Sam’s monthly check-in: November’s ups and downs (cw: brief mention of weight)

Text reads: November is stressful like it’s suddenly freezing and you have 35 different deadlines due within 3 weeks and everyone is panicking and it’s dark all the time

I hate November traditionally…

That’s kind of my thing, the rhythm of my year. The end of October is the anniversary of some painful family events. It’s also dark, so dark. My pattern is deep November slump and blues, followed by Christmas cheer, and then a new year with more light every day, fun in the snow, and spring in my sights.

“The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” Emily Dickinson.

That resonates. So too does Virginia Woolf: “I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.”

You can get a sense of the flavour of my late fall sadness by reading this piece The Summer That Never Was. It beautifully connects end of summer melancholy with thoughts of mortality.

But this November has been better than most. What’s up?

There are some very good things to be sure. I’m still loving my new big job. I finally decided to try lights that help with seasonal affective disorder. I’m loving riding my bike inside in the virtual world of Zwift. I’m still riding my real bike back and forth to work at least. Snow tires on and lights are charged. Also, I’m going to massage therapy regularly which is helping with knee pain. It seems colder and sunnier than past Novembers. I’ve lost weight and that’s helping with the knee pain too.

However, it’s not just the good things. I’m also feeling more at peace with the sad things. I’ve been trying to feel differently about the deep dark of November days when familiar sadness does hit. On this theme, there’s this piece of writing on delighting in melancholy. It still strikes me as a bit maudlin but while I’m not exactly enjoying the sadness of fall, I’m doing better at seeing it as part of a pattern, part of a rhythm. I have a largely empty nest these days. I have a lot more evenings alone. But I wouldn’t want the kids not to be independently off doing their own thing. That’s life. It’s quiet but I am learning to appreciate it and the dark nights of fall. I’m making peppermint tea and curling up in an armchair reading fiction. I’m writing more. I’m going to bed early!

In the past I would have scoffed at this message from the Facebook page, You Need More ART in Your Life: ” The winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this is a period of descent and rest, of going within our homes, within ourselves and taking in all that we have been through, all that has passed in this full year which is coming to a close… like nature and the animal kingdom around us, this time of hibernation is so necessary for our tired limbs, our burdened minds. Our modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, comfort food and consumerism. And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and the weather so bitter that people are left feeling that winter is hard, because for those of us without burning fires and big festive families, it can be lonely and isolating. Whereas in actual fact winter is kind, she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards this annual time of peace and reflection, embracing the darkness and forgiving, accepting and loving embracing goodbye the past year.

“Winter takes away the distractions, the buzz, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth”.

.. and then, just around the corner the new year will begin again, and like a seed planted deep in the earth, we will all rise with renewed energy once again to dance in the sunlight .”

Now I’m not laughing. I’m doing okay this fall. I don’t know how long this upswing will last. But it’s November. I’ll take it.

P.S. I also like this piece on the secret to enjoying a long winter.

Here’s an excerpt: “Sometime this fall — using a combination of Stoicism, stubbornness, and a sort of magical thinking that Jason-in-his-30s would have dismissed as woo-woo bullshit — I decided that because I live in Vermont, there is nothing I can do about it being winter, so it was unhelpful for me to be upset about it. I stopped complaining about it getting cold and dark, I stopped dreading the arrival of snow. I told myself that I just wasn’t going to feel like I felt in the summer and that’s ok — winter is a time for different feelings.”

2 thoughts on “Sam’s monthly check-in: November’s ups and downs (cw: brief mention of weight)

  1. I love this quote you include: “there is nothing I can do about it being winter, so it was unhelpful for me to be upset about it”. The second arrow, as Buddhism calls it. When we “decide” to feel bad about unpleasant circumstances. The unpleasant “thing” is the first arrow. Our decision to feel bad about it is the second arrow. But avoiding that second shot is so hard!! Bravo to you for a happy November.

  2. One thing I have noticed this November (amidst all the flurry of fall events and travel) is the qualities of the light. It’s not summer light, but it’s not meant to be. I’m trying to embrace those deep golden hues that make the world look different, but still sweet. Thanks for reminding me of what November can be.

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