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.
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.