Spring is finally here in Washington, and her arrival feels like seeing an old friend you’ve been missing and being able to pick up right where you left off. It’s always amazing to me how quickly I settle into my warm weather patterns and forget the long stretch of gray that I was previously living in, but it really feels like nothing’s changed at all since the last time I felt the sun warm my skin.
It’s about 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and I’m writing this from the sunny side of my yard. Just last night I was here with a dear friend, eating and laughing and swinging on the wooden swing that hangs from the great old tree that’s nestled in the corner next to the white picket fence.
I haven’t really gotten a chance to sit down and write like this since the day after my 25th birthday, and I think the reason for that is I’ve been in process. I’ve been learning that it’s okay to still be learning. That it’s okay to feel like the sunshine has been gone for too long. That it’s okay to give yourself room to just be in those long gray stretches.
May is Mental Health Awareness month and I owe it to you (and to myself) to spend a moment speaking to that. The truth about why I didn’t write from early September of last year until now is that I’ve been in one of those long gray stretches. I’ve been trying to push it down and cover it with the band-aid of a busy schedule but it’s always waiting there for me in my moments of stillness.
The details about my dance with anxiety and depression don’t really matter (though I’d love to sit down and talk about all of it with you if that’s something you’d like to do, the specifics just don’t really matter to me). What matters is that through it all I’ve finally learned to be unafraid of the stillness, the moments when the music stops and it’s just me and my thoughts and the gray. I’ve learned to slow down and actively seek the stillness. And that when I find myself in those moments I can name them for what they are and let myself just be in them.
I’m still very much in process, still learning the steps of my dance, but I think that with an appreciation of the gray moments comes a much greater appreciation of the sunny ones. So, as promised, here is a short list of things that are making me happy these days:
The farmers market — I’ve been going every weekend since it opened and it’s my favorite thing to do on Saturdays. I love slowly walking past each stand, soaking in the smell of the empanadas (a personal fave from the Proctor farmers market), and saying hello to every dog I see (dogs could be their own entire list of things that make me happy to be honest). Plus they have great deals for lower-income members of our community and I think that’s so important. Catch me next Saturday at the market!
Driving with the windows down — Last summer I learned the perfect way to roll the windows down so you still get a breeze but your hair doesn’t blow everywhere: front driver’s side window all the way down, front passenger window all the way up, back driver’s side window about 1/3 of the way down, and back passenger side window just 1-2 inches down. Don’t believe me? Try it, it’s life changing.
The smell of lilacs — My mom LOVES the smell of lilacs and always stops to smell them wherever we are. It’s a practice I’ve carried into adulthood and I’m so glad I did. We have a lilac bush in our front yard and the smell always reminds me of my Ma.
My sweet, sweet friendships — Lately I feel like the Lord has just been surrounding me with so many beautiful friendships. I used to live my life full of so much anxiety around what people thought of me, and I think in my years since college I’ve learned that the people in your life choose you just as much as you choose them. It’s a freeing and beautiful thought.
Cooking — I honestly never thought I’d say this. But the combo of the farmers market and sunshine in the evening has made cooking so enjoyable for me. My current favorite thing to make is Trader Joe’s chicken sausage with whatever veggies I picked up the previous weekend at the market. So good.
I want you to take a moment and think about the list of things in your life that make your soul feel sunny. As you can see from what I listed, they don’t have to be complicated or extravagant. In fact, I think the happiest moments can come from the simplest things. Today I hope you do something to seek yours.