The holidays are over. Now we enter that period in which the days are short, cold, gray, oppressive and, if we’re not careful, depressing.
My wife and I put our Christmas decorations away on Monday, Jan. 6. That’s about five days too late for me.
Obviously, having the tree and all the other trimmings on display in the house is great during the holiday season; I don’t know if I enjoy much of anything more than watching a movie on a late December night “by the light of Christmas,” as we call it.
There’s also the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Having the decorations up during that period is fun because everyone is still in a celebratory mood; you almost feel like you’re getting away with something by prolonging the fun and leaving them up.
Christmas decorations depress me starting Jan. 2.
And so I was glad to pack ours away until next year, but now we’re faced with the reality of the next two months of cold, gray, oppressive and, if we’re not careful, depressing days ahead.
As I write this sentence, the temperature outside my office window is seven degrees, according to my trusty iPhone. The high today is predicted to be no more than 25 degrees. As I write this sentence, the people you see in the masthead on page 6 every week are getting ready to put your newspaper into production. For me, that means I know now that my exposure to the sun, to daylight at all, really, is going to be limited to the time it takes me to drive to our office in Port Chester.
Taken singly, a day like today, as cold and challenging as it promises to be, is bearable. If I had to string many of these days together, such as my wife, who works in corporate, often windowless, America, has at times in her career, you can see where I’m headed with this.
We’re not really made to never see the light of day in this part of the world.
I thought about researching suicide statistics for this column, but decided against it for two reasons. First, I think you and I both know they’re highest around and after the holidays. Second, this space has evolved into a place where you and I speak rather candidly, so I thought that approach would better suit us.
If you’ve read this column for a while, you know my life used to be quite different than it is now. I used to spend nearly all my time at home alone.
There came a point at which I realized that wasn’t healthy
About six years ago, perhaps seven, at a late, late hour one night in January or early February, I had what I later learned was a panic attack while sitting alone watching the Battlestar Galactica remake on DVD. Bang, just like that.
I mean, Galactica was an intense show, but come on.
I realized a month or so later that panic attack, which embarrassed me for years afterward, was basically me telling me I couldn’t go on in the direction I was going. So, I stopped, I changed course, and I never looked back. I didn’t take those actions alone; my wife helped me tremendously and I’ll always be grateful to her for that, but the bottom line is that night served as a wake-up call for me and it happened, I think in part, because of the cold, gray, oppressive and, if we’re not careful, depressing nature of this time of year.
The good news for me was, no matter how isolated I may have felt in those days, I really wasn’t alone. Some people are not so fortunate.
That’s why I think, during this time when the holidays are over and the world is dark and cold, it’s terribly important to make sure no one around us feels isolated. It can be a difficult thing to do because we often feel pretty alone ourselves this time of year, particularly if our lives demand too much of us or, as mine used to, too little. How easy it can be to wear a trail between work and home in these months or, perhaps worse, be so isolated by the trail we’ve worn, it becomes a trench from which we can’t see who might be to either side.
The great irony of times like this, in which we sort of risk allowing the nature of winter to push us in on ourselves, is we all share that risk alongside each other. We can be, in effect, isolated together.
Maybe even within the same home.
And so, as you go about your days over the course of the next few months, try to keep a few things in mind. The way you feel about these dark, cold days is probably the way everyone around you feels about them, too. There’s probably a lot to be gained from sharing those feelings, particularly with people who may not have someone close at hand with whom to share them.
We have four seasons here in Westchester. This one is the hardest, but it makes getting to the next one all the better. Don’t forget that.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him Twitter @jasonchirevas