It’s Just Snow
It snowed again last night. Seven inches of thick snow fell over the streets and the houses as I slept, and weighed heavily in my shovel in the dark this morning. Yesterday, I stealthily made my way home before the snow began, taking the afternoon off from work, but I knew that it would be more difficult for me to avoid going out in the snow today.
I was hoping for an announcement of a work closing, but there was none. There was a delay, which helped some, but it wasn’t anything in the face of my fear of driving in that snow. I paced and ranted about the state of the roads, and the number of inches of snow, and all the other places that had closed, and finally collapsed in the arms of my wife, sobbing. I could tell as she held me that she hadn’t realized the fear was this bad. I hadn’t realized it was this bad.
The snow terrifies me, and I don’t know why. It’s just snow. I spent my teenage years living in western Michigan, where lake-effect snow is a way of life. I talk to anyone who will listen and ponder all of the possibilities. Does the snow trigger some childhood trauma? Is it the fear that I will be in an accident? Is it the fear of being trapped? I still can’t figure it out, but I believe it has something to do with my lifelong desire to be perfect, to never make mistakes. The snow is an infuriating barrier to achieving perfection in my daily rituals. Regardless of the reason, I don’t know how to fix it, how to make the fear stop.
After I was done sobbing this morning, I said to my wife, “I am perpetually shocked when life is hard.” It’s true. I keep waiting for the challenges in life to stop, as if there will be a clearly marked finish line any day now, and the rest of my life will be smooth sailing. I keep waiting to be the type of person who rolls with the punches and doesn’t react to every little thing. It’s exhausting, waiting to be a different person with a different life. The feelings of shame, anger, and guilt are exhausting too.
My guru of choice, Iyanla Vanzant, writes, “Many of us believe that once we demonstrate how strong, how good, how smart we are, life should give us a break. We believe we should be home free. Nothing could be further from the truth about the way life works. The trees with the strongest branches and deepest roots are those that have withstood the heavy winds and stormy weather, season after season.”
I want life to give me a break. It’s snowed almost twice as much this winter as last winter; I’ve had enough, and I want it to stop. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. But being alive means sometimes being afraid, and it means dealing with things I don’t like, and it means being less than perfect most of the time. It also means that when life won’t cut me a break, I have to cut myself one. As a dear friend once told me, “You’re going to have learn how to soothe yourself.”
I didn’t go into work today. My car sits immobile in the snow. I am home, regrouping and gathering strength for the snowy drive tomorrow. I am lighting a candle in honor of those who had to go into work today, and I am praying for their safe travels home. I am avoiding the local news and Facebook weather posts. I am writing, because I believe I am not the only person who struggles with fear, and maybe if I write about it and share it, we can all find some peace.
I think of that tree in Iyanla’s post, similar to the one tattooed on my back. I flex my strengthening branches, and test my deeper roots. I am that tree, still standing after the storm. I have to remind myself, over and over, but I am that tree, and I will be here when spring returns.