We all know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But technically, that's only true two days a year—on the spring and fall equinoxes. Here, the setting sun moves north of west throughout summer and south of west throughout winter.
The casual observer may not even really notice this until 6 months have passed and they ask themselves, "hey, didn't the sun used to set over there?" But because I frequently watch sunsets from my porch year round, I notice how striking the difference is between summer and winter. From my perch, it's like the sun moves two property widths, crosses a street and moves another two property widths between the summer and winter solstices! But on a day to day basis, the shift is so subtle that it can't even be noticed.
Sometimes personal and spiritual progress seems to work the same way for me. You can't really see much from day to day, but then over time, you notice the needle moving. Like I have one of those Fitbits, so I can see how many steps I take each day, month, year. So I'm more active, on average, than I was a year ago. And I remember that a year ago, it took a lot of effort for me to try to be more active. And now it's just my "way."
That said, it's not like I've made monumental strides. So I still feel like a slouch. Until, of course, I notice that I'm moving steadily and strongly in the right direction. And then I feel better. But I don't notice that until I compare it to this time last year.
I think sometimes we move through life and forget to take measurements or mark milestones and so it seems like we're making no progress when we are. And while it's nice to look back five years later and see the huge difference, it helps to try to take notice more frequently, too. Like each season or so. Just so we know we're still moving in the right direction.
When I look at the things that were weighing heavily on me three months ago....all of those issues are resolved! Noticing that takes me back to another lesson of the sunset. While we may not notice the movement across the sky on a day-to-day basis, we can easily notice that the sunset looks different every day.
Some days it's a crap sunset. And some days it's spectacular. But the important thing is to learn to have gratitude for the crap sunsets, because tomorrow's might be worse. But even if it's progressively worse many days in a row, one thing is for certain—the beautiful sunsets will be back.
The same is true for us. Three months ago, I felt like I was stuck with a lot of crap sunsets. But now my sunsets are lovely again. And while I didn't remember to be grateful for the crap sunsets while they were happening, I did remember they were leading me toward fairer skies. And now I'm glad that they came along, because they were just what I needed.
Like the sunset, nothing ever stays the same, even if it feels you've been stuck for a very long time. Even the earth has to tilt and wobble before you can see the sun's progress across the sky. We are all cycling through seasons and tilts. It might get worse before it gets better. Or it might get better before it gets worse. But one thing is for sure—progress is being made, whether you notice it or not.