Doldrums

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If you’re active in social media, I don’t have to tell you how young mothers feel about daylight savings time. If you’re not, I’ll just summarize: all it means is that the clock reads one hour earlier when we wake up and that our kids’ nap schedules are destroyed. We know that our children will be up at their same 6:00 waking time—which is now 5:00. And we know that we need to be up an hour and a half earlier than they are, on average, if we want to shower, dress, and have any time at all to ourselves in the day (before late evening, when we’re too exhausted to do anything with it)—so we find ourselves setting alarms for 3:30 until we can finally get their schedules “reset” by forcing them to stay up in the evening with the hope that they will sleep later into the morning. As hard as this is (I just sent my 4-year-old back to bed at 4:45, telling her “It’s the middle of the night!”—fifteen minutes prior to her normal 6-now-5 waking time, because I NEED that time to myself), those of you who have had a few more years of experience as parents assure me that it gets better, and that this day that turns sweet babies’ schedules on their heads is actually looked forward to by all during the teen years. So I’ll push through it, through these two little ones and hopefully a couple more later on. But for today, I’m not thrilled about it.

I have another reason. I don’t mind dark mornings, because I love that I can usually have them to myself. As soon as the faintest light from the sun streams into my kids’ bedrooms, they greet the day enthusiastically. Dark mornings always, always break to light. I enjoy feeling that I’ve been productive before the light comes, as if I got a head start on the day. Evenings are different. When the darkness settles in like a bruise, my productivity is limited to what I can do indoors. My body responds to rapidly-reduced light with rapidly-increased need for sleep. And this time of year, when darkness comes at what feels to me like late afternoon, I get this panicky sensation that the day ended before I was finished with it. The darkness will come before the evening meal—before I even leave work sometimes—and it comes to stay for a while. It signifies an ending, a permanence—light will not come again on this day once the darkness smothers it.

Why does this matter to me? I can’t really explain it, but I just get kind of sad in the winter. Maybe it has something to do with the actual reduction in hours of light, or maybe it is more about my change in activities due to the absence of the light—I can’t run outside after dark. Whatever the reason, my faith has always helped me through it. When I couldn’t run outside, I would read or write in journals or pray inside. And the joy surrounding Christmas certainly helped until January. The winter of 2012-2013 wasn’t as bad—I had plenty of mid-day free time, I had the most precious friends, and I was seeking Jesus ardently and talked myself into believing that I was finding him. Last winter was the worst it has ever been—so terrible that I genuinely fear this winter. I was confined to my house with a newborn, and friends were too busy with work to be available. I had no reason to believe that God was there walking with me through it, and without Jesus I found it hard to care about Christmas. It was dark and lonely, and I couldn’t tell anyone–I had to keep up the super-mom front. I did love my baby and always found happiness in meeting her needs—but I felt so much guilt for time taken from my older daughter for the sake of the new one. I couldn’t sleep, even though my children did. I couldn’t focus on work I needed to do. I didn’t do things I loved to do, because I just didn’t care enough to do them. And I was deeply sad. Looking back, I can’t tell if this was all related to childbirth, my baby’s early critical illness, the winter season, or just plain depression that I would have had anyway. Whatever the reason, I got over it some time around March without any kind of intervention.

But here I am in November again, and the calendar has just committed itself to early evening darkness. And I feel what I can only describe as dread. Can I get through this again? Will I have to? Will I ever stop wondering if this is just what life without Jesus is like for me? I fear the winter. I fear feeling lonely in a crowded room. I fear the guilt and the apathy and losing the perfect focus that I’ve had lately. I fear not being able to return my daughters’ smiles or my husband’s affection. I fear sleepless nights and drowsy days, and I fear feeling like I should just snap out of it—but being powerless to do so. Don’t worry—I feel none of this now. Today I’m okay. But I’m not sure I can do again what I did last winter, and I’m really hoping I don’t have to.

There are verses in scripture that have brought me through the winter months for so many years. They are found in Proverbs 31, verses 21 and 25:

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet…She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

In my mind, the scarlet clothes were the blood of Christ—the blood that covered hopelessness and depression, the blood that reconciled me to God so I would never be alone, the blood that overcomes the stains of sin and guilt. Darkness fell on the day that blood was shed, but because it was shed I can live in light. My thoughts sound so odd now, but these words and my meditation on what I believed Christ accomplished really did get me through the winter.

Can I find another way to have strength and dignity, and laugh at the winter days to come? I guess I’ll keep you posted—I think writing helps. For now, I’m going to refill my coffee and be alone with my thoughts and watch the sunrise—the darkness always, always breaks to light.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons attribution 2.0 generic license. “Rock Creek, Winter Snow Storm” provided by Denali National Park and Preserve)

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3 thoughts on “Doldrums

  1. Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine ever setting the alarm for 3.30am and being able to move! Luckily my three-year old adjusted to clock change within a couple of days.

    You haven’t mentioned the possibility of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so apologies if you know all about this. You should try a light box, this makes a difference for a lot of people in the winter months.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29691479
    http://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20141024/dark-days-here-for-folks-with-seasonal-depression

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad (and also intimidated) to see you here! I’ve been stalking your blog for a while and finally followed you the other day—but I almost hoped you wouldn’t follow me, because I feel like my weakness would annoy you. I have equated myself to a squirrel in the road that has just been hit by a car–my faith is in the throes of death and I seem to be emotionally convulsing at times. You are strong in your opinions (a quality I once ascribed to myself), and I hope to get there someday—while always being open to conversation, as you are.

      I have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I think I have always been in denial that I actually have a real problem. I also live in a part of my country where inhabitants are less likely to be affected by something like this. That said, I agree that my symptoms sound similar. In the past I’ve gotten through it with intense exercise, positive thinking, prayer, journaling, etc—but last year got overwhelming, and I didn’t even have the energy to do those things. My guess is that many factors contributed. My hope is that it will not be so this year…if it is, maybe I’ll at least tell someone. I’m not even sure I told my husband last year. If he saw a difference in me, he probably assumed it was related to the baby. Prior to last year, no one would have ever noticed that I struggled with it—I pushed through it.

      And 3:30 alarms aren’t as ambitious as they sound—I often go to bed at 8:30 😉

      Thanks for stopping by—you are always welcome here. I’m still trying to figure my life out without religion, and it still pulls on me like gravity…but I’d love to have you with me for the journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh dear, sorry to hear you’re going through such a bad time. I guess some form of depression is pretty standard for anyone at this stage of questioning their religion. That combined with the disorientation and exhaustion that comes with with parenting young kids (and a newborn!) can only make it more difficult. I’ve been through times in my life where I’ve been affected by Sad, not severely, but enough to make me realise that the lack of light can really affect your overall outlook. When you pile other problems on top of it, things can look really gloomy. I love the light boxes, just from playing with other people’s, it’s like you can feel the rush of happier chemicals being released when that quality of light hits your eyes.

        Hope the winter goes better for you this year anyway, and the dread feeling comes to nothing. I’ve had similar worries in the past and it’s not been as bad as I was worrying. I’m wondering what impending new motherhood will do for me mid-winter this year, because I kind of feel like I’m well past the dodrums, but you never know, and I was living in a very sunny country for the last few years, so I might be underestimating the effect it could have being back in 5 hours of dim daylight! I’m going straight for a light box if anything happens (I sounds like a saleswoman here …)

        Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I’m just delighted to know I get stalked! hehe

        Liked by 2 people

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