How Is It Possible I Feel Cold?
As a rule, I see no sense in whining about the weather. As my Japanese Aikido sensei, Gaku Homma was fond of saying, "if you don’t like the temperature out, just wait six months." But I’m also an ardent fan of fairness—so when I have to put on five, count ‘em, five layers in August at home in Michigan, it seems...unfair. I understand the wisdom of wearing multiple layers in the mountains, where the full range of weather can crop up any time. But in my sweet, safe, predictable lower-peninsula Michigan? In August? It just doesn’t somehow seem right, or fair, to feel cold.
And so my observations lead me to one of my favorite topics: expectations. I may expect to have to wear layers in the mountains, but I do not expect that at home in August.
Really, the trouble is not the weather. The trouble is me. If I let my life be guided by expectations, I set myself up for all sorts of heartache. People fall prey to expectations all the time. When someone announces, "I’m expecting a baby!" surely what’s being envisioned here is a normal, healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes who grows up to do fine things in life, maybe even save the world. When a person envisions a future with a beloved, it seems fair to expect the regular ups and downs within the context of a basically good, decent life. One should be able to expect a brand new car to run well for years. But children die before parents, and babies don’t always come out right. Victims of domestic violence often report that the abuser was a model citizen—til the doors were closed. And, well, cars are cars.
So why do I feel it’s fair to expect not to need five layers in August in lower Michigan? Silly me. Life isn’t fair, and expectations are sometimes dashed. And here’s the beautiful part: whenever I am reminded of this truth, I am also reminded of the serenity of intention.
Intention is more under my control. If I intend to sail east, I can set my sails so that’s where my little boat points. If I intend to grow old and still be functional when I’m 92 (like my step-dad, who still works out every day, plays tennis, and travels), I can choose to eat and sleep and care for myself now so that my body has some chance of doing that. If I intend to be on time, I can pay closer attention to the clock. I just should not expect that my boat go straight despite the currents and the wind. I should not expect that I will grow old; I know what can happen—as a paramedic, I saw too many lives snuffed out without warning. And it’s unfair to expect to be on time when I don’t curb my bad habit of trying to fit in just one more thing...sorry, friends. Being late is my worst bad habit,
And so, I get cold. I put on five layers. I eat decently and live as well as I know how, and set my sails the best I can. And I don’t, I really don’t, normally complain about the weather. Nature wins that round. Summer is (usually) for hot and sticky; winter is for bundling. Even when the temperatures get wonky, I don’t mind. Through my open, un-airconditioned windows, the peeper frogs in spring yield to the crickets and cicadas of full summer. I enjoy hearing the breezes, the birds, and the four wind chimes surrounding the house. In winter, there is a divine, profound hush, a suspension of sound that’s as if the world is holding its breath, waiting. What else do you expect?