Forging Through Winter

The polar vortex has settled over us. This is all due to dislodged warm air from Morocco that wandered up to the arctic and displaced the lower half of the frigid arctic air, pushing it south. Our orange hued corpulent blowhard of a leader has climbed onto his favorite soapbox, asking when global warming is coming back and ranting about the giant hole in the glacier that “is disaster for beachfront homes.”

This is what I am thinking about while the wind buffets the house and I stand over a metal bowl at the bathroom sink stripped to the waist and giving myself a sponge bath because our boiler has gone the way of the Dodos. Buffett is on the radio, images of tropical islands dance in my head, and I wonder if the beachfront property that is in such peril could now be gotten on the cheap because I want out of this cold weather.

I wrote the preceding musing sometime in heart of the winter of 2019. The winters of 2017/18 and 2018/19 were two of the hardest winters I have ever experienced. The former being the worst because the previous fall I had decided to go off my antidepressants, wrongly assuming that I was cured and that much of my depression was situational–the truth is there is no cure. My depression is a part of me and if I want to lead the tango that I dance with it I must do many things, one of which is to take medication.

I  stumbled through the winter of 17/18 in a semi-lucid haze and the few memories of those months are seen through a thick fog. Details were lost to me and that was an extremely scary feeling. My notebooks from this time are filled with Bible studies, poems and scraps of story ideas. I was trying to escape any way I could. By the time spring came and my dour mood lifted slightly, I  began to wonder if I would ever be normal, or if I ever was normal. Erin told me that like any illness my body needed time to heal, and maybe it did, a little.  But by the end of September, I came to realize that the summer had passed much the same way that the winter had. I was forty and in the best physical shape of my life, but my mental state was in shambles and because of this I spent most of my waking hours berating myself for the slittiest infraction and for just being me. I also realized that I was scared witless of the winter that was looming on the horizon. I had been running regularly all summer long and I had falsely convinced myself that it was imperative that I run through the winter to survive.  In one of my notebooks I  made a code red list for what I could do if I could not run. The list included nordic skiing, yoga, and climbing. The list also suggested making a countdown to vacation or summer might be a good thing. The final item was the most important, I had simply written I will make it through.  This showed me that there is always hope, even if it seems unattainable to my depressed mind. I ended up not running much at all that winter. The cold hurts me now, and that was a level of suffering I was not willing to endure.

The winter started off better than the year before mostly because, for the first time since my father had died seven years earlier, I was excited about Christmas. Joy was rattling its chains and I was more than willing to let it out, but it was not to last, and soon the depression began to lead the dance again, and I was right back to where I was the year before., with one major difference: my perspective had changed and my notebooks reflect this. Instead of escapism I was on a quest to see the smallest speck of beauty and joy these cold gray winter months could provide. I cannot deny the beauty of a winter sunrise over a landscape blanketed in snow, the crunch of snow and the joyous yelps and shouts of children,  I wrote one morning. Another entry stated; A painted morning sky, the chickadees at the feeder, the laughter of the boys. I know all these things are signs from God letting me know I am not alone. This faithfulness allows me to rejoice in the gifts of the Lord.

These are the lessons I am choosing to take away from these past two winters and to use this winter as the struggle becomes harder. When I look for the joyous beauty in the world, as hard as it may be,  I will find it. Deep inside I will see the flame of hope, no matter how small, and hear the shackled joy rattling its chains. Then I will know that I am not alone and that with the love and support of my family and the Lord I can hold fast and keep moving forward.