These past few days, as I see the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths peek out from the ground, trees become increasingly-filled with delicate pink and white blossoms, and the grass grows faster than it has in months, I’ve thought about this beautiful earth of ours and the way it completely screws with my emotions.
Ever since I was about sixteen years old, I’ve known my brain doesn’t cope well with seasonal changes. This is actually SUPER common, and effects virtually everyone to a degree. I still remember not even realizing the depressive state I’d reached my sophomore year of high school. I was irritable, stressed, tired, and lacking motivation (which, hello, I was sixteen and never slept that year), but all that went away one particular April afternoon. I was sitting by a north-facing window, derping around on the internet, when a ray of sunlight poked through and shone in my eyes.
You might think I’m exaggerating, but LITERALLY that very moment, I felt something. It was really weird, since I hadn’t truly felt anything fully for months. Through some weird combo-emotion of hope, joyfulness, and relief, I got through the rest of that school year successfully.
Winters aren’t always that drastic, though. Last winter, for example, was one of the greatest times of my whole life, partly because I lived in England and England is my favorite place in the world. I might have even convinced myself that my post-adolescent brain had grown out of its seasonal moodiness, but GUESS WHAT? I was so ridiculously wrong.
This winter has been hard. I can’t blame my workload, or my classes, which have both been pretty average if not easier than usual. I can’t blame my social life or sleeping schedule or diet. Those have all been the same, give or take a month of vegetarianism (ha – never again). It was literally the wrath of winter, and I knew as soon as the cloud cover arrived that it was going to be a tricky time.
I’m lucky that I don’t have serious issues. I never want to hurt myself or abuse drugs or give up completely. Instead, I might inexplicably lay in a dark room doing nothing for an afternoon when I definitely have important things to do. I let my bedroom become a cluttered disaster. I procrastinate reading and assignments, if I end up doing them at all. I might decide I HATE UTAH AND EVERYONE IT. I might cancel plans with friends because I can’t handle that much social interaction in one day. I might choose to only attend my American Lit class 2/3 of the time because it’s a total waste of time.
I do a lot of things I WOULD NEVER DO between the months of May and November. It’s weird, and it’s hard, and even though I should probably take some vitamin D supplements or go outside more often, I’m stubborn and cope; my current method of “do nothing and complain about it until it’s over” has worked just fine. I guess.
But all this has gotten me thinking about winters. Why do we have them, and is there anything to learn here?
Something I’ll never forget is strolling down The Long Walk at Windsor Palace with my professor and a couple of my friends last February. It was an unexpectedly chilly day, and the wind was blowing fiercely. For some reason British wind has the power to physically hurt a bare face, and that’s something I still don’t completely understand. As we walked the path the storm got worse and worse, nearly blowing us over as we got farther away from the Palace. We were miserable. My professor was screaming. We were sort of concerned about his screaming, but inside we were screaming a little bit too.
We eventually decided to turn back to make sure we’d catch our bus, and the storm began to settle. Within minutes, the sun was out and shining on our frozen faces.
“You know,” my professor said, still sort of screaming but for a different reason this time, “something I love about England is that the default is grey. If you live somewhere like California, the sun is always out, and there’s no alternative, but in England, even the smallest sun-break is amazing. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world on the rare occasion that it does come out. I just love walking! Walking, walking, walking forever!”
And though I’m still not sure if he was 100% lucid at the moment, he had a point. Sun without clouds is boring. Springtime would not be nearly as incredible without the nasty pile of dank that is winter. I also know some people who, for unknown reasons, PREFER winter, but this message can be relevant to them, too.
Flowers and blooming trees are fabulous, but would we stop to look at them if they were always there? Going outside without a coat wouldn’t be nearly as amazing unless we’d spent the last 10 weeks bundled up at all times. Sometimes it’s restorative to sit in the dark and feel blue. Maybe our emotions need a break once and awhile, and they happen to follow the same seasonal pattern of invisibility and vibrance that the flowers do.
I sure don’t always understand my brain and its needs, but what I do know is that I’m a woman with creative tendencies and a likely vitamin-D deficiency; I couldn’t reach a year-round emotional plateau even if I tried. Believe me, I have tried!
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that maybe I don’t need to try so hard. As long as I can get out of bed in the morning roughly 95% of the time, I think I’m doing fabulously. As long as I can conceive of a brighter future, I’m good! So is everyone! We could all be kinder to ourselves.
Life is sometimes grey. Grey can be boring, but it can also be comfortable. Even if there is no obvious benefit to this drabbest of colors, remember that its all that grey that allows us to see the sunbreaks all the better. I know it’s cheesy and sentimental, but for me this idea has been proven many a time.
And lucky for me, the sun has arrived! My morning walk is full of UV-ray goodness, school’s over super soon, I’m accepting an awesome essay-contest award next week, I’ll be leaving Utah in a month, and I’m planning on (surprise, surprise) returning to my favorite place in the world next year. I feel happy! And motivated! And hopeful!
And you know what? It wouldn’t be so freaking exciting if I hadn’t spent the past six months not feeling any of those things. Sometimes it’s worth finding gratitude in hidden places, and you know what? I’ll say it: I’m grateful for winter.
But GOOD RIDDANCE FOR NOW. I’ve got some flowers to smell.