The gift of cloudy days

Image credit: © 2007 SpeedProPhoto, from Flickr | used via CC-BY licensing

There’s something about the vivid blue of autumn’s skies on sunny days that always takes my breath away.  That blue is so striking that it seems like something I should be able to touch and taste.

It’s one of my favorite things about autumn. I rejoice in every sunny day we get this time of year as I try to soak up as much of that vivid blue as I can to hold me through the rest of the year (especially the often cloudy and dark winter!).

On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the sunniest, most-blue-sky days tend to leave the vivid color of autumn’s leaves looking a bit faded in the bright light. They are still a gorgeous abundance of color against that vivid blue backdrop, but the color is often overwhelmed by the sun’s brilliance.

In the diffused light of cloudy days, however, the color of the autumn leaves pops with a brilliance of its own. Each tree appears to be lit from within as the vivid reds, oranges, and yellows glow brightly against the duller background of the clouds.

I’ve been paying extra attention this year to this interplay of color and sun, of clouds and blue sky, as I take my walks, drive around town, and work in the yard. As I’ve done so, it’s been whispering to me a little secret about life.

Sunny days

I live for the times in life when everything seems to be going my way. Those times when everything is lining up just right, flowing smoothly, and success and ease are abundant.

Frankly, I’d really like it if every day worked that way, with nothing but good times along my way everywhere I went.

Days like that are like the blue sky days of autumn with its extra-vivid blue casting a brilliance all around me for me to soak up.

Happiness overflows and it’s easy to be grateful for everything because it’s all going my way. I want to live all the time in that space, but life just doesn’t work that way.

Cloudy days with all of their issues, trials, and challenges appear much more often in life than the blue sky days of nothing but ease and perfection.

Cloudy days

And yet, for all my gratefulness for those blue sky days, it takes the cloudy days for me to really see the value of many blessings that surround me all the time.

As much as I love and value those closest to me, it’s easy to take them just a little bit for granted when everything is going smoothly on a blue sky day. It takes a cloudy day when I need some love and support from others to be reminded of just how valuable those relationships are.

Likewise, I often take my good health for granted when I’m skipping through a day of blue sky wonder, but the cloudiness of a health challenge reminds me of how valuable my overall good health is and the many body parts that work so tirelessly at my command (conscious and unconscious) in an amazing collaborative nature.

Truly, there’s nothing like a head cold to make me pay attention to the wonder of the breath that continuously flows in and out without my conscious command all day every day for my whole life!

It’s on these cloudy days of challenge and trial (of whatever kind) that the many blessings of my life have the opportunity to truly shine as if lit from within in the absence of the sun’s brilliance.

Paying attention

The truth, of course, is that the sky is just as brilliant a blue every day, even if I can’t see it because the clouds are in the way.

Likewise, the autumn leaves are the exact same color on cloudy days as on blue sky days, but my eyes perceive them differently depending on how much light is available.

As I’ve pondered this awareness of how differently I see things based on the surrounding conditions over the last few weeks, I’ve become aware (again!) how much my attention affects what I notice.

It’s tempting sometimes on cloudy, rainy days to focus on the fact that I’m missing a chance to enjoy and soak up another day of brilliant blue autumn sky. If that’s where I put my attention, all I will notice is the clouds and the lack of blue sky.

On the other hand, when I use the cloudy days as a chance to savor the extra brilliant color of the autumn leaves unfaded by the bright sunlight, my whole perspective changes. I’m still missing out on blue sky and sunshine, but this becomes a chance to pay attention to (and be grateful for) the richness of the colors of the leaves instead.

Likewise, when I have a day filled with frustrations and challenges, I have a choice about whether I only see those challenges or whether I focus instead on the support systems, resources available, and inner resilience I have that carries me through those challenges—all things I likely take for granted on the days when all goes just as I want it to.

My experience of the day all depends on where I put my attention.

It’s much like the metaphor of kintsugi. I can put my attention on the broken place and see nothing but a blemish or I can put my attention on the healing that has happened along the crack and see nothing but gold.

It’s my choice.

It’s also yours. As you move through your days, what are you paying attention to? Are you more focused on what you don’t have or what isn’t the way you want it to be? Or are you more focused on the gifts you do have and what is working?

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