The view outside the bedroom window didn’t seem like much, yet the image remains in my memory all the same.
Warn down branches moving whichever way the wind called them, practically dancing with the rain; a lone leaf stuck to the single pane apartment window; neighbors walking their dogs as a relief from the walls that offer a different kind of refuge.
The dance of the grey clouds and bustling rain seemed to bind me within a space of melancholic resemblance as I talked about fears, doubts and the like that flooded my mind with a friend who lent an ear more than I felt I deserved.
As I paused to take another swig of cold coffee that was hot just an hour before, the calm tone of her voice filled the room as it left the speakerphone sitting on the unmade bed beside me.
I won’t forget the words she said: "there's nothing new under the sun".
Though, I can’t recall what came after that due to my instant unspoken rage.
The urge to hang up and sulk in bed consumed me within a second - was she joking?
Was this really what she thought I needed to hear in a moment of complete vulnerability - those six words?
My stomach sank - we ended the conversation by discussing plans to meet up soon and how glad we are for the official start of sweater weather (in a New York accent, of course).
I didn't want this to be something to hold on to during the hard days. How could it be?
Though I've never been fond of what I consider cringe-inducing "self love" quotes, it was still hard to accept that the words that challenge me are what will bring me to where I need to go. To who I need to be. My friend knew this well before I did, I think.
But really? I resisted the original impulse, and allowed the words to temporarily sink in before heading out the door for another afternoon in the rain.
There’s nothing new under the sun I mumbled begrudgingly.
Fast forward to just a few months ago.
A new room, new home, even a new State.
Plenty of “new” and exciting things had taken place, as well as some repetitive and unwelcoming.
In the mental battle of this or that, I chose productive procrastination over completing the tasks on my actual to-do list (typical).
I turned a corner into the room with a large window, yet low natural light, and began my pursuit to re-organize the nightstand drawers. Amidst the clutter in the top drawer was a clear container that immediately caught my attention.
It was the one I picked up off that dusty shelf where it sat for years.
This was the home of which my dad’s personal note cards would reside.
Putting all other clutter aside, I made room to sit with the words he would repeat to himself and anyone who would listen before that cold night in February.
Written on the first card I picked up - torn edges and smudged ink - were the same six words I heard years ago.
There’s nothing new under the sun.
How those words sat with me this time around was different.
They sunk with a familiar sting, yet I felt relieved.
Maybe it was due to different circumstances, considering all that had been said and done between then and now. Or maybe it was the form of delivery and who (or what) passed it on.
For those who don’t know, these words originate from the book of Ecclesiastes, where (in part) the author explains:
All things are wearisome, more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there’s nothing
new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here
already, long ago; it was here before our time.
Where there had originally been hurt and shame through hearing those words (though the intent was to heal), there was a place of relevance my friend wanted to pour into me years before.
How did it bring relief or even comfort?
There’s the firm promise that we are not walking through this life alone - and we never really have.
It’s not assuming there's nothing unique or needed from you. You are not the "nothing new under the sun".
When it comes to the term “nothing” - I want to err on the side of caution because when looking at it in a literal sense, there are new things that take place every single day - in our personal life, inner and outer circles, the globe, and heck, even space.
you become somewhat of a guide for others in a world that can often feel daunting. Holding a resembling presence to the room I sat in years ago.
Where it feels everything has to be new, shiny, resilient - there is seemingly nothing not new.
pressure is off, people have lived for years before you. others have likely walked where you tread, or grieve how you grieve.
Words meant to encourage can come to us like a punch in the gut, while removing the heaviness from our shoulders and offering a slow and steady breath of fresh air at other times.
When hearing “there's nothing new under the sun”, one might ask: why should we bother sharing what words we have to say or do what has been done by so many before us?
Because out of all the events, joys and pains that have taken place before, there has never been a you.
Because we need to hear a message repeated numerous times before we can retain it, hold it to heart and finally take a step forward in action.
Because we won’t really know who needs what we have to offer at that specific place and time.
Because not everything under the sun needs to be seen or heard by others for it to matter or to have an impact.
The tasks you do may be similar (if not identical) to what someone else has done in the past or is pursuing today - that doesn't take away the magic of new for you.
So, no. There is nothing generically new under the sun: except you and all that you bring.
And to wrap up, I'm going to refer to what I titled this post which is the words that break and build us.
Often times it's not the fluffed up comments or words of affirmation that put us where we needed to be. It was the statement with the rough edges, the words that had a sting more than a healing ointment cooling affect we craved.
Am I encouraging toxic or verbal abuse? No - this isn't what I'm referring to here - that kind of trash can go right back to the dumpster.
I'm talking about the unpredictable letters formed into a sentence that were there to hold you up at a moment in time you couldn’t imagine it doing so.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think something similar can be said for how we soak in the words passed on to us. To consider (and re-consider) what we take to heart and implement in our day-to-day, and what to leave at the curb where they were offered to us.
I won't claim to know the words that wore the cloak of “encouragement” or a false sense of certainty to you, only that I believe it’s worth being open to hearing them again to determine the meaning once more.
For we really don't know who, how, or when we're going to need to hear those words again.