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Monday, January 08, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Some of us feel a little S.A.D. these days. Irish Molly claims that she's read research proving that January 24th is the most depressed day in the northern hemisphere. I dunno if that's based on number of suicide attempts, Ben and Jerry's sales figures or what, but I tend to believe it. It's tempting to think that as days get longer after the winter solstice that we should be on the upswing. But experience tells me that we sink to our nadir sometime when January turns to February, the holidays are long gone, and it's colder and wetter than ever.

I had to admit to feeling down myself the other day. And I was looking about me and it seemed like something of an epidemic... like a flu bug that everyone catches. Walaka (a man strangely immune to depression) was about the only person I could think of who wasn't suffering. And I thought to myself, why is it that I live in a northern climate again? Why don't I move to California where it's always sunny and 70 degrees is cause to wear a ski jacket?

I think the answer is that I like a little death in my life. I enjoy living in a city with undeniable seasons. When Spring comes, I feel the burst of life, like sap suddenly unfrozen and running freely, like blossoms beginning to burst out of their wraps, like cocky Parisians making love on April's park benches. When Summer comes I enjoy the fullness of green, the bloat of prosperity, even the white hot August wilt. And when Autumn falls, apples drop and soups percolate on stovetops and I look forward to wearing hoodies 6 days a week. And when the Winter cloaks us in the Gray Death, I embrace it. I need to lie fallow, to hibernate with movies and fatty foods, to give myself a break from the pressure of creativity, self-improvement and productivity. I think the seasons offer us a wise perspective on human existence; they stage the cycles of life for us and encourage us (sometimes with depression) to see the value in dormancy as well as growth.

I think America's S.A.D. crisis comes from people pathologizing the depression instead of accepting it as part of the circle. We don't really live in a place that normalizes the Winter blues. Instead we push ourselves to triumph over adversity 24/7. I wish people good luck with that. I'll see you on the production line sometime in Spring. Until then, I'm taking it easy, refertilizing my brain by decomposing all the leftover bits of moldering leaves and acorn husks, and treating myself to a bottomless cup of hot cocoa.



At 1/09/2007 08:23:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

February 24th might also be when many people have to send in large payments for the credit cards they ran up in December. On top of everything else you mentioned, facing the debt incurred in the long-gone-oh-so-happy holidays would add to the feeling of hopelessness.

At 1/09/2007 09:38:00 PM, Anonymous Molly's Mam said...

Maybe because I didn't use my credit card this year, but I'm actually feeling pretty swell even with the dark. It's weird. I think my inner sunshine is determined to conquer the blues for the next few months. Also, I particularly like the break I get every winter when the garden is dormant and not screaming for all my time.
Dear John, I agree with you wholeheartedly about hibernation. Maybe we just don't celebrate long or hard enough in the north, this century, here in the United States. And I just remembered that there ARE some sunny winter places where the days are short, but who cares...the sun is out all day, it's 16 degrees at noon, and everyone's outside staying in shape. I'd like that...the sun and 16 degrees part, but having lived here so long, I'm prone to the hot chocolate and hiding out.
I also agree with how "we push ourselves to triumph over adversity 24/7." Can I quote you? It's deeply ingrained in the American identity to manifest our destiny - press ourselves to the outer boundaries of our existence because we can. Our world (here in Western Washington) doesn't slow down unless there's one inch of snow on the ground...which says Maybe There's Hope for us! The City Council and the County Commissioners haven't come up with a budget for full-blown snow and ice removal of our streets and roads, nor the clearcutting of those pesky trees that keep falling down on us and our power lines.
That's all I have to say. I hope it snows like crazy tonight. I'd like a day off tomorrow to cozi-in with some Haagen-Dazs.

At 1/10/2007 10:03:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Molly's Mam,
Nothing in life is quite so validating as to find oneself quoted. It's what I live for, so feel free.

Not much snow here, sadly. Although clear roads might make it easier to sell my car later today (assuming the buyer comes through.) Fixing the water leak was the final straw... it's time to fully embrace the city, by losing the vehicle.

And Mel, I'm sorry to hear that your blues are reinforced with post holiday debt. My family only worries about giving presents to the kids, and all my friends are neo-paganist socialists types that will spit on you if you offer them a present, so I got off pretty easy when it comes to holiday shopping.

At 1/10/2007 05:24:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

I didn't get in debt over Christmas. I give very few presents, usually I just donate some money to Oxfam or Heifer International and call it a day.

My comment was meant to add to your guesses as to why January 24th is the most depressed day of the year.


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