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January Sad

You live in the blue now,
While my spirit twists in the wind
Like a tattered rag caught in the
Skeletal branches of a winter tree.

I would not live where you do now,
Even though there, the frigate birds
Wing eternal across the clear clouds.
But I do wish
That Januaries
Were easier.


My Mother’s birthday was last week.  I forgot it this year.  I think this is first year since she died that I’ve forgotten it. Of course, I always seemed to forget it when she was alive, and she was (so she said) okay with that.  She wasn’t the sort to make much of a fuss about that kind of thing. So she probably wasn’t surprised that I forgot it this year. In fact, I expect she’s kind of pleased. I know she thinks my grieving has gone on waaaay too long.  And really, I’m not grieving anymore.  It’s just that the loss and the absence of both her and my Father is still tender.  A deep bruise on my soul that I can only touch lightly lest it hurt too much.  I doubt it will ever heal much more than it is now.

A few weeks ago, we cleaned out the garage, and I brought a few remaining boxes of things from my Mother inside to unpack. There they sat in the solarium, untouched save for Thunder Cat sharpening her claws on the cardboard, until my niece/roommate said, “Do you think you could do something about those boxes?” Which is her nice way of saying “Your clutter is driving me nuts, you insane surface-dwelling packrat.” A perfectly reasonable request; after all, one can’t just have a room filled with cardboard boxes just sitting there forever, can one?  Well, actually one can, if one is my Dad, but that’s another story.  In a shared home, it’s just not okay.

We tentatively agreed to resolve this issue on Saturday night, with a couple of bottles of wine and a box cutter. Rereading that, it sounds like we’re getting drunk and fighting to the death, but we’re not – we just agreed to tackle this chore together.  What with chile festivals and flea markets and bicycle rides, we ended up arriving home at different times, me with MKL, and her an hour or so later. So I settled down to open Box #1.

Oh my.

The day my Mother died, after making the requisite phone calls, E-Bro and I started to pack her things up. He tackled the little office, living room, kitchen. I packed up the bedroom and bathrooms. So many things, and I was not in a place to make decisions then.  I was raw and suicidal and heartbroken.

When I opened this first box, all those feelings came flooding back at me like I had jumped into hyperspace.  I had packed in a way that showed how I couldn’t bear to discard anything that was my Mother’s.  The box had two little packets of tissue, and three boxes of Irish Spring. It had photo albums of my pictures that I had given to my Dad as Christmas gifts in the years before he died. It had the fleece blanket she had kept over her in her deathbed.

It still carried her scent. Almost six years later.

I started to cry.

MKL came over and put his arm around me, asked if there was anything he could do. He was just there – which is exactly what I needed. He took the blanket and wrapped it up in a separate bag, so it might retain some of its scent, and shared with me a similar experience from his grandfather’s passing.

Then I cleaned myself up and we made shrimp.

I can only manage one box at a time, I told Niece when she got home.  She was cool with that, as long as I was making the effort.

Last night, after I got home, I tided up a bit and opened box Number Two.  Again, it showed a certain amount of randomness and attachment to the moment. There were her art books and portfolio from the mail-order painting class she had taken when I was very small, perhaps about three. I can still remember her, sitting at her easel in the sunny study. A little white T-shirt that she used to wear. Two nightgowns. A caftan – I have pictures of her wearing that at our last trip to Topsail, three months before she died. It was her favorite. I put the T-shirt and nightgowns in the wash. I put the caftan on the foot of my bed.

There were some more fleece blankets – ones that DIDN’T smell like her. And a comforter that I made for my Father.

And then a satchel, a newer version of the kind my Father carried to work every day, filled with yarn. I put my hand in to see what it was.

It was a soft green afghan that she was knitting, the needles still in place in the yarn, at the point when she stopped, a few days before she died. She was knitting it for me. It was a pattern I had always wanted her to make for me, ever since I was a very little girl – moss green, with beautiful pink roses on it.

It will never be finished now.

I took a deep breath. And put my head on my arms on the kitchen table and sobbed my heart out.

I still have more boxes to unpack.

Ah, those winter blues.  SAD has made its customary January appearance. I was hoping it would pass my house, like the creeping mist passed the houses marked with a cross when striking down the firstborn of Israel, or wherever – sorry, my knowledge of such things is from vague memories of watching Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.

Remember SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder? Yes, my nemesis of the frigid months.  I wrote about it here last year. I realized that I’ve been feeling twinges for a month – it has just manifested differently this year. I have been feeling rundown and almost sick but not sick enough to stay home for almost a month. Yesterday, I realized that it wasn’t my body feeling bad. It was my brain. I was just manifesting it in my body for a while. Once I figured that out, my brain grabbed the ball and ran with it. Weird, especially since, I’ve been particularly happy with MKL, and happy with work, and happy with Kelsea.

So now that the bleus are out of the bag, they are on a bit of a rampage. Worries about money, about health, about paying for Kelsea’s college, about never being able to travel again. I’m going wild with worry. I have decided to let it flow, and run its course for a day or two, to see if that helps. In the meantime, I splurged (even though I’m feeling very broke) and ordered a SAD light that can come with me to work. I’m trying to walk more every day. I’m making sure not to miss my happy pills. I’m trying to clean one thing a day, to relax the chaos that I feel surrounds me at home. And I’m hoping we can head up to Cottonwood for a blissful brain break in the next couple of weeks.

I may complain a bit, but it’s therapeutic. Thanks for letting me whine.

Photo of the Day for January 3, 2012:  A Window of Blue

Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “When I reach the place of my dreams. I will thank my failures and tears. They too, kept me going.” — Dodinsky

Daily gratitudes:
The amazing sunrise this morning
The parking attendant who wished me a blessed day
The man playing fetch with his dog in the dark used a blue neon dog toy
The amazing big bright falling star on the way home tonight
The new MAC at work

It was a beautiful weekend here. Gorgeous blue skies. Still-green grass. Golden leaves.  Lovely.

This morning it was rainy and windy – just enough to make me think about the end of the season.

After work, I went to the grocery store, and by the time I was headed home, it was almost dark.

And I got sad.

I got sad coming home to an empty house.

Sad coming home to no one.

Wondering if I’m always going to come home to an empty house.

I haven’t had a “woe is me” post for a while, and I don’t really need this one.

But I stupidly just can’t help it.

My new relationship is going really well. My job is going well. The future is looking positive and hopeful.

So why am I down?

I know this will pass.

I just wish it would hurry up and go.


I have always gotten the Winter Blues.  They’re a little late in their severity this year – they just seem to have hit now.  I am subdued.  I am quiet.  I am teary.  I anger quickly.  I am despairing.  And I just figured out this morning, when I looked at all the bare trees and felt my soul sink, aching for want of green leaves, that SAD had finally struck.

When I first started noticing it years ago, it hit in January.  In recent years, it’s moved up to hitting in November or December.  This year, while I was, as usual, disgusted with the cold, and only satisfied with the snow when it was too deep to leave the house, I wasn’t experiencing the exceptional indigo blues that typically accompany winter.  Yes, I had the blues, but between divorce, the holidays and the cold, that was to be expected – they were your standard Crayola Blue blues.

Today, they hit me like a ton of sapphire bricks.

While Seasonal Affective Disorder is not, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM-IV), a mood disorder with its own classification code, it is what they call a “course specifier”, which means that it can contribute to major depression.  It appears to be a biochemical imbalance in the brain due to the shorter days of winter.  There have been arguments made that SAD is a natural response to cold and an absence of light – a sort of hibernation response that might very well have been a survival technique of our distant ancestors.  I’d believe that.

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • fatigue – got it, but what else is new?
  • lack of interest in normal activities – kind of got it
  • social withdrawal – no more so than usual
  • craving foods high in carbohydrates – no, no cravings thanks to Atkins
  • weight gain – again, kudos to Atkins for keeping this one at bay

While you might think that SAD would be worse in countries towards the Arctic Circle, such as Iceland and Norway, it’s actually less so.  Researchers suspect this may be some kind of genetic adaptation, or it may have to do with the large amounts of Vitamin D that people in these countries consume.  (Did you know that Icelandic people eat 225 pounds of fish per person per year?  I didn’t.)

SAD is primary treated with light therapy.  A special light that emits full spectrum bright white light can be helpful.  I used one off and on when I first started feeling the severe effects of SAD.  I pointed it to the backs of my knees (yes, I know, but it seemed to work) every morning for about 20 minutes.  I should probably retrieve it from Pat’s house, but it’s pretty big, being one of the first of its’ kind.  I’m sure they have more compact models now.

Other suggested treatments are:

  • Medicines – already doing that
  • Changes in diet – I can do that – fish are golden on Atkins
  • Learning to manage stress – Bah-Hah! SNORT!  Yeah, right….
  • Going to a sunny climate for the cold months – That one sounds like the best of all plans to me

One of my bosses insists that my SAD should start abating on December 22, when the days start getting longer.  He considers that date to be the beginning of spring.  I have tried, but I am unable to buy into that theory.

I am just going to have grumble and mourn my way through the cold until the first crocuses start appearing.  Until then, just be sure that all knives and sleeping pills are well out of my reach.  And keep the Kleenex handy.

The reality of divorce takes a while to sink in.  It hits at odd times.  Like today.  Kelsea is sick and I am taking her to the doctor this afternoon for her annual appointment, which is kind of a happy (?) coincidence.  She was supposed to spend tonight with me, but since she’s sick, I thought I’d give her the option of where to stay.  She wants to be with me, but she said she’d rather stay “home”.  Yes, it is her home.  My cottage is not her home.  It’s where she stays with me.  And whenever you’re sick, you want to be home. She’s always been a Daddy’s Girl when she’s sick – I remember when she was little-little, she would snuggle with him for eight solid hours when she was sick – she just didn’t want me.

I regret more and more not making Pat move out.  At the time, since I wanted out of the marriage, it didn’t seem right to do so.  And it would not have been easy had I stayed and he left, because he would not have had a place set up nicely for Kelsea, nor would he have taken the dogs, and so I’d have to arrange for dog-sitting, etc.   He’d have had even less responsibility and he’d have been angrier and he’d have taken more things from the house than I did.  But I am resentful at him for letting my home go to seed.  And I am still paying half the mortgage.  I miss my garden, now that I might have time to have one again.

On the other hand, I needed a fresh start.  I am about to make another one, working for myself, but I get more freaked out daily about not being able to do so.  So freaked out that today, I was looking at jobs in New York and DC with a couple of companies that I’m pretty sure would hire me right away.  I might be able to telecommute with the DC job, so I’ll have to think about that. But working for someone else is not what I want to do!! Still, you do what you have to do, right?

I was talking to a friend last night about wanting to take a few weeks off, when I have my severance going, and just get things back together.  Strategize for my own work, spring clean and de-clutter the house, get myself into a comfortable routine of exercise and meditation and creative work.  The mere idea of doing so makes me feel guilty.  It’s me —  ME —  the one who ALWAYS works, and always has.  It sounds so terribly slack.  But it’s not like I’m saying I want to sit at home and eat bon-bons (not on the Atkins Diet) and watch TV for a few weeks (though a couple of days like that sounds appealing).  And I still have my half-time job, which I’ll be getting extra hours from in March.  This is where the work ethic of which I wrote a week ago starts looking more obsessive than positive.

My first unmarried Valentine’s Day in many years has come and gone.  I had a nice weekend and didn’t really think about it.  Pat said that it was now just another Hallmark day for him, and he was glad he got to spend it with Kelsea. 

Yes, life is feeling a little overwhelming these days.

I don’t want to write.  I don’t want to work.  I don’t want to leave the house.  I don’t even want to get out of bed.  I’m surprised the bear isn’t one of my power animals.  This seasonal depression gets worse – and starts earlier – every year.  I am no longer in harmony with this climate.  I ache.

We should all take a tip from the beasts of the world, and curl up and sleep through the winter.  Usually by this time, I’ve had a week or two in the Caribbean to hold me over until a January jaunt to someplace warm.  No such luck this year, and I am paying a price for it.  How spoiled I am.  I was lucky to be able to do that for several years.  Few people have that luxury.

When I was young, I always wanted to go “out west”.  I only intended to stay here for two years, to finish school, and then my plan was to move on – DC, to be closer to E-Bro, or New Orleans, for something totally different, or Seattle, to be by the water.  The cold was a novelty for a number of years.  Then it became a drag.  Now it has become a dead albatross hanging around my neck.  Snow is only acceptable in large doses that keep you homebound, not in small sprinklings that make the roads slick.

But then I met Pat, and for a long while, there seemed no need to go anywhere.  I worked my way into a decent and interesting job, and we were doing okay.  After I got laid off when Kelsea was two, I remember us talking about moving somewhere – Seattle came up as a possibility.  There was no reason for us to stay, except for having some family here, and that we had the house.  But there wasn’t enough motivation to go either.  So we stayed.  Now, Kelsea loves it here, has friends, family, and an identity that is tied to Colorado.  The cold doesn’t bother her – she’d prefer cold to hot.  And this is really my child???

Now that I am without my house and my fireplace, and am sleeping alone, the coziness factor in my life has sharply decreased.  I treasure my times with Mr. GF, as they are fun and snuggly, and we are always in contact when we sleep.

Those nights are too few.  It’s 5 degrees here.  I can look out the window (when I can get to a window) and see the snow, see the cold, see this frigid blanket that feels like it will never melt, never end.  I can only remember when it was all green grass, trees in full leaf, birds, and blue mountains.  Today, it is nothing but white.

June 2022


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