Winter 12/21/18

By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.

Today is the first day of winter. To be honest, I am not a fan of winter. I struggle with the cold, shoveling, poor travel conditions, dreary weather, it just goes on.

But, have you ever noticed how fresh snow glitters like gems when it’s fresh and a crisp cloudless sunny day? Have you ever looked closely at the crystals of frozen fog on a tree limb?

If you’ve ever read the Tao te Ching (and if you’re curious, I recommend Stephen Mitchell’s translation), then you understand the concept of the Yin/Yang. The light and dark principle, in a perpetual dance, with elements of each within the other.

A friend posted something about the first day of winter, and I couldn’t help but post that the sooner winter starts, the sooner we will be through it. Winter yields to spring, with new life budding, and a new excitement. If we think of this in terms of Yin and Yang (light and dark principle…not good and evil, just opposites), we realize that any period of time is temporary. And there’s a glint of each regardless of where we are. The dark principle will not last forever. There is a ray of hope, there is always the knowledge that it must get better eventually. This is why the image always shows that Yin component even in the deepest part of the Yang, and vice versa. This reminds us that when things are great and at their absolute best, it would be wise to temper our excitement because that, too, will eventually fall. The yang component within yin. Enjoy the highs, and take advantage to gather the memories to brace for the fall.

Everything undergoes these cycles. Today, as the second government shutdown for the current administration looms, we are reminded that for many people we seem to be in the “dark element” of American politics. Most people are disgruntled with the current president, but they can be encouraged by the light element in what they see as a dark time because his reign is temporary, whether or not he wins his re-election bid. For those who support the president, it’s just the opposite. For them, the political climate seems to be in the light right now, but they, too, would be wise to remember that this is temporary.

Life is like that. My marriage led to my divorce. My lofty positions yielded to unemployment. As I write this, I must be careful at this point to fall into the trap of giving “Peter Pan Advice” that is overtly joyful but of no practical value. But, after having a tenured teaching post at a university, being the director of a forensic lab, and a university dean, today I have been unemployed for about a year, and have run out of my financial reserves. I’m fortunate to have friends who have been kind enough to provide a room for me in their home, because, frankly, I don’t even have my own place anymore. At my age, this is embarrassing, and for a person like me, extremely hard on my psyche.

But, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me when I was last truly happy with the career I had been pursuing. Just yesterday, another friend asked me, if I could do anything I wanted to do, what would it be? My emotions have been a roller coaster since this all began, running from excessive depression all the way up to “meh”. I’m drowning in stress, worry, financial concerns, shame, and embarrassment as my demons delight in dancing on my scarred heart. But, today, there’s that bit of light principle in the midst of my dark. What do I want to do? There was a lot of pride in having a large paycheck, and an impressive title, but what if I can let go of that part of the cycle? What if I can surrender the dark element of pride for joy? Today, I’m looking at perhaps remote forms of income, through this blog, through online tutoring or perhaps even online teaching as an adjunct professor. What if I can work on a southern beach in the winter and on a northern lake in the summer?

This may not be where I end up. I don’t have the ability to see the future, save for this one thing. Yang always yields to Yin.

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