As it does every year, the recently passed winter weighed me down, and the immediate shift into the pandemic tested my strength more than I ever expected. Many winter days, I found it difficult to keep myself strong and optimistic. I longed daily for the joy Vancouver summers bring, until the potential for that summer joy was stolen by a terrifying unknown.
When my heart is light and summery, I want to carry that energy with me throughout the year, to combat depression in rainy winter months. Faced with this new obstacle, I must now teach myself to uphold a strong spirit even through the uncertain summer ahead. My dedication to spending my time and energy well increases as everything changes.
Through winter, I wondered if longing for summer was enough to keep me creative and thriving through dark, cold days. On days when the sun shone despite the cold and many people hugged me, it was easy to keep going. On rainy days when I confronted realities and traumas I wasn’t ready to face, not so much.
Hardest of all were the days through April when I saw no one but my neighbours and the distant strangers at the grocery store, searching daily for the rejuvenation and confidence past summers brought. Now I wonder if the longing for warmer days will be enough to get me through the coming summer, so different than anticipated.
Like the tan lines between my sandal straps, the energetic, confident parts of me faded slowly from summer to winter. I look down at my pale feet in this strange, liminal spring and wonder where the sun-kissed, joyous feeling went. I’m left clinging to the scraps of optimism I salvaged, remembering moments with friends and family I don’t know when I’ll see again.
The summer heart I seek is the ability to remain happy, steady, and confident year-round, despite obstacles. Even in the isolation months, I long for my heart to be soft and vibrant. Yet I still mentally loop my anxieties, listening for answers to prayers I haven’t said yet, seeking energy and resilience I haven’t been able to hold tight enough. As the days get warmer and longer, I remind myself that my shifting thoughts, feelings, and habits are necessary, despite how repetitive they sometimes feel. I don’t have to try so hard or feel guilty about not doing enough; it’s an act of resilience to keep myself alive and pushing towards ideal days and feelings. The only way through I know is slowly claiming summer’s energy, taking daily pride in my ability to keep myself alive and patient. I’m reminded daily of my own small place in the universe, in the circles of women that lift me up.
Each day I’m stronger, wiser, gentler, and more spiritually disciplined: a renewed version of myself that tries again every morning. The energy I started regaining as I moved from winter into spring is not irrelevant as it felt when this strangeness began. The desire to reclaim that energy and cherish the people getting me through it remains the same, even though the obstacle has changed with the season.
Despite everything, energy, strength, and renewal has revealed itself in small, unexpected ways: my tiny cat, the garden I helped my new neighbours plant, the new laptop I bought, the antidepressants I finally started taking, the car my work rented so I can be with my healing women as the uncertain summer draws closer, and so much more.
In the church I attend, the sun hit the stained glass just so, casting beautiful strips of yellow, orange, and red over the crucifix above the altar in the middle of mass, as it does every spring. This reminds me God has watched me emerge from yet another winter. Like each year before, I find new depths to my own self-awareness and ability to get up and keep searching for summer’s energy. Now I watch the stained glass cast light on the church livestream I watch each Sunday morning.
Keeping a summer heart in difficult months means something different than I thought it did in the winter. It’s not just a way of getting through until things are warmer again. The strength I’ve found holds me through lonely days, making them feel more like blissful summers past. My confidence and gratitude grow and sustains me even as the future situation of the world remains unknown.
As I get through each slow, intentional day, I’m more certain than ever that difficult times are necessary to strengthen our spirits, to allow us to enjoy the light, easy ones more thoroughly. If I had faced the pandemic back before I built the life for myself I now have, in the past two and a half years in Vancouver, I wouldn’t be able to do so with as much strength and grace as I can now. Each steady, intentional movement I make on days spent home alone, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy my own company, and how certain of myself I am now. The strength of the life I built for myself and the friendships I can now only connect to virtually allow surviving the pandemic to sometimes feel like the slowest part of a long summer day: endless, but not difficult.