I have been feeling rather blue.
There are various contributing factors, of course, some of them related to life, most of them related to work and/or my professional angst and unrest, but there is also winter. And as much as I love four seasons and pretty snowflakes and big drifts of white, the cold always seems to reach its icy fingers past the warmth of my scarves and into my life.
It is very cold here in Michigan. It is also very dark. Perhaps if I were better at pretending I was warm, I might not experience the cold so fiercely, but I'm not sure I'm capable of that. Perhaps if I had a window in my office at work, I'd feel cheerier, but I don't think anyone would look kindly on my punching a hole through the ceiling to reach the outdoors. Thus, my experience of life right now is very cold and very dark.
Furthermore, my front steps remain coated in ice, regardless of how much salt I toss over them, because the roof keeps drip drip dripping whenever the temperature rises, and the cold world keeps freezing again.
And also, I am tired of darting around the track at the Y, where instead of interesting old houses and people walking their dogs to look at and my favorite bakeries' windows to peer into, I have only the same four walls to examine as I go around and around, seven times to a mile, as well as more darkness beyond the windows and all kinds of fit people to compare myself to.
But let me attempt positivity: the Y is also bright, warm and sans slippery ice. Also, on certain days, I have the mass of women (plus four or so men) doing Zumba to entertain me, which I guess is pretty great. I am particularly fond of the old ladies, who I cheer on enthusiastically in my mind.
Last night, through tears, I was talking to my sweetheart about all of the things that are contributing to my sadness, and I recalled this time last year, when I had only recently moved into my current apartment, my very first situation living alone. I was thoroughly enjoying my new living quarters, sparsely decorated at the time, and deeply appreciating being employed full time and having health insurance. But I also remember the evenings when I would come home from work, go for a long run, make dinner, sit down to eat well past nine or ten and realize how soon I would be returning to the office. I remember crying on the phone to my mother when I hit my first true season of monotony, with its sad rhythm and mornings I wasn't really looking forward to waking for.
And what then? This is always my question, because I know that this is the stuff of life, as is inexplicable joy, which hopefully comes with greater frequency than sadness, and as are those times when everything, every comment and snowflake and encounter with a stranger, feels full of beauty and meaning. But what do we do when we wake one morning, our souls aching for whatever compilation of reasons, thinking, is this really it? Is "okay" the most I can reasonably ask for? What do we do when we want nothing more than for things to be somehow different, though we cannot explain what it is that we want, or perhaps just to go back to bed until the sun is shining again?
I don't have a concrete answer.
But today, one of my dearest friends responded to an email relaying my every realized cause for sadness with an invitation to be with her this evening. So I forced myself to the gym after work to circle the aforementioned silly track twenty-one times, and after a warm shower, I put on my coziest sweater, compliments of my dear aunt in Phoenix, and reminded myself of her vibrancy, trying to bring a bit of it, as well as a few rays of the Arizona sun, into my soul.
And then came the answer to my current version of the winter blues. My dear friend and I enjoyed warm drinks and biscotti at a bookstore while tiny snowflakes fell from the sky outside, and she listened to everything I needed to say and responded with exactly what I needed to hear. She gave me freedom to feel and hurt and share and then comforted me, telling me that things are and will be okay, giving me the reasons why.
I suddenly felt the opposite of melancholy.
And this is the inexplicable joy I spoke of.
So what is the cure for sadness and winter blues? I'm still not sure. Probably something about love and honesty and the Holy Spirit. But whatever it is, I just experienced it.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and birthdays are times for reveling in the joy of being alive. It is cold and dark, and life is hard, but I will revel nonetheless. Because even in the darkness, I keep encountering beauty and love and warmth and truth spoken by those dearest to me.
All is well indeed.