What’s saving your life right now?

What’s saving your life right now?

I just finished an excellent book (if you don’t completely hate YA as a genre). It’s Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star, and it’s the story of two teens, Daniel and Natasha, thrown together the day before Natasha is deported back to Jamaica, her family’s illegal status having been discovered.

It’s a whole lot like two books I love: imagine The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, with an immigration plotline. Or Everything I Never Told You, minus the death in the family, because Yoon shows you the story from every character’s perspective. Yoon makes it work.

Very early in the story, we meet Irene. She’s not our main character, but she’s tied to them. Irene is a security guard at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building in downtown Manhattan.

To look at Irene, you’d probably think she hates her job. But Yoon tells us she loves it. More than loves it—she needs it. She’s lonely, and so, as she sees it, “Every interaction with these applicants saves her life just a little.” It’s her connection to the world.

*****     *****     *****

This is a tough time of year for a lot of us. The days are short, and relentlessly dreary. Everyone has the flu, or if they’re lucky, the sniffles. Budgets are tight. And spring feels a long way away.

Winter is a challenging season for me. To preserve my sanity during the cold and grey days, I adopted a habit a few years back. I started keeping a list—an actual, physical, pen-and-paper list—of the things that were actively giving me life in my least favorite season.

The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. Some of us are overwhelmed with hurry and worry; some of us face crushing poverty; some feel utterly paralyzed.

But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?

A job—like Irene’s—seems like an awfully big thing to me, but sometimes the things that give us life are decidedly smaller. Sometimes, they feel so small I feel silly writing them down. Oh well. I’m choosing to notice them anyway. When I don’t, my mind drifts to what’s killing me, instead.

*****     *****     *****

Next Thursday is February 2, the halfway point of winter. For the third year running, we’re joining together to combat the winter doldrums by making our lists of what’s saving our lives right now and sharing them here. This list-sharing and life-sharing has been so wonderful in the past. I can’t wait to do it again.

On February 2, I’ll share my list—and you’re invited to share yours, too.

Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.

I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.

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  1. Love this post Anne! And without realizing it, I’ve been keeping a similar list in my journal as of late. Given my health (living with advanced & disabling Rheumatoid disease) I learned a long time ago to keep the appreciating my blessings & the ‘little’ or ‘simple’ things because those are what get me through, but having had mono on top of everything else now for 4 months & counting, it’s been rough, to say the least lol My usual go-to’s aren’t exactly working so I’m having to find other ways to cope, which is maddening given the amount of brain fog I’ve got going on lol And while I normally love winter (except wind chill), I don’t love one without snow, and winter in our neck of the northeast has been all about no snow and being dark & gloomy for days at a time. Blah. So that hasn’t helped either! I started making my list this morning and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you and everyone! (And hopefully I can do a little catch up with the MMD bookclub in the meantime).

  2. Cara says:

    I love this post, thank you Anne! My dad (who was my favorite person in the whole world) passed away four years ago this April, and he always told me that when you were feeling down you should plan something you could look forward to. In my everyday life, I plan for walks in the park or a cup of tea from my favorite tearoom. The anticipation makes the experience even more enjoyable. Long-term, my husband and I are planning our honeymoon!! We had a tiny wedding so we could save up for a big trip, and will be traveling to Venice, Bern, London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. Does anyone have suggestions for books I can read that are set in or around those cities? I find that if I read books that are set in places I plan to travel I establish a connection to the setting that makes my experience that much more enjoyable.

  3. Anna says:

    Thanks for this — this is fun. I have an odd situation, perhaps, in that the cold seasons of fall and winter are my MOST favorite. I like August just a little because it means fall is just around the corner. I like June because it means August is on the way soon. July has to be my least favorite.

    This winter has been unusually wintery where I live in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve relished it. I did have a moment of anxiety though just recently when I realized that it is temporary, and that soon sweaters won’t feel good as they will be way too hot. So I started to panic and get down at the coming warm seasons. That said, I do try to warm up to spring and summer (ha! no pun intended). Trying to find reasons to like them.

    This brings me to my quandary — why do people like warm seasons? I’m so curious. Pretty much it could be that fall and winter are introverted seasons and they suit me well. But I know introverts who like summer, so maybe it doesn’t work the same way for them.

    This post inspired me to make my own list, even though I love winter. Thank you!

    • Shar says:

      Seems you and I are both introverts, but love the exact opposite seasons. Maybe that has to do with how/where we grew up? I am a Texas girl and we have been stationed in cold places the last 8 years (Germany and Colorado). I find that every year, once school starts, I begin bracing myself for winter. I tell myself “just make it through January” like a mantra and I often joke that I don’t even thaw out until it hits at least 80 degrees.
      You asked what it was that warm weather lovers love about summer months, maybe if you know what some of us focus on in Spring and Summer you will have more of an appreciation for it (please share your loves of winter, because it might do me some good too). I love summer first and foremost because my babies are home, no school, no schedules, no tests, no feeling of only getting a few hours with them each day. I start planning a whole list of fun activities for us to do at the beginning of May so it doesn’t just feel like we are all sitting around bored and staring at each other day in and day out. I kick this list off the same way every year, ice cream for dinner. We go to Cold Stone and get every topping of our hearts desire and just binge on it. I love flip-flops, skirts, and dresses. My goal is to wear them as long as possible. Maybe you could invest in a new warm weather wardrobe, complete with shoes, to at least put you in the mood for summer with all of your fresh pretties. Summer means we can travel home to visit family and we treasure that time so much. Cousins galore! We love BBQs and eating outdoors for dinner. Everyone brings side dishes to my sister’s house and we have huge family dinners on the weekends. We spend every warm day we can at the pool (there aren’t many warm days in Colorado that don’t also have rain). Our theaters here all run summer movie schedules both indoor and outdoor, so you see previously run movies for free or a $1 and then you buy whatever concessions. We love spray parks and water parks. You can’t forget snowcones! We love summer reading at the library. My husband and I take trips on his motorcycle and travel all over where we are currently stationed. Drive-in movies are a must. It gets dark here by 4 in winter, so I love that we see the sun more in summer. We love 4th of July, fireworks, and parades. There are a lot of festivals to travel around and experience in summer, maybe look up some of the ones for your state and make it a goal to attend them. And I think another thing I really love is how it feels like summer is the one time that kids just really get to be kids. There is of course more, but this post is getting quite lengthy and I am beginning to ramble. I hope this helped and would love to hear your response on winter. 🙂

  4. Diana says:

    I LOVED The Sun is Also a Star! One of the best YA books I’ve read. Looking forward to seeing what is helping others get through this (sometimes) miserable season!

  5. Sheryl D. Anderson says:

    I’ve been a member of Mrs. Darcy since the beginning, and it has been an enjoyable experience just to have this great connection with all of these wonderful people who love reading the best books as much as I do. Then on Jan 8, 2017 I experienced a painful heart attack. It just came without any warning! On Jan. 12th I had quadruple bypass surgery. Doing well—but the comment I want to make is that this connection I have with all these book lovers has become a lifeline for me. Just to read their comments and read their comments about new books they’re reading—it has all been an enjoyable experience for me. I had signed up to read War and Peace along with all the other crazy people, but that got cut off for me! I will probably never get caught up with everyone, but again, I am enjoying the comments. Thanks so much to all of these wonderful people–you have truly been a lifeline for me this winter in a way I never anticipated.

  6. Sarah says:

    Thanks Anne! This sounds a lot like the premise behind One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She shares her story about starting to daily writing down things that she was thankful for. I read this for a class in college and started keeping a thankfulness list as I was reading. It was amazing how much more aware I became of things to be thankful for just by writing them down. You’re whole attitude changes when you are always thinking of things to be thankful for. The way that she writes is a little flowery, but it’s such a heartwarming read. Highly recommended!

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