I admitted recently that I may have set my expectations a bit too high for the summer that is currently beginning. The months from September to June made up a challenging season, which is why when I met with my spiritual director at the end of May I found myself saying “I have sort of put off praying until summer”.
So much about this year was a challenge. I have felt guilty whining about this because there were many beautiful moments and satisfying accomplishments. But when I looked back all I could see was heaviness and anxiety. There was a hole in my heart where hope had once been, and only by its absence could I be convinced it had ever existed. I found a conviction deeper than sensibility that told me “all will be well” and I willed myself to keep swimming through, even if I didn’t believe that I would ever be coming up for air.
I was ready to call things a wash around March, but I soldiered on until June, hoping that the lull of summer would help me find the peace I was looking for. If there was one thing I was determined NOT to bring with me into the lazy days of summer, it was the weighty novel I had been carrying around with me for the past 14 months.
Because I read Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace during such a turbulent period in my life, getting to the last of the 1200+ pages had become a particularly fraught accomplishment. I was carrying a lot of memories around with that 5-inch paperback. I invested a lot in that finish line.
On the day that marked my entry into summertime, I “treated myself” to an extra hard workout. At the end of yoga, on the mat in the dark, it found me again: gratitude. I was flooded with the gratitude that I couldn’t find in the preceding months: for the great love in my life, for the blessed routines of work and rest that I have maintained despite some illness, for all the beautiful people who are the stars making up the constellation of my life. I wasn’t sure I was still capable of that kind of thankfulness. But I found it, and I was relieved.
Later that evening I found myself turning the final pages of the book that had been weighing down my carry-ons and resting on my lap for over a year. I couldn’t wrap myself up in the story enough to ignore whatever stress had wandered into my brain as I read, and I found myself dripping tears onto those thin, thin pages. But my old friend gratitude hadn’t abandoned me and I felt solace in saying, even through clenched teeth: I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful.
After every battle of my life peace has looked different on the other side. I have been transformed and recreated, sometimes through joy and sometimes through trial. There is no end to the strife on this side of heaven, but there is also peace sometimes, if I can wrestle open those holes in my heart and let virtue and gladness fill them.