I struggle in the winter. I've written about it here before, and about my efforts to appreciate the beauty of starkness and cold as a way of holding that struggle at bay. Last year I sailed through winter more happily than I had in years because I was working out regularly and it made such an impact on my body chemistry. So you would think once I cracked the code, I'd be excercising my way through this winter too.
And so I'm struggling.
Or am I? Yes, I'm spending as much time as possible alone, thinking overmuch about my creature comforts, drinking more alcohol, feeling raw and a little anti-social. But I'm not convinced that this amounts to anything I need to fix. Some days are harder than others (some days of parenting are harder than others, and there is usually a correlation). Yet I'm not actually depressed, even if I seem sad or quiet. I probably will take the plunge back into exercise soon as an investment in myself, but not to clean up something that's wrong. Nothing is wrong. I am being my winter self. I am walking through my shadow season.
Recently I had a meeting with a friend about collaborating on a new creative workshop series for women, about bringing in speakers and dreaming up projects, and I was getting all excited about it, but then had to interupt our conversation to say, "But this can't be about making these women 'better.' I'm not interested in helping anyone be better, especially not other moms."
In the self-help/New Age circles I am drawn to, it's a pitfall: betterment, improvement. "Self-improvement," specifically. Making alterations and upgrades to the way you live is wonderful; I'm all for it. But it can lead so quickly and blindly from feeling good about yourself to feeling moral and virtuous... and then to feeling self-righteous. And then you're stuck. Then you have a position to defend. Then you stop changing. (Then you have Mommy Wars. And real wars...)
Moving forward is good. Dreaming and planning and manifesting are good. Looking with clear eyes at what is missing and then putting that missing piece in, that's important for sure. But there is a difference between moving forward and Getting Improved.
My friend Amanda recently sent me this gorgeous Jeanette Winterson article, Why I Adore the Night, in which she writes,
We now live in a fast-moving, fully lit world where night still happens, but is optional to experience. Our 24/7 culture has phased out the night. In fact we treat the night like failed daylight. Yet slowness and silence – the different rhythm of the night – are a necessary correction to the day…When friends from London arrive, high on electric light, like hamsters on a 24/7 wheel, I slow them down by feeding them food with darkness sealed in it: deep red venison stewed in claret, carp from the bottom of the river, root vegetables grown in rich black earth.
(Read the whole article—seriously, it's sexy.)
Some days are hard. Some days the car is plowed in with snow that will take hours to shovel away and my husband has been at work for 24 hours and the kids are
screaming crying screaming and I can’t find my phone and we’re late for the appointment and they’re eating another lollipop? and I haven’t had any breakfast and I’m jittery from coffee and already thinking about tonight’s beer and I CAN’T POSSIBLY DO THIS IT IS TOO HARD. This whole being a grown-up, being a parent thing? I will never get it right. Why can't I just be more organized? Why can't I get it together? When. Will. I. Finally. Be. Better?
But then, you know, there is dried paint on my hands from working on a new piece. And there's a pink chalk streak in my hair because I'll never be too old for pink hair. I’m wearing my wedge sneakers that make me feel like I could kick the whole world’s ass if I needed to. The coffee is really hot and it tastes really good. Right now. Right now there is badass-ness to be reveled in and pleasure to be found. Not just later when the kids are in bed and the beer is in my hand and things feel fixed. Now. Even in the middle of the chaos there is pleasure... And in the middle of that pleasure I find myself again. I CAN do this. I am already doing it.
Walking through the shadows—whether that means the truly difficult stuff like giving birth and grieving death and struggling with the past, or just getting through the day when every other minute of that day seems freaking impossible—is necessary and nourishing. Shadow time changes us. Evolves us. It's not just something to hold our breaths through or push away, high on electric light. Summer will come around again, but in the meantime we can love ourselves through what is good AND through what is hard this winter. We can find pleasure and wholeness here in the darkness.