Winter in June
It is winter now. Not outside – summer weather is in full swing, and out the back door I can see a burdock plant as tall as I am and a few vibrant orange lilies struggling through the weeds. It's warm, things are growing, things are in motion.
I am not. If I were living my life to the seasons of nature, this is the season when I would be doing physical work. Gardening, foraging, cleaning. Planting stuff in the buckets of dirt on the patio. Scrubbing the grime and neglect from the ktichen. But I am not. I am dragging myself to work each day, sleepy and worn down and feeling like everything is muffled. Brain work feels like thinking through pudding. This is the third night in a row I haven't mustered the energy to make dinner, and all turkey manhattan requires is dumping a bunch of ingredients in a pot and warming it up.
This period of my life feels like winter. I want to withdraw, to curl up, to be warm and comfortable and move as little as possible. I want to withdraw from my work obligations, withdraw from my social obligations, stop doing anything, hibernate.
This winter feels like exhaustion. Not sleeping well, stiff and hurting, moving feels like an overwhelming burden.
This winter feels like lack – lack of hope, lack of purpose, lack of meaning, lack of desire.
This winter is made of cold and loneliness and despair.
This is not the first period of winter I encountered. The previous one got labeled “depression” and medicated away. This winter probably meets the clinical criteria for depression too, but I don't want to medicate it away. I will learn what it has to teach me, and I will find the path out of it myself. I can't live like life is an eternal summer, because it isn't. And like all seasons, this winter, eventually, will pass.
I hate how the term “self-care” has been coopted by consumerism to mean buying treats and attempting to purchase pleasure instead of actually taking steps to care for your body, mind, or spirit. I will think of it, instead, as surviving the winter.
Steps for Surviving Winter 1. Reduce outside obligations. Stop doing things. Do things less frequently. 2. Reduce internal obligations. Find the bare minimum, and make that the goal. 3. Let myself do nothing. Sometimes give in to that hibernating instinct. Curl up in a blanket, find a comfy spot, sleep.
Beyond that ... I don't know. Winter can be planned for but it can never be predicted. That is a start. Beyond that, I will have to adapt as the challenges come.