Photograph of blue sky

Yesterday was a stunning respite from winter. The sky was a subtle cobalt blue, unmarred by even the slightest suggestion of a cloud. The temperature, already reasonable at dawn, climbed into the sixties, bringing with it a warmth that has been absent for months.

I spent the day chasing the sun. I elected to skip my usual yoga class as the thought of two hours contained in a windowless room on such a day seemed like villainy. Instead, after completing my indoor tasks early (which included opening all the windows:) ), I started the day with a run. Okay, actually two runs. I first took Tiger for a hilly three mile loop around the neighborhood. Mr. Pitiful struggles when the mercury climbs above sixty; he was trailing behind on the inclines and kept insisting on watering bushes even once his well had run dry. As a result of his slow pace and frequent pit stops, I ended the run ready for more. I dropped him off at the house and hopped in the car to head down the road to a trail along the river.

The trails were bustling, filled with children taking their Christmas bikes and trikes out for a ride, young couples and runners gearing up for the spring racing season. Even as I cursed the crowds as I had weave in and out and even stop at times, I really do love to see so many people out and exercising and enjoying the day and each other. It is a beautiful thing. I just wish they understood that slower traffic to the right applies to the trails as well…

Another four miles and I was spent (I so do not miss those marathon training distances!!!). I fixed a snack upon arriving home and set myself up on the back deck with a book. As the sun moved across the sky, I moved along with it, eventually ending up in a folding camp chair in the driveway. I am solar powered and I was determined to recharge as much as possible while I had the opportunity. The lows today are back in the 20s and the rain has moved in again, bringing with it the threat of severe weather and flooding.

Yesterday was a gift, a brief exhale of winter that allowed the warm breath of spring to fill tight chests. It was an intermission between inhospitable acts when the layers that guard against the cold could be thrown off without fear.

The winters of our lives often have respites as well. Look for them. Create them. And, when they are there, embrace them. Spend the moments chasing the sun. Allow yourself to open the windows, to feel the warmth, to shed your guards. Breathe. It’s okay to feel okay even when your world is falling apart around you. Give yourself permission to laugh. To be present in the lull between the storms. Try not to think about what the forecast predicts for tomorrow or how frigid it was yesterday. That doesn’t matter today.

A respite doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to fill an entire day. My dad and I created our first respite from the storm that came with text message that ended my world mere days later:

“Two for Borat, please,” my dad said to the teen in the movie theater window as he handed over his card.

“Sir, I have to inform you that the movie is especially graphic and may be offensive to some viewers. There are no refunds,” the ticket-taker recited automatically.

My dad and I looked at each other, the first true laughs of the week expelled in staccato bursts.

“Welcome to the South,” I said to him with a grin. Besides, nothing on that movie screen could be more offensive than my reality.

Undeterred by the warning, we proceeded to the theater where we shared more laughs and a much needed respite from the reality outside those doors.

Those two hours were a gift. They provided a much needed break from the horror in my life. It was a chance to breathe. To feel normal. To refuel. To live when I otherwise felt as if I were dying.

After my hours in the sun yesterday, another week filled with cold rain and flooding doesn’t seem so daunting. After all, I still carry a bit of yesterday’s  warmth with me:)

Thank you for sharing!

16 thoughts on “Respite

  1. John – I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
    John says:

    A little over year ago (mid-Dec of 2011), I came home from work one evening to find that my at the time live-in gf had out of the blue packed up some essentials for herself and her three children and taken off back to NY. Everything had seemed good between us, and we were all supposed to leave the next day for CA to spend Christmas with my family. She had not yet met my family (dad, sis, bro-in-law, nephew and niece). But apparently as departure day to CA had approached, she had gotten some very frosty feet–a drive cross country, all of us in the same rental van for tha many days, a quick visit to the Grand canyon, and then meeting my family out in CA–all big “commitment” type things. She had gotten cold feet (I had no clue; and I would not consider myself one who is clueless often), and ran. She wasn’t ready at the time to commit that much. She was still on the fence. So without warning I came home to an empty house about 10 days before Christmas.

    After mulling over my options for a couple of days (and not hearing a peep from her), I decided to make the drive out to CA anyways on my own and see the Grand Canyon (love that place!). Long story short; I did a lot of things over the course of the next 3 weeks attempting to find some respite from a freshly filleted and gutted heart. I took a lot of bike rides along the beach in Santa Monica, visited several bookstores, ate more than my fair share of In-N-Out and Carl’s Jr, spent a lot of quality time with my family–especially with my little niece (my goddaughter) and nephew (teaching him to throw football). I also saw the Grand Canyon, and on the way home visited Yosemite, Vegas, Zion, and Antelope Canyon and found some solace in my photography. I also found respite watching Mission Impossible 4 (amazingly well done; exceeded any expectations I had) on what seemed to be a 4 or 5 story high IMAX screen (what a view when Cruise stepped out of that skyscraper!), and also saw the 6 minute excerpt of The Dark Knight Rises. And I met a couple of women along the way as well and had a bit of companionship. Respite. Respite I would have traded nearly anything not to have to go through. And respite that I was fortunate to have just enough means to take (I couldn’t have afforded any more respite; that respite was costly, even though I stayed with family for almost all of it. So I realize how fortunate I am and was to be able to afford that level of respite).

    Now, 15 months later, I’m married (to the same woman). We’re very happy, I feel very blessed, and I’m very appreciative–caring this much for someone, and losing her in the abovementioned way (and not just once, but on two other occasions in the same basic way) tends to drive home the message to be appreciative and not take a relationship or person for granted (as if all my years of armchair Buddhism and spiritual meandering hadn’t already prepped me very well in some way for this–for how capricious life and happiness are). And now we’re about to have a baby in a few weeks–my first, her fourth. Life is good now. Very very good. We’re nowhere near well-off; we’re just scraping by; but we have love, each other, a family, stability, health (so far as we know; and no one can ever really know how long that will last). Life is much better than 15 moths ago for all of us.

    Is this a happy-ending? Or just another respite? Only time will tell.

    But these were my thoughts in response to reading your post, Stilllearning2b. Reading your post reminded me of the good weather that I enjoyed 15 months ago while riding my bike along the beach on Snata Monica and Venice: many 70 degree days with bright blue skies. It was much better than the double negative of having to endure Midwestern winter weather on top of a brutal loss.

    Kindest regards, SL2B,


  2. Great post. Sometimes we need a reminder that no matter what we’re going through life is still going on beyond our front door, that sometimes we need to get out there and participate just to feel alive.

  3. gemmautting – A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I specialize in pre-marital preparation and relationship repair. A committed, long-term relationship is going to call you into places of deep personal awareness and growth like nothing else can. Learning how to allow this, how to respond without defensiveness and how to gracefully expand into the best possible version of yourself - whether before you say "I do" - is my joy and life's work.
    gemmautting says:

    Lisa – wonderful wisdom, as usually, beautifully written. I loved that John shared his astonishing tale here too – so much left unsaid! As a lonely, sad 8 year old at a pretty barbaric Catholic boarding school, I created a refuge (physical place for respite?) in a wood just off our play ground. I went there almost every day. No matter the weather : wind, rain, snow or fresh buds, bluebells and lush grass – this wood provided an earthy comfort amidst the surrounding human disconnection. And made all the difference.

    1. I love the thought of a refuge as being the physical embodiment of respite. So true!:) And, yes those little moments or nurturing spaces can make all the difference in the world!

  4. Loved this post. “Chasing the sun” will stay with me forever. I love that phrasing of the words. (Especially given my (real) name!) Thank you for this. 🙂

  5. I’m just reading this now years later, and felt I had to say I loved the way you wrote this. You are “Solar powered”, and needed to recharge, LOVE THAT!
    The movie, Borat! Couldn’t get much more hilarious than that. So glad you did that. I could feel your laughter reading it.
    And JOHN’S story! Wowww!!! Such a fabulous one to tell. I got goosebumps reading they got married. So glad he shared it here. I hope they’re every bit as wonderfully happy, if not even more with time! Really did my heart good to read both of your times of respite!!!

Leave a ReplyCancel reply