Hurt & Faith, Restoration

Sun changes everything

Unemployed men sitting on the sunny side of the San Francisco Public Library. Dorthea Lange, 1937

I have an affinity for endless sunshine.

I’m a California girl and even after nine years of living in western Washington, I haven’t gotten used to the weather.

I have expectations that summer should at least mean sunshine, even if it’s only 68 degrees. I barely make it through the stretch of gloom we call spring here, reassuring myself summer is on it’s way.

And year after year, I’m horribly disappointed . . .

. . . but even the golden state of California isn’t always so sunny.

Once, in high school, weeks of unbroken, oppressive winter fog in the San Joaquin Valley made me so stir crazy that I begged my dad to drive up to the foothills of the Sierras to get above the suffocating whiteness.

When we got high enough to see the sun (which wasn’t very high as I remember), we stopped and stood in beautiful sunshine looking down on a sea of fog so dense it seemed as though I could walk across it.

I don’t know how my dad got me to get back into the car to drive down into the pit again.

*  *  *  *  *

The day we moved in to our house at camp, it rained. And I don’t think it stopped for four months.

I chose to home school the kids that year, trying to make up for years of my attention being diverted toward survival. And, not knowing how long the blessing of living in such a great place would last, I wanted to make the most of it.

We kept going to our church — an hour away.

The kids were still little and had the usual round illnesses that keep you from associating with the world during childhood.

And loneliness began to creep over my life like a fog.

* * * * *

There was a time when the deepest friendships started with transparency. Telling your new friend your entire life story, who you liked, what your hopes and dreams were. Things you never told anyone else.

But then life happens. And you struggle with the things you can barely speak about to God, let alone another person.

Trust takes on a new meaning.

If I am as open with her as I want to be, will she judge Dave? Will she talk about me behind my back? Will she reject me?

I found I could no longer form new friendships like I once did.

I couldn’t tell anyone that my deepest hurts involved my husband and his addiction. That even though I thought he was done with the pills, distrust and suspicion lingered.

I struggled with this new thing: fear.

Fear founded not on imaginings, but reality.

Fear that if he was using again, our life would be destroyed forever.

And fear that I would never be able to be truly open again with a single person without jeopardizing our livelihood.

Leading is lonely. Being the wife of a leader, in many ways, even  lonelier.

* * * * *

Summer in Washington this year (and frankly, most years since I’ve lived here) reminds me of that oppressive California winter.

But if you’ve ever been here when the sun is shining, you know that when the clouds part, it’s incredible. All the main roads in our town have striking views — the Olympic Mountains on one side, Mount Ranier on the other; water everywhere with tranquil sailboats and real-life fishing boats. It’s almost like the colors of the world are more vibrant by sudden exposure to sun.

We tolerate it — the months and months of the gray, the rain, the fog — because when the sun shines, the beauty shows . . .

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what a dysfunctional relationship I have with this place.

Disappointed by broken promises of beautiful days, lowering my expectations of warmth and sunshine only to find I have to lower them more, and then, when days of endless sun finally arrive, it’s time to go back to school. And the weather turns colder. And the sun, though it shines, isn’t shining warmth like it tried to do when it was closer to the earth.

And yet we stay. And endure. Not just for the days like Tuesday when I was delightfully awakened by rare morning sun filtering through the blinds. But also because there is more to life than weather, than scenery.

There are friends.

True friends I can talk to about real things, without fear of rejection or judgement of me or Dave — they’ve been there, too.

Friends whose company is so much sweeter because the fog that hung over my life, and sometimes theirs, has been lifted.

And there’s no fear of scandal, of being tossed out on the streets if our secrets are known. (It’s strange that we don’t give people the kind of grace we give the weather.)

Friends that sit in the sunshine with me, reveling in the warmth of honesty.

* * * * *

I try to drop everything when the sun’s out. To get outside and see the world how it really is.

And I thank God for an hour without a sweater and a life above the fog.