Thursday, August 27, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers

“Though April showers may come your way, they bring the flowers that bloom in May…”

So goes the ‘20s Al Jolson tune that became a theme song of the Depression era. My mother, who grew up during the Depression, would sing it to herself in our Bronx apartment kitchen at times when she was down. Mom sounded a lot like her favorite singer, Mildred Bailey. In our house, singing tended to lift the spirits.


April showers bring May flowers: so corny, and so true. We don’t know joy in life without also knowing sorrow. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand, like night and day, shadow and sun, showers and flowers. Yet I’ve noticed that some people persist in thinking that there is something wrong with them because they aren’t constantly happy. The truth is that no one’s life - rich, poor or in between - is without some measure of painful disappointment.


I’ve had a beef for a long time with all those different large group seminars that promise so much success and fulfillment as long as you keep coming back and paying for more and more seminars. Yes, we can all use more support, more motivation, more encouragement. But we can’t live in a state of hyper positivity all the time. At least I can’t – can you? Post-Jolson, the Rolling Stones put it well: you can’t always get what you want – no matter how positive your thinking.


It seems to me that part of leading a healthy life is developing the capacity to bear disappointment – in life, in ourselves and in others. To bear – it’s the opposite of collapsing under the weight of something. To bear disappointment, sorrow, guilt, means to be able to go on living productively and creatively – to affirm life, even while bearing the knowledge that life is hard, nothing is perfect, and our time is short.


If we accept that life will always bring disappointments, sorrows and regrets, then it really makes sense to invest in developing the habits of appreciation and perseverance. As the pre-Jolson poet so wisely put it, “gather ye rose buds while ye may.”


It was uplifting to read recently of the 96 year old writer, Harry Bernstein, whose first novel was recently published to tremendous critical acclain. The book was rejected dozens of times, and then lay on a publisher’s desk for a year before someone picked it up and decided to give it a shot. Talk about never giving up!


We probably all know how hard it is to experience a crushing disappointment, at a personal level, or even at the global level – the world can sometimes seem, especially these days, awfully rotten. It’s not always easy to resist the temptation to crawl into bed and pull up the covers. Maybe sometimes, at our darkest times, crawling into bed is the best we can do.
But then come those spring flowers – first there’s crocus and daffodil, then forsythia , then the lilacs, magnolia, apple, cherry - the annual succession more and more fragrant as the summer draws closer. It’s worth getting out of bed for, every time. Winter will always come back - but faithfully, undeniably, thankfully - so will spring.

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