn in Appleton. The past few weeks, I allowed external weather to overly impact my internal weather. I’ve felt crabby and frustrated, even angry. I’ve felt constricted inside: my throat tight from wanting to control the uncontrollable, my heart closed to joy and wonder. I saw clearly how this doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to be judgmental of others or unkind to myself or impatient. These thought patterns are in opposition to my heart’s intention, which is to embody love, hope, compassion, and generosity. Still, my dark internal weather matched the sunless days.

I just stayed with whatever arose, trying to be honest and gentle. Trying to make connections, find beauty, and laugh, even if for brief moments. And eventually, the darkness shifted. It had nothing to do with the actual sun shining, but with me letting go of resistance. I was angry at my anger. I was frustrated at my frustration. I was disappointed about my disappointment. These are unnecessary layers that create suffering. I learn this lesson again and again: If I loosen my grip, there’s more space to feel, more space to be alive, whatever the circumstances.

Yesterday morning, I looked out the window and watched leaves falling from trees. Colorful and graceful, the leaves fell. I saw a visual message: Let go. These trees—grounded, solid, and wise—easily released their leaves. Each leaf that dropped was a gentle reminder to let go. Let go of resentment. Let go of blame. Let go of identities, beliefs, and opinions.

Already, I felt lighter, and then I spent the day in prison, where I witnessed courage, acceptance, compassion, honesty, kindness, and gratitude. I saw anew how I create the world in which I live. An inmate shared with me: “Joy, if you’re looking for the sun, pull out a mirror. Look at yourself.” This made me smile. So often we look outside ourselves for approval, love, and acceptance. Yet the sun shines within us. We just need to open our eyes and hearts to ourselves, regardless of the weather.

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