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  • Drew Dotson

Whether the weather is cold

Last night I was texting with one of my friends who is also a widow. (Will saying that ever feel normal?) She was having a rough day on the grief front and felt like she was regressing rather than taking baby steps to slowly feel whole again. Her emotions had been further compounded because she wasn’t feeling particularly grateful despite having a lot of goodness in her life. Next stop on the feelings train: Guiltville.


I told her that I, too, know how it feels to be stuck in the seemingly endless grief-gratitude-guilt cycle. You’re overcome by grief, decide you should instead be grateful, then feel guilty about the whole thing. Next, you think back to what started it all and — lookee there — you’re back at grief again. (The spelling of “lookee” is brought to you by Merriam-Webster, so if you doubt it, don’t come at me.) It’s like being inside a revolving door that’s spinning rapidly. You desperately want to jump out at the next opportunity, but you’re afraid you’ll be pancaked in the process. Mmmm, pancakes.


Though we act like we need to feel one thing at a time, I think we’re all conflicted. “How can I be ______ and ______ at the same time?” I sometimes ask myself. I’m not so sure I’m actually feeling two things in a single instant though. Rather, the current version of me is feeling one way and it seems contradictory to the way the big-picture version of me feels.

It’s similar to weather versus climate. The weather is made up by the conditions now, today, short term. The climate is what happens over a longer time period. A weather report can give you an idea of the appropriate clothing for the day, but the climate where you live often determines what’s housed in your wardrobe. Living in Atlanta, I have plenty of sleeveless shirts, but I don’t own any snow gear.


No matter how much we expect the two to align, there will be times when the weather goes against what the climate suggested. I think the same can be applied to our own behavior. Our characteristics are qualities we display over the long term, much like the climate. Our moods, on the other hand, are variable. A kind person can be a bit of an ass at times. A serious person might goof off in a certain situation. And a dependable person will slip up every now and then.


I know my friend is a grateful person — it’s part of who she is, and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon. A grateful person doesn’t have to show gratitude in every moment of every day. Sometimes things suck, and that’s perfectly okay. For example, I am immensely thankful to have health insurance. It’s an absolute lifesaver (until you die), and not everyone is fortunate to have it. Despite my appreciation, I’m quite freakin’ annoyed that tomorrow I go to my twelfth appointment in the last four weeks (12 / 4 = 3 visits a week. MATH!). I have overarching feelings of gratitude for health insurance, but I don’t want to go to another doctor visit until the end of time.


The weather doesn’t always align with the climate — both the real kind and the metaphorical kind. No amount of self-blaming will change today’s forecast, so it makes the most sense to dress appropriately and know that it will pass. And, when it’s snowing in Georgia, we simply have to sit patiently in our cars on the interstate until we make national headlines.


Ramón filling up a birdfeeder in a swimsuit during a snowstorm.

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