(All photos [except the Big Hand Karen photo, by Scott Terrell], were taken by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)
The other afternoon my husband and I went out for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. For whatever reason, I was feeling cranky. Put upon. Impatient. And then I saw the leaves on the tree outside the window, and I remembered what those leaves had meant to me during the Year of Insanity. I remembered a time when I hadn’t had a choice in how I felt – when I couldn’t seem to “make” myself happy, and had no control over what was going on inside my head. And I remembered the pledge I’d made to myself at the end of that long, dark time when I had a choice again: So long as I had a choice, I would never, ever choose sadness over joy. And right that moment, I let go of the crankiness, and, watching the leaves flicker on that tree outside the window, chose to enjoy my time at the restaurant.
The Year of Insanity was a whopper for me. I’d never experienced anything like it before – and don’t see a need to ever experience anything like it again 🙂 – but, looking back, I am convinced that I needed to go through that time. I learned so much from it – one of the chief things being that even when I’m depressed, I can be happy – even when I’m sad, I can experience joy. Another important lesson was that the pain passes – always, always. It doesn’t last forever. I learned I was strong. I learned I could survive.
There were certain things during that year that seemed to bring me peace when i looked on them. I can’t tell you why my distressed thought was comforted by these things – why they were the objects that seemed to calm me during that time – but I can tell you what they were: The leaves on that particular tree outside the Italian restaurant; sailboats on the bay; my hands; butterflies and dragonflies; seagulls in flight; and big bright sunflowers.
One of the things that happened to me during that time – and that has stayed with me – is that I began to – I was forced to, really – tune in more intensely to the beauty around me – I began to notice things in my surroundings that I might have just walked by in the past: Little insects on flowers; all the varied colors in the sky and water; clouds – I’d never so appreciated clouds before this time! The insanity forced me to live moment-by-moment, taking each moment one at a time – being grateful to have survived that moment before moving on to the next one. I learned to stop the constant dialogue in my head by taking a deep breath and focusing on the gifts of that moment – the dragonfly over the water; the sailboat gliding by; the flickering leaves on the tree. “Thank you, God, thank you, God, thank you, God” became my mantra.
And one day I woke up and came back to myself. I remember walking down the ramp toward the boardwalk – the bay stretched out in front of me, and a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds and sparkling on the water – and I was free.
The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. – Robert Green Ingersoll
Step by step will those who trust Him find that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Mary Baker Eddy
(More about the Year of Insanity can be found in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)