Some days the world is pastel, muted and dulled, but still beautiful in its own right, just less obviously so. I’ve taken note how winter days dim my own shine. The wavelength at which I operate slows down and I find myself lizard-like, blue blooded and sluggish in the struggle to move despite the chill. As much as I wish it weren’t so, I become reliant on the generosity of the sun. Seasonal affective disorder seems like a made-up malady of the forlorn, but I can attest to its encapsulation. The truth in its existence allows for extra self-kindness instead of guilt.
Unbeknownst to many non-Californians, the state flourishes not with just sunshine and coast lines, but the diversity of its many opposing landscapes. Those of us who live here appreciate that within its boundaries we can delight in finding anything from desert to mountains, redwood forests and valleys, bubbling hot springs and farmland.
I live in an area where the transition between seasons is noticeable but not rushed like the here today, gone tomorrow climate agenda of many northern and eastern states. Every few years her it floods and there are power outages, but mostly the rain and the cloud cover gently mark the passing of time. It’s the literal and figurative in-between of the Sierras and Southern California.
When the toothsome expanse of this land becomes a daydream on the other side of a window, it can be difficult to remember that the walls of a house are a temporary perimeter of solitary confinement. It sounds dramatic because it is. Not that dramatic means unwarranted, but such is life during a pandemic. And when the dramatic becomes an every day occurrence it loses it’s ability to shock. No longer am I surprised by “breaking news”. It just is.
In some ways I have taken on the brain fog that plagues my mother. It takes me a moment to remember what day of the week it is. How old am I? I know I have a to-do list a mile long, but what specifically am I supposed to be working on this week? I don’t know what to attribute it to anymore. Stress? Lack of movement? Seasonal depression? Prolonged introverted spells? At this point, who cares. It’s happening all the same.
During the numbered days of this winter I delight in the cheerful reminders that come in the recent forming of pushed daisies from rain battled earth and the clouds of starlings choreographing their aerial dance. Sunbeams are moving art in the way they streak and bend across walls, passing light over cobwebs and dusty corners.
My medicine comes in many forms. Routines. Hiking. My best friend’s kitchen. Sweat. Phone calls from friends. Snail mail. The giggle that dances off my goddaughter’s tongue. The joy of my students. Homecooked meals and delivery that satiate emotional whims. Hugs from my dad. Dancing with my mom. Cuddling with the dogs. Walks around town. The completion of diy projects around the house. Writing. Wrapping my fingers around a mug of decaf chai. Flooding each room of home with plants.
Sometimes I forget to take my medicine. Occasionally it’s on purpose so I can wallow in my own filth. Teeth unbrushed. Laundry unfolded. Dishes toppling in the sink. Texts left unanswered. That way I can use their memory as reminders. When I inevitably retrace the steps back into the fog I can finger the outline of their cairns and more quickly find my way out.
I also have to take care to remember that dosage isn’t a constant. On occasion it’s necessary to lick up every drop, ride the high tide for as far as it will carry me. Then there are days when my purpose is to be as still as possible, to embody it. An all-encompassing rest. I cocoon in blankets and layers of clothing, taking care to do the bare minimum. At dusk I repeat a familiar silent oath to wake up and find any spark to reignite my own pilot light.
“And where is Mom in all of this?” you may ponder.
She’s here. My dutiful sidekick with an oversized beanie. She has her own bad days too, but for the most part I’ve noticed that her mood is dependent on my own. The more I can be mindful to take care of myself, the more I can avoid dementia turmoil. Often easier said than done but what isn’t? As much grief as Alzheimer’s has brought us, I thank the small ways in which it has muted certain blows. May we hold accountable the winter and wash ourselves in the spring.