When I was a little girl, curls wrestling for dominion with red plastic barrettes that barely contained their sway, I spent every February of my childhood bracing for The Big Snow. February meant record snowfalls in Detroit, and by the time my birthday rolled around on the 25th, Winter’s charm had worn decidedly thin. Mothers shrank at the prospect of suiting up their toddlers in damp snowsuits and Fathers kneaded their aching backs in preparation for yet another confrontation with a thigh-high bank of frozen snow. Even the teenage boys who had initially embraced each snowfall with entrepreneurial zeal abandoned their flirtation with capitalism and longed for the first blush of Spring.
If The Big Snow arrived the week before or after my birthday, I was happy; if it arrived on my birthday or the day before, I was everything but. I took The Big Snow personally.
Sonny Elliott, our local T.V. weatherman, was my barometer of birthday joy. “Good evening friends,” he would say from the warmth of his broadcast studio. “It’s froggy here in the Motor City (freezing and foggy) with nuttin’ but snice (snow and ice) on the horizon. Leave your booties and snow shovels on the front porch and stay off the roads. It’s c-c-c-cold and slip-pip-pip-pery out here!”
I did not understand, then, that disappointments are part of being human, a part of every day, of every season, of every life or that challenge and chaos are the building blocks of resilience and commitment. By the time I was eight, I’d figured out that adults had certain powers kids did not. So, I spent the last few snow-kissed Februarys of my childhood vowing that when I grew up, I would move my birthday to a sunnier, presumably trouble-free, Spring day and all would be well in my world.
Like most childhood expectations, my plan for a sunny day birthday found a resting place in the tabernacle of my subconscious. Fast forward twenty-two years to the afternoon of my 30th birthday. I’m living in L.A. by then, a new student of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, beginning to develop a personal relationship with the Creator of birthdays and snow and everything in between, and a nodding relationship with the notion of “a time to every purpose under heaven.” I’m driving North on the Pacific Coast Highway just passed Malibu. It’s 72 degrees outside. My windows are rolled down, my radio’s cranked, the sun is warming my face. I’m listening to the tiny tin bells on my hippy-girl earrings plink in an affectionate breeze and it suddenly occurs to me that I’m experiencing the much longed-for sunny birthday of my childhood.
That this desire, this utterly secret desire, is now satisfied nearly stops my heart. That it has been heard and satisfied is one thing; that its satisfaction has been held in abeyance for this particular birthday, in this consummate place, is another thing altogether. I am beside myself with joy.
This is my first truly mindful experience of answered prayers. And somewhere in the midst of it, I come to know three things beyond any shadow of any doubt that shapeshift the rest of my life: That my prayers are heard, that all prayers are heard; that prayers are sometimes answered in unexpected ways, at the best right time in the best right way according to a bigger story and timetable than the one I have for myself; and that letting go of results provides me with an opportunity live from my bigger story.
I still wrestle with wayward curls, but these days they are now silver-gray. I still think about the seasons of my life, but I see them now in terms of the years I’ve lived and the years that are ahead of me. I still live in Southern California, so I no longer anticipate the perils of The Big Snow. At times, I still long for the answer according to my own timeline.
All that said, my story strikes me as one for the times we all live in—the importance of knowing that disappointments happen in every life, that challenge builds resilience and commitment to what we value most, that things do happen in their right season, that we are ultimately, always heard by the Creator of birthdays and seasons and snow and everything in between.
Margaret Wolff is a writer, storyteller, art therapist, and retreat leader. Her work celebrates the ways in which the collective wisdom and storytelling reveal the truth and beauty of our inner lives and connect us—heart to beating heart—to each other.
COMING HOME: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda (White Pearl Press, May 20201), is a curated collection of 14 modern-day stories of spiritual awakening that reflect “the most creative and transformative experience life can offer—developing an intimate partnership with the invisible God of one’s heart.”
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