Everything was so quiet. Snow does that–muffles sound. The night wasn’t so dark with the streetlamp right next to my car, not to mention the shopping center on the other side of the parking lot. When I stepped outside, the cold fell on me immediately. I could see my breath. I could feel my life seeping away.
Because that’s what cold is. Transferring heat–much needed heat–away from you.
But the quiet was still so serene. And the realization of death was awe-inspiring. I also had my car, right there, with the engine running. There wasn’t an actual fear of death–just stepping on the threshold and peaking over to the other side. Taking a moment to feel delicate.
It was snowmageddon 2014, Birmingham, AL. Like many people, I was stranded in my car overnight. Luckily I had snacks from an earlier trip to CVS, and enough gas in my car to run the engine all night. There were other options; nearby businesses, public shelter at the fire dept., and that strange but nice lady who had asked if I wanted to stay at her house. But the cold was trying to tell me something. I wanted to go on this journey alone.
Also the Fire dept was over a mile away. That lady was weird. And the nearby business in question was full of children. No thanks. I’ll stay in my car.
At that time in my life I seemed to have everything: a great career, a wonderful life partner, tons of friends, and a …. decently fulfilling spiritual life. But the cold was telling me something. My life was cush. It was cozy. And I was getting weak.
The truth is I put minimal effort into everything and enjoyed many comforts. I could feel this in myself, but honestly I didn’t know how to change it. No one wants unnecessary suffering. If we are offered comfort, we take it.
Well, I made it home, of course. The cold went away and I continued my cozy life. How do we foster growth in the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves? How do we impose loss upon ourselves when we have everything we need and more? I thought about going on a spiritual retreat, having some kind of ascetic experience, but of course I never followed through.
Now we live in a different city and all those things are gone. I never wanted to rely on comforts, I always wanted to be the type of person who sought challenges and even struggles. Boy, did I have some misconceptions about myself. The older you get, the harder it is to break old habits. I suppose I have some work to do.
Me and the cold are getting to know each other.