I looked out at the vast ocean and up at the big blue sky as Fred and I walked the aptly named Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. A few minutes later, we stopped to shed another layer of clothing, grateful for the warm sunshine.
“It’s not going to last,” I said.
It didn’t. Two days later, we were grateful for raingear. Instead of leisurely walks on the beach, we sought the shelter of cedar and salal and watched the waves crash on the rocks through viewpoints on the aptly named Wild Pacific Trail.
Weather systems come and go. We open to the sunshine and hunker down in the rain, but we don’t take it personally.
Yet when it comes to emotional weather systems, we take it very personally. But what if we didn’t?
I began to observe my internal weather systems, and here’s what I noticed.
One moment, I feel bad and wonder how to fix what’s wrong with my life. In the next, I feel fine. I love my life. There’s nothing to fix.
When I experience “bad” feelings, I want to get rid of them as quickly as possible, and that’s what I unquestionably set out to do. I was having a lovely life before these feelings showed up, and I want my lovely life back. I assume that bad feelings are telling me I’m doing something wrong.
I also noticed that when I was judged or someone crossed a boundary, I felt hurt, somewhat violated, and angry. I blamed the other person for making me feel this way and fixated on what I’d like to say to them so they don’t do it again. The idea that I had some control over future situations eased my feeling of helplessness, even though it won’t prevent similar situations from happening. I will feel this way again. I can’t prevent myself from feeling hurt, yet I keep trying. Henri Nouwen’s advice to befriend these feelings didn’t even cross my mind.
I was still thinking about weather systems–internal and external ones–on the day we left Ucluelet. That morning, we needed to scrape ice from our car, and snow had collected on the side of the road. We arrived at Departure Bay Ferry terminal in time to get the 10:40 ferry home. However, B.C. Ferries cancelled that sailing and the next due to high winds.
We headed to Duke Point a little farther down the coast and waited with hundreds of others who hoped to get on the 3:15 ferry to the mainland. Would B.C. Ferries cancel this sailing as well?
At 3:20, we watched the car count reach and pass the number that had fit on the previous ferry. Yet, we were signalled on and squeezed in.
I had no control over any of it. I could only choose how I would respond.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
–Father Thomas Keating, The Welcoming Prayer
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I offer you this photo I took in Florencia Bay. The roots of this washed-up tree were two to three times my height. Perhaps you would like to pray with this picture using the following reflection.
- As you linger with this image, what do you notice? What draws you? What repels you?
- Remain a little longer, welcoming both the sunny and stormy feelings that arise.
- Imagine God’s loving presence beside you, feeling what you feel.
- Look at the image again. Is there anything new that you didn’t notice before?
- Stay a little longer there, allowing this moment, this loving God, this image to speak to you personally.
- What do you sense God offering you for this moment in your life right now?