When I first moved to Seattle for my graduate program, I was aware of the stereotype that everyone knew. There was supposed to be a never ending supply of rain falling from the skies, a city weeping at its lack of sunlight. I found the weather to be very close to what I was expecting, although instead of constant rain I found it was a steady drizzle falling from a concrete sludge of gray clouds.
I remember the first time I flew out of Seattle after moving here. I went to visit my then girlfriend as she prepared to walk in her undergraduate commencement ceremony. The plane took off, and I watched out the window as the drab gray got closer and closer, then swallowed us up completely. Suddenly, and almost without warning, the window filled with light and I had to look away to shield my eyes. When my vision had adjusted to the new luminosity, I realized that we were above the cloud cover, and the sky was a dazzling shade of blue. Almost immediately after that, I realized that the blue had always been there. I just couldn't see it.
As we go about our daily lives, it can be easy to only notice the gray, the thick, the dark. It is certainly easy enough to find if we look around for it, and once our eyes lock onto it, finding a way to refocus can be extremely difficult. I would say, however, that sometimes it is not only important to change our focus away from the gray, but it is entirely necessary. But how can we do that? What can we realistically do when the gloom feels overpowering?
In life, it can be easy to only see gray. I found very quickly that a large part of where a person looks determines what they see. One of the things that I found worked for me while in school was to look at the sky and find the holes and breaks in the clouds, little patches that betrayed the bright sky just beyond. On a more symbolic level, I would try to find the patches of light in my life I remembered existing before. I made time for good music, I indulged in a video game or two, I made sure I talked with my girlfriend every night, and I did my best to keep in touch with my close friends.
I would add a word of important caution. There is danger in being overly optimistic in the face of sadness. If we are doing our best to be happy and positive in trying situations but still feel sad and depressed, that might be an indication of something that needs more attention than we can give on our own. It is in times like these that seeing a therapist can be most important and healing. However, there is a difference between admitting that things aren't perfect and focusing on things that aren't perfect. It was very easy for me to only see gray, and that's because it was all I expected to find. When I started to look for the reminders of the blue sky, I would see it peeking out, a little here, a little there. I came to realize that being able to see a little blue meant that the whole sky was blue just beyond my sight.
As I write this, I am sitting next to a window, and I can look out and see a rainy day, thick clouds overhead and water splashed over every surface outside. However, just slightly Southwest of where I'm sitting is a crack in the celestial concrete, and just behind it is a swath of blue. The sky is actually entirely blue, and it always has been. Sometimes, you just need to look a little harder for it.