Hunting for Sunshine

I once wrote that winter turned me into a husk of a woman.  Hollow and dry. Desperate for warmth and sun, and tempted to retreat to my bed in vain hopes that I could sleep until the sun returned.

In all of my ramblings, I may have never said anything more truthful.  And yet – each year, I forget.

I know it, deep within, that I don’t do well in the cold or the darkness.  I would quickly tell you that I could never survive an Alaskan winter – the darkness would drive me into myself to a point that would border on insanity.  And yet – each year, I forget.

Fall arrives, the days grow shorter and I find myself more and more tired.  More and more likely to steal a few minutes for a nap, less energetic about the tasks of the day, slower to smile, quicker to weep.  But still, I forget.  I blame my mood and fatigue on a hectic schedule, on a weekend of indulgence, on a bad night’s sleep.

But the time change comes and we set back our clocks, and the first evening I drive somewhere with my headlights on at 5 PM . . . I remember.

I remember that I need the sun like I need air to breathe.  I remember that the darkness makes me feel like I’m crawling within a fog, that I’m living a life I can’t quite recognize. I remember that between the dark and the cold and the impending holiday chaos, I feel as though the world is ending around me.

I remember that its easier for me to assume the worst – about myself and others.

I remember that it’s more of a fight to hold onto Hope.

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My own brain is dark enough most of the time.  The late fall and winter gray days and early nightfalls invite a shadow that typically sits on my shoulder to come on in, stay a while, take up residence.

And in it comes.  Slow and sliding and insidious.  A dark passenger riding shotgun and telling me exactly why it doesn’t matter which turn I make, the sun won’t be there.  The light won’t be waiting for me.  The warmth and glow won’t show up again.

I know, logically, this is a lie.   I know the sun is still there, just peeking at me from a different angle today, a little different, a little further away.  I know I have to look around corners, and through windows, and see the filtered rays pushing through the red and orange leaves of our maple tree.  I just have to do a little more hunting than I do in July.  I also know that even shadows require the existence of light.  The dark lace patterns of the emptying tree branches against a melancholy sky are still visible because of the hiding, muted sun.

And so I write.  I write to remind myself that I have made it through 38 falls and winters thus far, and I will make it through this one. To remind myself that in spite of the power of the darkness inside my brain, that I can still remember the science and logic that also resides there.  And by remembering I can give that knowledge power.  Overtaking, for just a second, the darkness with the knowledge.

And I go hunting for sunshine.  Both literal and metaphorical.

I search for hidden rays of joy in the faces and stories and antics of my children.  I walk outside at noon and smile at the crunch of the dry leaves beneath my shoes.  I stand near windows where the sun, muted though it is, warms my back slightly.

I allow myself to savor the full-of-garbage-seasonally-flavored-creamers in my coffee each morning.  I even allow myself a second cup some days, seated on the fireplace hearth.

I make it to the gym, where the coach will force me to run outside, where he will yell encouragements at me when I want to quit, and where he will ask me how I’m doing and really care about the answer.

I do allow myself to snuggle under the covers a little longer, to squeeze in a nap, but I make myself set an alarm, and give myself an easy task to do as soon as I wake up.  Something that doesn’t make me want to roll over and stay in bed until spring, something I don’t want to avoid.

Sometimes the task is to make myself that second cup of coffee.

I don’t always remember to focus a little more on Jesus, but I try.  I try to whisper a few extra prayers of Thanksgiving, and remember to recognize Christmas for the miracle that it is.

And I remember to give myself a little more grace.  And to extend it to others.

And I remember that the darkness will end.  Both literally and metaphorically.

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