It’s that time of year when we dream of new life. Tulips breaking the ground, their faces to the sun. Seeds bursting open with tender roots and delicate shoots. Tiny blades of grass finding their way through last year’s thatch.
Ah, the lawn.
That bane of man’s existence. That symbol of status or flag of defeat.
This picture undoubtedly elicits one of two reactions in you:
“Look at the pretty little purple flowers!”
“Sweet Mother of God! That’s Creeping Charlie!”
If you are in the first group, bless your little heart. Although pervasive, they are pretty.
If you are in the second group, I’m guessing you’re stocking up on herbicides as we speak. I’ve stopped buying herbicides and fertilizers. I buy compost and grass seed. I rarely water. I’m gradually planting the yard with flowers and shrubs that need little care, and adding raised gardens. Fresh vegetables eaten right out of the garden? Now there’s a symbol of status for you. Ideally, I’d like to have just enough grass to sink my toes into while I sip a glass of wine.
As for Creeping Charlie and dandelions, those reliable messengers of spring, they’ll feed the bees until everything else catches up.
I took my cup of coffee from the window like any other day. The young woman, a long red braid flowing down one shoulder, beamed out at me. I thanked her and told her to have a good day, as I had countless other women leaning out of countless other drive-through windows.
She replied, “It’s a beautiful day.”
I settled my cup in the hole between the seats expressly made for such things. As my attention turned back to the wheel, I glanced up toward the sky and around at the view. Clouds hung in a monotonous flat grey blanket. Trees stood silently as a few flakes drifted aimlessly toward the earth. Buildings echoed the color of the asphalt surrounding them.
It wasn’t a beautiful day through the lens that the rest of us were seeing it. An immediate smile came to my lips. New love. I’m quite certain there isn’t anything else that brings sunshine to a grey day like it, and her eyes shone with it. I was at once full of hope and sympathy for her. Passion is a fire; thrilling and bright, but it burns hot. It isn’t until the flames have died and the embers glow that we can settle into love’s warmth, and grey days are nothing more than grey days again.
In the minute while we waited for the barista to finish making my latte, she glowingly suggested I try the Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato. And why not? Next time,
The rooftops look like marshmallows, puffs of steam trail off in the bitter cold, the January sky is icy-blue. The days are short, the winter long.
This is the weekend, and my large south-facing picture window invites the sun in. During the week, I work in a small windowless office. Daylight is down 18 stairs, across a warehouse, and through the doors. It is dark when I wake and barely light when I leave the house. The sun is low on the horizon for my drive home.
I don’t go to bed any earlier in the winter. I don’t rise any later. Yet there are fewer hours in my day. Maybe it’s the damn Sims game my daughter suggested I download to my phone. My reality is now based on Life Points and making Woo-Hoo. I know I need to quit. But my tiny people would starve and pee all over their little houses. I just can’t bear the thought. Or maybe I’ve just lost my mojo.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is something I’ve often thought I might have. I try to disregard things I think I might have as opposed to those things I know I have. However, for the last five years that I’ve worked in this fluorescent box I call an office, the winter months are insufferable. And last November when we turned the clocks back it was like someone flipped a switch. I’m moody. I’m overwhelmed. I’m hungry. My thoughts are disjointed. I feel socially awkward. There might be something to this S.A.D. thing after all.
A simple trip to the grocery store is suddenly a major event. It is unlikely I know how much is in my debit account and even less likely I have a list. With no plan in place, I buy a few of the usual items from the usual departments. Vegetables. Eggs. Meat. Yogurt. Toilet Paper. I hope against hope I find the ingredients for a meal when I get home. Thankfully Bubba, engrossed in his everyday rituals, is fairly unaffected. Fairly.
Bubba: (At the deli counter) I’ll take a half pound of turkey breast. Me: There’s a coupon. Deli Man: You want a pound of turkey breast? Bubba: Oh, the coupon is for a pound. No, just give me a half pound. Me: I should get some ham. Bubba: (Realizing the guy is measuring out the whole pound anyway) Hey, just take a handful off the top of that, and it will be fine. Me: I don’t want him to measure out whole pound of ham though. Bubba: (Thinking he heard me say I didn’t want a half pound) Just get a quarter. Me: Are you telling me or asking me? Bubba: Huh? Me: Why are you telling me what to do? Bubba: Should we just go back outside and start over?
“Poor guy,” you’re thinking. It’s a good thing we can keep a sense of humor.
And there is anxiety. Looming bills, stubborn weight-gain, errors at work, unwritten letters and cards, forgotten birthdays, dusty shelves; all encroach like a tidal wave gaining size and momentum at sea. Unwritten lists build hour by hour, day by day, filling my murky brain. Yes, I have been too overwhelmed to write my damned lists!
This is the time that one must go back to one’s best practices. Shed the heavy winter coats of burden, and pry off the snow-caked boots of guilt. Go naked against the day. Figuratively, please . . . hey now, this is a family blog!
Drink water: Flushing toxins, rehydrating the skin, muscles and brain, drinking water is one of the gentlest things you can do to begin healing from anything.
Eat mindfully: Paying attention to what goes into your body is important. This doesn’t stop with purchasing and preparing your meal. Really slow down and enjoy your meal purposefully.
Be present: Include activities that bring yourself closer to now. Cuddle your children. Pet the dog. Tend a plant. Meditate.
Dance: Let your music move you. If you are so inclined, SING! (A big thank you to izzwizz for that suggestion!)
Go on outdoor walks: Bundle up, if necessary — we are 5 degrees at 1:00 p.m. today — it’s necessary! Let the weather hit you in the face; rain, wind, sun and snow. Trust me, you will feel more alive for it.
Make an intention every day: Some days we need to aim low. Today my intention is to write this post. Another day it might be to move a mountain. But that is another day, and another day will come.
Be your own best friend: I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends and family who care for me. None compare to the friend I have found in myself. I always know what is best for me at any given moment. The trick is to allow myself to give and receive graciously.
These are the tools I have chosen to shovel myself out this winter. I have a couple other tricks up my sleeve, like vitamin supplements and a small therapy light, both suggested by my doctor last year. While it is normal to feel down some days, if you feel down for days and cannot seem to get motivated to do the things you usually enjoy, please see your doctor. This is especially important if you have changes in your sleep patterns or your appetite changes or you feel hopeless, suicidal, or are turning to alcohol for comfort.