Only when we get a ‘proper winter’ do we realise how harsh life can be and the news reporters delight in searching out the rural, remote and particularly exposed places where people have no choice but to get on with it and break the ice in animal drinking troughs or walk miles to fetch necessary items.
The cycle of the agricultural year dominated life for everyone even in industrialised countries until very recent periods of history. Our central heating rather than total reliance on open fires keeps us removed from worries about how much wood or coal is in store – instead we just switch on the gas or electricity to provide heat as we wish.
Yet we know that winter is only a season, a phase of the year and it will pass after a while. The whole point of a cycle is that we know it will change and move on; we know we can rely on it changing again and again even if it takes far longer than we would like to move from one stage to another.
Just as there is the cycle of the seasons, so there is a cycle in personal life. It is always moving and adapting; our patience may be tried and tested at some times, our desires gratified and easily fulfilled in other situations. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, other times we know that things have happened in direct and proportionate response to the effort we have put into a situation.
But we can feel ‘sunny’ or ‘cold’ on the inside too – our disposition, our patience or our temper is something we have a better degree of control over than the weather.
Even when we feel like being miserable we have the capacity to smile, to appear a little more cheerful to other people than we may really be feeling. There are those times when we make an effort and feel rewarded through it – not because the situation miraculously changes but because we have helped our own feelings to change, we move on or begin to get out of the self-pitying state that can be so tempting to wallow in.
Trying to keep positive, optimistic and cheerful all the time is hard work; but there is a lot to be said for seeing harder times as cycles, as seasons or phases which need to be got through. Those people living hard rural lives are shown on TV reports as getting through, getting by – whatever phrase is used it isn’t about pity but about coping and making sure things keep going until the milder weather arrives. This year is already bringing us many things to cope with or enjoy, hopefully we can find more of the good and less of the negative aspects of whatever situations we experience.
Based on material by Christine Bank