My dear family,
I am bitter. I am trying not to be, but I just can’t shake it. Usually, I’m good at letting my anger and unmet expectations go. You know, the whole ‘Jesus help me to accept the things I cannot change,’ deep breathing and yoga bit. But this morning I’ve spoken- sieved- shouted- more angry curses than I can count. So I need help. What do you do when you are just bitter and can’t seem to let it go?
This is the text message I almost sent to my family this morning. And here’s why.
I am an outdoorsy, sun-loving girl. Some people need coffee, some need music or massages- I need sun. That’s the thing that re-charges me and keeps me sane. My world can be falling a part but if the sun is shining, I can cope. And the thing is, I am sun-deprived.
Anyone in the mid-west or east coast of the United States will tell you that this has been a brutal winter. The kind that can kill a girl like me off. More snow than sun. More clouds than clear skies. More misery than merriment. And quite honestly, I am hanging on by my last little thread of sanity waiting for the God-forsaken winter to be over. No more grey. No more clouds, rain, ice, snow, snow-domes, snow-apocalypses, snow-days. Snow Cones. That’s really the only type of snow I can handle at this point.
I am turning all kinds of ashy. My scalp is flaking off. My fingers have been purple for three months. I’m starting to look like a pasty Mississippi white girl but I am one quarter Hispanic and I want to look that way. I want you to wonder if perhaps I’m from Mexico or Brazil or Texas, at least. I want brown skin and freckles in full bloom and I want to wake up each morning and debate whether or not to wear shorts because I don’t know if the leather seats in my car will burn my butt or not.
Admittedly, I suffer from that seasonal mood disorder that makes the creative-nature-lovers who live in wintery states start twitching by mid-February. I know I have it because I went to my doctor and she asked if I felt generally happy and I told her no. I feel generally pasty and flaky, kind of like a purple crescent roll and I CANNOT keep living.
She suggested I take vitamin D, see a therapist and Google “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
So February has come and gone and winter is still frigging here. I wake up, look out the window, acknowledge the lack of sun and immediately begin searching for job openings in Southern California. Because I CANNOT anymore. I have moved from twitching to just walking around pissed off and moody, turning on all the lights in the house and sitting under the brightest one like a pee-colored baby under an incubator. I have winter jaundice.
I’ve threatened to get in the car and just drive until I reach sun and warmth. My threats started in October, way before my knuckles and fingertips turned putrid purple. So by November Ryan decided maybe we should plan a trip to a sunshiny state. He was going to be in Los Angeles for a conference and maybe we could extend that trip and go down to San Diego and I could sit like a turtle on a log by the water. Happy and content. Hello Hispanic girl skin. So we sunk all our vacation money to take our first true vacation in years and go to San Diego for some beach time and Don Miller’s Storyline Conference. Ryan used most of his vacation days. We flew his mom to Nashville to be with Annie. And we left on a much needed trip for some good R&R and that West Coast sunshine. And I have been counting down the days until I could escape Nashville and make my way to Sunny San Diego.
Have you actually ever heard San Diego referred to without the Sunny prefix? It’s like Mr. or Mrs. or ‘The’ United States. Sunny San Diego. Sunny is part of the city’s God-given birth name. It’s on the city’s birth certificate. So with every rainy, gloomy, icy, snowy, or generally windy, miserable cold winter day in Nashville the past three months, I focused on Sunny San Diego. Like a mantra, a mecca, a messiah come to save ashy white girl from winter.
Sunny freaking San Diego.
And the trip finally came. And we went. And it rained. The entire trip.
Grey skies. Trees down. Flooded roads. And just enough sun to know it was above the clouds but not enough to actually be able to see it or feel it. A cruel trick. It was the first rain in over 70 days and the biggest rain storm the state had experienced in something like 100 years. And California needed the rain and I am happy for them and all their little wine grapes and oranges and avocados and exotic smelling trees. But as I watched the torrents of rain and clouds rolling in, I started feeling bitter.
And this morning when I woke up on my final day of vacation in San Diego, I crept over to the window and was relieved to see that it was still raining. Had the sun come out to bid me farewell (as I head home into an ice storm and winter warning advisory) it would have been too much for me to deal with.
And the Storyline Conference was wonderful- but what my heart really wanted was sun.
I asked Ryan if I could drop him off at the gate and go return the rental car alone. And as soon as I drove away, I let out a great, big AGGGGHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHHH at the top of my lungs. And a few other choice words. It felt good to scream. I knew I needed to. I had been trying with every ounce inside of me to make the best of the trip. And that took a lot of energy.
The city of San Diego, the facilities where the conference were held and the general flow of West Coast life were not made for the kind of rain we were getting. Shuttling 1700 people on and off a college campus during a rain tsunami takes great patience from all parties involved. Arriving wet everywhere you go takes a certain emotional fortitude. Choosing joy when you don’t get what you want takes a good deal of deep breathing and searching for the silver lining. All of which are exhausting. And after I let the rental car have it and yelled my heart out, I realized that I was bitter because this was not the vacation I so desperately wanted and needed it to be. And there was no way to fix that. And I wanted my money back from the Universe.
I’m not very-well practiced at how to be angry or how to let-go of bitterness. I don’t often get angry or bitter. But as I waited behind 50 people and one, ONE, sweet gate agent at the airport this morning I could feel it settling into my bones. And I didn’t want it- I didn’t want the anger and disappointment or resentment and bitterness. That’s why I screamed in the car. Sometimes punching a pillow or running a mile as fast as you can or screaming into an empty car can begin the decompressing and letting go process. But it didn’t help. I had been in a constant state of muttering and begging the words of the serenity prayer over my heart for days and it worked off and on in tandem with the rain. When there was a break in the clouds the serenity prayer seemed to work. When they billowed back in with their never-ending rivets of rain, the serenity prayer seemed to lose its power. So prayers for transcending peace didn’t seem to do the trick either. As I stood in line, I re-read the notes I took on my phone from the conference.
Redeeming negative turns. Overcoming conflict. Living a good story.
“I want to live a good story!” I told myself.
But myself answered, “I REFUSE! Good stories ONLY happen in sunshine!”
And so, I decided, I needed reinforcement. I would text my two sisters and my parents- our family text chain is absurd- and I would ask them how to stop being angry and bitter. I needed their answers. I needed their advise. I needed some type of divine intervention and they were my last hope. So I typed the text message above. But right before I pressed “send” the divine intervention came.
It came in the form of a 60 year-old lady who was also having a hard time understanding why there was only one ticket agent and why that agent wasn’t helping the entire First Class line before taking care of the lesser-than’s. She was, after all, a first class air citizen entitled to have everything happen the way she wanted it to. And she was about to let everyone know that. She began to yell. Truly yell. From her spot in the line, she yelled at the agent. She yelled at the two men in front of her. She yelled at someone from the lesser-than line who tried to walk up to the counter. She yelled and shook her fists and her anger spilled forth like vile.
And instantly my anger and bitterness were gone. Completely gone. She was a slap in the face, like cold water dumped over my head. Because if she is a picture of what anger and bitterness turn a person into, I don’t want any part of it. Her presence melted my bitterness in a moment. She was a walking example of what bitterness kept does to a person. And just like that, my perspective was restored and recovered.
So it was not the vacation of my dreams. And while I can still feel the sting of disappointment, the bitterness has washed away with the rain dripping off my suitcase. We will save money all over again and go on another vacation. The sun will return. And when it does, I will appreciate it all the more. And I will do so as a girl who has learned an important lesson.
One: SUNNY SAN DIEGO is a lie!!! Two: No amount of bitterness can bring back the sun you feel like you deserve. But light is always available- whether there is sunshine or not. So I will keep trying to throw off bitterness and let go of unmet expectations- and if I can’t do it on my own- I will pray for some divine intervention to come and slap me in the face, like it did today, and remind me of who I truly am... a child of light whether the sun shines or not.
full disclosure *There WERE some moments of sun. I will post those pictures soon. *StoryLine Conference was AMAZING. I will write out some of the things I experienced later this week.