I’ve needed spring desperately this year. It wasn’t that the winter has been so bad — well there were those days and days of grey in January with not a smidgen of sunshine to ease the darkness — but, on the positive side, we didn’t have very much snow or ice like in other years. That’s always my gauge of how bad a winter has been — how many times did I almost fall or slip on the ice or get angry because some neighbour hadn’t cleaned their walk. So on that scale, this wasn’t a bad winter at all. I’m a Capricorn, born on almost the darkest day of the year, so winter is sort of my “at-home” season. I may grumble about it but there’s also some comfort from the darkness and the cold. But not this year. The worst thing about this winter for me didn’t fall from the sky, it emanated from what the hell was happening in our world. Ever since that election in November, my winter turned a lot colder. With every new atrocity coming out of the US, my heart and soul slipped deeper into a pit of depression colder and darker than anything that could have come down from the sky.
I’ve tried all kinds of methods to raise my spirits and get beyond it to a healthier place. I upped my prayers and meditation — not mediCation — in the mornings. Then, I decided more direct action needed to be taken so I cancelled my subscription to the newspaper and started limiting my news consumption to just one time a day. This has required me to jump up from whatever I was doing and turn off the radio every hour on the hour. I then decided that I would focus on getting the scoop only from Rachel Maddow but even she was not hopeful. I thought the only thing to do was to go talk this over with my therapist to see if he could bring me out of this funk and back to a neutral, more balanced assessment of the situation. It didn’t work. He just shook his head and said that 70% of his clients had been coming in with the same complaint. I’m not sure that was worth the fee but, at least, I had confirmed that I wasn’t alone.
There had to be something I could do to unstick my feet in the quicksand of depression and get to a place where I could be a happier person. It was April, I thought, sure, the cruelest month of the year, but didn’t it also have great possibilities? Then, on Friday, just to test that theory, it snowed. Wet, messy, snow fell, accompanied by blustery north winds that blew me around as I slushed through it. This did not help my spirits nor my resolve to do something about it.
But, then, yesterday, I think the gods took pity on me. Miracle of miracles, the sun came out and with it, the warmest temperatures we’ve had all year. I felt lighter but that could have been because I was wearing two less layers than I was the day before in the snow. Neighbours were outside again sweeping away piles of wet leaves and catching up on what’s been happening all winter. I walked down to Kensington Market and every stoop, kerbstone, outdoor-cafe-chair was occupied by sun-facing, happy people. It reminded me of a story I read once years ago about Scandinavians lying down on the sidewalk to absorb the first warm rays of spring. Even the cats ventured out on the porch to terrorize forgetful birds and chase squirrels our of their territory. There were even little tufts of chives poking through a winter’s worth of mulch towards the sun. It was all good.
I thought, couldn’t I just, for a little while, forget about all that darkness coming out of Washington and do nothing but listen to the birds chirping happily outside, admire the red-red-robin-bopping along, buy little yellow pansies to plant on the porch and just be happy? Would I have to eliminate all news stories from my life, unsubscribe to Rachel and Samantha Bee, not turn on the sanity of PBS Newshour and avoid all talk of you-know-who when I telephoned my family in the States? Was that kind of thinking just digging my head deeper into the sands of unreality? It surely doesn’t make it go away, that I know for sure.
No, my challenge is to find a balance, a place where I keep my mind open to know what’s happening, be angry about it and do what I can to resist and protest it and to keep paralyzing fear at bay. At the same time, I have to remember that good is happening at the same time. I am going to cherish the things that make me smile: the smell of the earth today while Lennie was raking the leaves, little Holly across the street in her sparkling shoes helping her dad clean up the garden; the joy of getting back in the pool after weeks away; hours and hours (?) of vacuuming away months of cat hair from the house with promises from both of them that they would keep the rest on their bodies; listening to an afternoon concert of four young women from New York delighting in their music; filling up bags of compost today at the community give away to help my little garden grow; and, Len’s showing off pictures of his first grand baby born this week. I must remember always that goodness is always around in the midst of all the craziness.
Right now, I am going out on the porch and plant those little yellow pansies so they are right outside the door to remind me every day that I am blessed.