Winter

30 Dec

I am not a winter person. Given my choice of the seasons, I’ll pick summer every time. I love the heat, and I even love the humidity. I like it when stepping out my front door feels like walking into an oven. I like the sun, the warmth, and the long evenings that are perfect for picnicking or taking your kid to the park or drinking sangria on patios with friends. I love lying in the grass and reading for hours on end. I love summer.

Winter is a tough time for me. It’s not just the fact that it’s so cold that, after coming in from a long walk, I have to stand in a scalding hot shower for fifteen minutes until I feel warm. It’s not just the fact that my muscles ache because the cold makes me tense up, makes me walk around hunched over in a desperate effort not to freeze to death. It’s not even the fact that it’s already too cold for me, and I know that it’s going to get colder still. It’s more than that, and it’s subtler than that. It’s the light, both the dim, chilly quality it assumes this time of year, and its waning quantity, meaning that we only get to see the sun for a few paltry hours every day. Even though we’re past the solstice and, logically, I know that the days will be getting longer from now until midsummer, it still, somehow, feels as if the days are growing shorter and darker as we head into January.

These days I feel as if I’ve lost the capacity for joy. I’ll catch myself mid-laugh and realize that I’m faking it, and I’m faking it so well that I’ve nearly got myself convinced. In the same way that it’s sometimes hard for me to believe that spring will ever come again, it’s also hard to believe that anything will ever make me feel good or happy again. I have these thoughts, like, hey, maybe at the beginning of my life I was handed out a finite number of good experiences and now, in the winter of my 30th year, I’ve somehow managed to spend the last one.

Part of it might be the fact that everyone seems to be making their year-end posts, tallying up all their successes and bundling them together into one neat little blog post package. I thought about doing one of those, but I know that I won’t. Every new year always seems to me to be like a fresh, white sheet of notebook paper, but by December 31st it’s so marked up, so wrinkled and worn, so covered with revisions and smudges and holes where I rubbed the eraser too hard that I can’t make sense of it anymore.Rather than dig through my year to find material for a year-in-review post, I just want to throw the whole thing out, baby, bathwater and all. As 2013 approaches, 2012 is still too close to give me the perspective I would need, and all my hurts and failures feel too fresh for me to be able to dissect them. Even my successes seem slippery and hard to pinpoint. The other day, as I was watching the hundreds of comments going up on the article I wrote for the Good Men Project, I messaged my friend Audra and said, “Is this what success is supposed to feel like? Because I feel awful.”

Sometimes succeeding feels just as bad, just as anxiety-inducing, as failure does.

Mostly I just want everything to be over. I don’t mean that I want to die or anything like that, but just that I’m so tired of trying to guess what’s coming next. I’m so tired of trying to figure out what to do next, how to take my next step, or which direction I need to go. I want all of my experiences to be over and done with so that I can sift through them and sort them into boxes labelled “good things” and “bad things.” Then, once I’ve done that, I’ll be able to sit back, write a life-in-review post, and judge whether, when looking at the big picture, the scale tips more towards happy or sad.

I’m so tired. So goddamn tired. The worst part is that I can’t even begin to imagine when I won’t feel like this. Maybe next year? Or maybe when Theo’s in grade school? High school? When he moves out? I can’t help but feel like it’s partly my fault, or even mostly my fault, for not sleep-training him, for breastfeeding for so long, maybe even for choosing to have a kid in the first place. I love my son, but I don’t think I can function like this for much longer. Then again, what would not functioning even look like? Will my legs just give out one day, my knees buckling under my weight, and I’ll have to lie on the ground until I’m rested enough to get up again? How do these things work?

If you asked me what I needed in order to feel better, what it would take to make me feel happy, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you. That’s what’s hardest about all of this: feeling as if it’s whatever it is that’s going to save you is totally beyond your control. If there is something that can save you. If that something, should it exist, ever manages to find you.

Sometimes I think that all of the little things that happen throughout my day, the meals, the conversations, the rote interactions, are nothing more than activities designed to get me from one minute to the next until I can finally lie down in my bed at night and sleep (or not). When seen this way, a life is nothing more than a string of days, days made up of pointless experiences meant to propel you through time. I mean, of course my experiences aren’t meaningless. Or maybe they are. I’m not sure.

I’m trying to think of some kind of life lesson to put in here, some kind of moral to this story, but I’m coming up totally dry. Maybe you can try to find your own moral, because sifting back through this mess of feelings seems like so much work. Everything seems like so much work, to be honest. I feel as if I’ve been sucked totally dry of any and all will or ambition or desire.

The winter here is beautiful. The snow, and the quiet, and the bare trees are beautiful. There’s a hush this time of year that you never feel in the summer, and I know I would miss it if I never felt it again. I don’t hate winter, and I don’t even necessarily need for it to be over, like, right now. I don’t even think I would like to live somewhere that was hot and sunny all year long. I just need something to pin my hopes on, something to look forward to, something to hold out for. I need something to focus on when everything seems so dark and cold that I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer.

I just need to know for certain that spring is going to come.

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14 Responses to “Winter”

  1. Deborah the Closet Monster December 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    This post reminds me of living back in my hometown. I always felt the gloom, even the rare non-summer day where it was sunny, and even though it wasn’t usually that cold. Moving down to L.A. took some of that sense of heaviness from my shoulders. Sometimes I still miss my home of youth, but most the time, I am glad to know that unstifling sunshine is just a day or two away. Knowing sunshine might be weeks or months away made winter interminable to me back north.

    • bellejarblog December 31, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Yeah … maybe I really do just need to move somewhere warmer (or at least sunnier). The mediterranean is looking better and better…

      I’m glad you found somewhere that works well for you!

  2. Katie December 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    “I am calling forth my life, my love, my fun, my riches, my dreams, my successes. I am diving in.” ~unknown

  3. jennie1ofmany December 31, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I don’t know what to do about depression. But I do know about stories. And I know that winter is the time to see the Mummer’s Play, and let the mummers tell their story.

    The mummers come once a year, in the dark of winter. They don’t exist any other time. The rest of the year, they’re children and teens. They go to school. They do homework. They practice the piano or guitar. They play soccer and Minecraft. They don’t see each other, much, because their parents all live in different places.

    Once a year, in the dark of winter, they tell a story. Adorned with the same costumes they wore last winter, they each act a part, familiar to us all from years of watching these same costumes, these same characters, this same story told with different words by children who know the story because they told it last year. Everyone quiets down when the mummers come into the room. We have a role to play, too. We have lines.

    Here’s Old Bette. Her chin has sprouted whispers since last year; the actor who plays her no longer quite fits into the ancient bridesmaid’s dress. Old Bette threatens to kiss the men, and tells us all the story has begun. A gangly teenaged boy in an old bridesmaid’s dress, she lets us know that this is an upside down time, a time of misrule, a liminal time.

    And now the story begins. Here’s St. George, brave and bold, her sword held high, bringing light to the darkness and hope to despair. We cheer for her bravery, and for her youth.

    But you can’t have a hero without a challenge. In comes the fiery dragon!

    There ain’t no fiery dragon in this play! choruses the audience, and the very young fiery dragon subsides, making room for a more serious threat.

    In the muddled mythology of our play (which is like, yet unlike, any Mummers’ Play anywhere else in the world), St. George must face the threats of darkness, cynicism, and despair in the guise of a current known evildoer. One year it was Stephen Harpercorn. Another it was Rob Barleyford. The name doesn’t matter, so much. What matters is that this force of cold, darkness, meanness, and death will fight our brave Saint George and will not rest until St. George is vanquished. Also, he cheats.

    And by treachery, St. George is slain.

    “Terrible horrible, see what you’ve done? You’ve killed our own beloved one!”

    In comes the fiery dragon!

    (There ain’t no fiery dragon in this play.)

    Out goes the fiery dragon.

    All is not lost. A series of characters are summoned to try to revive St. George: Charles Darwin, an old man who wears the bottom of his trousers rolled cannot revive him. A wizard who pulls a rabbit from a hat cannot raise him. A series of singers fail to breath the breath of life into him. Pickled Herring (I don’t know, it’s *Tradition*) cannot entice him back to life. Finally, the Doctor comes, on his horse (the second smallest child plays the Doctor’s Horse.) The Doctor gives St. George some of his magic elixir, and St. George springs back to life, six times as strong as before. He kills the evil knight, and informs the ever-hopeful fiery dragon that there really is no fiery dragon in this play.

    It’s the same story, every year. It has to be the same story every year: St. George must be brought down, be mourned, and be revived: Youth, warmth, life, and hope must fall before darkness, cold, cruelty, and cynicism, and be revived by the concerted efforts of, well, everyone. It’s John Barleycorn, Jesus of Nazareth, Orpheus, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, and it’s a story that we need to tell and to remember in the darkest days.

    The mummers have gone to their pot-luck feast now, well compensated both with praise and with treats for their annual effort. The fiery dragon, who is three and a half this year, is asleep under the desserts table. St. George has put down her sword and is enjoying a half-pint of beer under her mom’s supervision. The Doctor and his Horse have gone home, bundled onto the subway by their tired parents. And we know that just as St. George rose again, so to will the sun, and that we need to wait, and hope, and hold and share the memory of warmth against the cold, light against the darkness, hope against fear, and community against the loneliness they can bring.

    We tell this story every year because it’s a story that must be told, to remind us that life isn’t a tidy narrative. Most stories we encounter are: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and by the end the lesson is learned, the problem resolved, the loose ends woven in or cut off. The Mummer’s play is not that kind of story. It’s the story of the year: summer and harvest cut off by winter, then born again, and we wind up back where we started, except a year older. The year itself isn’t a unit, separated from previous years by a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, it is, but that’s just convention: the earth, the weather, and we ourselves don’t observe these arbitrary demarcations. So open the door for the Mummers:

    “A merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
    A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer,
    A penny in our palms won’t do us any harm,
    May your days be merry and your homes be warm
    ALL THROUGH THE YEAR.”

    • bellejarblog December 31, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      OH I love the mummers! I wish we had them here. One of my favourite books growing up was Rosemary Sutfcliff’s The Queen Elizabeth story and it featured a lovely troupe of mummers defeating St. George’s dragon, but this version is even better.

      Thank you for this ❤

  4. Steph December 31, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Spring IS going to come. Figuratively and literally. Hang in there.

  5. Jenna December 31, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    I can relate to this,

    Have you considered investing in a light box that is designed for season affective disorder? I know a few people who use these and swear by them. The increase in vitamin D levels from the box can really help lift your mood.

    • bellejarblog December 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Yeah, I’m definitely going to get one! A friend convinced me today that I need one, and they don’t seem too pricey. Hopefully it helps!

  6. playfulmeanderings December 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    We do need to listen to the voices that lead us to love, that lead us to peace, that lead us to care and support each other. We have to find time to hear those voices. Maybe Winter is that time. Peace.

  7. shannon January 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    I have nothing soothing to say, except that I wish I could hug you because I feel all of this, too.

    And also I’m really proud of you for all you’ve done since I’ve met you and before I met you. I’m sorry your writing success has had some YAY sucked out of it by icky, ignorant comments. You’re making a difference though, Anne. You’re planting seeds of goodness. Their squirming in their seats because you’re making them think. And some day, a handful of them will wake up. Some of them never will, but you still kick all kinds of loving, open-minded, open-hearted, brilliant ass.

    xo

  8. sammykur May 19, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    2 things!. if you love heat and humidity you truly are crazy and need to seek help. @. dont “catch” yourself let go and let you fool yourself, quit resisting

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2013 In Review: Part 1 | The Belle Jar - December 29, 2013

    […] had gone out not with a bang but a whimper; on December 30th I’d published a post about how hard I was finding it to cope – re-reading it now makes me feel so incredibly relieved that I’m no longer in this […]

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