The Season of Nothing

Anika was looking out the window yesterday at the rather dreary view, and said, “There’s nothing on the trees, and nothing falling from the sky, and nothing pretty. It’s the Season of Nothing.”

I agree with her. I love every season, except late fall.

Early fall is fantastic. I feel light and joyous in early fall. But late fall does me in each year.

Especially last year. Last fall, I crashed – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, I ran into a brick wall, and there I stuck.

Time-change happened, and it was as though someone flicked the switch off in my life, and everything went dark. It sucked, and then I wrote this post about it.

There were a number of reasons for it – the isolation of being at camp in winter, the lack of sunshine in the dark little house we were living in at that time, Ben being gone on a 10-day missions trip right during my weakest stretch, the stress of trying to decide if we were going to leave camp.

Oh, what a dark, horrible time. I look at that list, and I still almost want to just curl up in the fetal position.

It was not a good fall for me.

But someone in their sheer brilliance once decided that Christmas should be in December, right after the Season of Nothing, and thus I was saved.

My parents showed further wisdom when they said, “Come stay with us in sunny Florida for three weeks while Ben is gone on another missions trip in January.”

After those three weeks of Florida sunshine, and a happy reunion with Ben, I was ready to handle life again. Spring was on the way.

And it certainly didn’t hurt to be planning our new home – I was dreaming a light, bright, open, airy dream, and before I knew it, spring arrived.

In spring and summer, it’s hard to believe a lack of sunshine could make me so crazy. And it’s a breeze for me to get through early fall, in all its brightness of orange and yellow leaves.

But when that nasty wind blew all the leaves off the trees a week ago, and ushered in “Ugly Fall”, I could feel myself slipping. November is coming!

I felt fear coming right along with November’s approach. I also felt dread – I was scared to go back to that place!

So the other day, I decided I just wouldn’t go back there. I will not let this fall be dark.

This is not last year. New year, new approach.

I am telling you now that November will not get me down without a very big fight this year.

Fortunately, there are a whole bunch of things which can be done to help with the winter blues. Last winter, I discovered a few things which were very helpful for me:

1. Using a happy light. We bought a blue light from Costco last fall, but I’ll have to do more research on it, as I’ve since heard that blue lights can do damage to the eyes, and it’s best to use a fluorescent happy light.

2. Getting outside. Every single day, no matter what the weather.

3. Being with people. Fortunately, living in Niverville will make this winter a lot more social for me. It’s hard to get used to the busy schedule we have in comparison to the pace we lived at camp, but I think it will really help me to get over my November slump.

4. Lots of lights and color.The Christmas decorations are going up early this year! Ben doesn’t like early Christmas decorations, but he actually brought up the topic of outdoor Christmas lights on his own the other day. I think he’s desperate to do anything that will help me cheer up for the month of November, and avoid a repeat of last year!

I need something to anticipate. I need something bright, warm, and exciting.

I think I’ll go candle shopping….

Much to my delight, one of my favorite health blogs posted a wonderful list of ways to deal with winter blues, so I will be trying a number of new ideas this winter, as well. I’ll let you know which ones work well! Except for #6 on the list. If #6 works well, you won’t be hearing about it from me. We don’t talk about stuff like that on this blog.

And now I’ll go paint some leaves with my girls, or buy more pumpkins, or find some way of getting some color and excitement into this gray, rainy day.

Any good ideas out there for getting through the Season of Nothing?

It’s Not Me, It’s Just Winter

Once upon a time, I used to work in the deep, dark corner of a school basement.

I was a piano teacher, and the school let me use a room in the basement to teach out of. This arrangement worked out fantastically well….except for the fact that I spent all day in a basement.

I drove to work early in the morning as the sun was rising, and I drove home as the sun was setting.

I felt like I never saw the light of day.

I really, really did not like winter.

I thought it was dark, cold, and depressing.

Then Anika was born, and I still taught a little bit of piano, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time in deep, dark basements, and suddenly, winter didn’t seem nearly so bad.

Ben and I started talking about the possibility of me being one of those people we had heard about who gets depressed in winter. Didn’t know much about it, and it didn’t seem super important at the time, because I was doing a lot better.

I kind of forgot about all of that.

Then we moved to camp, and I started to really, really love winter.

Camp is amazing in winter. It is so incredibly beautiful, and snow stays white until it melts in spring. Really. I didn’t know it could do that. I thought it always got dirty and yucky at some point.

But not in the woods. It’s just beautiful and white all winter long.

And I started to love winter because everyone around me loved winter, and it was a little contagious. People come to camp to have fun in winter. School groups and church groups come out here, and no matter what the temperature, they are out there skating and snowshoeing, skiing and tubesliding. When you are surrounded by beautiful winter scenery, and fires in fireplaces, and hot chocolate always ready and waiting for you the second you come in from the cold, it’s a little hard to keep having negative feelings towards winter.

But.

In spite of all that wonderfulness, and the fact that I was really loving winter now, I still was having emotional issues every winter.

Being a little dense, I didn’t connect what was going on. I found it ironic that we seemed to have a “crisis” every winter, and I just assumed that my emotional turmoil was a result of the annual winter issues that we kept going through. We went through some tough situations that were camp-related, we dealt with infertility and miscarriages, we survived five years of winters that just always had something big going on that was draining and stressful and hard.

Obviously it would leave me feeling down. Right?

But then this winter came along….without any kind of crisis. I was all set to enjoy the beauty and snow and the smell of smoke in the crisp air.

Except that I was still feeling anxious and slightly depressed, for no apparent reason.

And then time change happened. And suddenly, it felt like it was dark all the time.

It was like a switch got turned off in me. I withered like a plant without sunlight.

Ben was a little bewildered. “Last week you were fine! What happened in your life that made it so hard all of a sudden?”

And I couldn’t think of anything. Nothing seemed to have changed. I just suddenly felt like I had this enormous weight to carry around – like all the other winters. Except that this winter, there was no big stress.

It finally clicked. Maybe it wasn’t just a coincidence that every winter was hard. Maybe it was just winter.

Ben wanted to help. He would really do anything he could to help me. Especially if I’m crying. So he surprised me with one of those “happy lights”. The kind you hear about that people use if they get sad in winter. Costco sells them. Who knew?

Now I try to bask in the blue glow of my “happy light” every day. I don’t really know if it’s working – It takes a few weeks to kick in, apparently. I’m still feeling pretty bogged down by winter.

But I’m noticing that spending time outside EVERY SINGLE DAY, and being with people make a very big difference. And I’m guessing that our three week trip to Florida in January will not hurt, either!

So that’s the deal with me this winter. I really don’t like sharing current struggles. I like to share all the wisdom I’ve gleaned, after I’m  through the rough patches. It sounds so much stronger and victorious.

But today, I decided it was time to just get it out there, because there is a good chance that someone reading this could be experiencing the very same thing as me. And maybe, reading this will make that person feel like they aren’t the only person in the world who’s feeling that way. Or maybe that person needs to know that a happy light is just a Costco away.

Or maybe….you need to know that sometimes, really big problems have a really simple explanation. I remember my friend saying, “I used to think I was such a bad Christian, about once a month. Then I realized it was just PMS!”

Well, I used to think I was just a really negative, depressed person. Then I (finally!!) realized it was just winter.

The good news in all of this is that the shortest day of the year is only eight days away, and then we are charging our way towards sweet relief, otherwise known as spring.

In the meantime, I will still try to enjoy winter as much as possible, because it really is a beautiful season. Just a bit too dark, for my taste!

How are you doing? Do you love winter, or are you just hanging in there until spring?