Fighting Winter Blues


It would be fair to say that occasionally, I suffer from depression. It seems to be a common thread among some writers. I don’t talk about it often, simply because it isn’t the looming monster a few of my friends and family members face. But around this time of year—every year—it sneaks up on me: a weight on my chest that’s hard to shake. img_20161130_101550I find it difficult to blog, to write, and even to return emails. And while sometimes I think it comes because my family lives too far to visit as often as I’d like, or my book is taking so long to write, or because I will never be the Stepford wife with the time and ambition to make a Pinterest perfect home,  in truth: my depression is seasonal, caused by the lack of summer warmth; the eternal shades of grey outside my window.

This January I allowed myself to slink a little deeper into my winter blues after being turned down for a grant for Old Souls. I had used a large block of precious writing time to map out my application, consisting of a budget, resume, project plan, and expected finishing date. The five-thousand-dollar grant would have permitted me to ease back a few hours at work to focus on my book. It could have contributed to financing a round of professional editing and a little advertising, if one day, I choose to self-publish. It could have acted like a pat on a back saying, “You’re good enough.” And when I didn’t get it, I allowed the rejection to become a kick in the ass that said, “You aren’t.”

I love writing. I make a little money with articles and short stories from time to time, but writing certainly isn’t how I support my family. For now, I am a hobby writer. For now, I live in a distinctly in-between world where I don’t really talk about my “real job” to my writerly friends, or my writerly ambitions to my work friends.

1hlmwvI earn my living in hospitality. I’ve worked in a collection of restaurants, sport bars, pubs, and clubs across Canada, and even a handful of places in Australia. Now, I work in a high-end restaurant in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Since I started a year and a half ago, I’ve been promoted twice. For a few months over the summer, (peak-season on our tourist driven little island) I ran the bloody place myself. But, when the work began to sabotage my writing time I was forced to prioritize, and ultimately took a step back. Now I punch the clock, tend the bar, and enjoy three quiet writing days a week while the hellions attend school.

Working in hospitality is perfect for someone like me. People who know me know I love to talk. I talk to anyone who’ll put up it with it, really. I talk to cab drivers, grocery store clerks, and the unfortunate souls who stand beside me in line. I like to talk so much that when I’m home alone and there’s no one else to talk to, I make people up and have them talk.images1KTY36UF

Some of the most interesting people in the world have saddled up to my bar over the years. It’s true, many come in looking for a man to talk to about sports. Being that I am not a man and have no interest (at all) in sports, the conversations are forced into other directions. And once my guests have finished a few drinks, some of them get . . . kind of deep.

The restaurant where I work is located just off the lobby of a boutique hotel. A number of travelers drift in our doors throughout the winter: generally, singles on work trips. They come for dinner, and to drink wine, scotch, or dry Tanqueray martinis (oh, with two olives, please), and to socialize a little before retiring to their rooms.

On Monday, a man fitting exactly that description came in on his own. “Mathew” is a couple years older than me, with what sounds like a great job and the perfect family: 2.5 kids and a stay-at-home wife. As the night progressed and my other guests filtered out through the doors, Mathew sipped his Malbec thoughtfully and began to talk about life. stocksnap_jxnkzrbv86These are the conversations I live for. The ones where I don’t contribute much. The ones when people tell me the things they wouldn’t say to anyone else, because I don’t know the same crowd they do. Because they are from “away” and will likely never see me again.

He told me about his kids. How he had his first at twenty-one. Now, his oldest was applying for college while many of his friends were delving into the joys of parenting for the first time: changing diapers and staying up all night with colicky babies. He was almost home free. All the same, the subject of his conversation kept wandering back to whether or not he would have done things differently if he was given the chance. Would he have waited to have kids when he was older? Picked a different career, or a different partner?

Looking back on our lives and wondering “what if” is one of the ties that seems to bind humanity together. One might argue it’s an evolutionary safeguard, inspiring us to learn and grow from past decisions and experiences, almost like rats in a maze.recite-lslqv0.png

But, in talking to this stranger—whose children are only a couple years older than mine—I realized something.

Wallowing in my little bout of depression and wondering “what if” about the loss of my grant is . . . stupid.

My winter blues are taking me away from the moment I’m in.

Mathew is teetering near the brink of a change in life. That can be scary. But, it can be fun, too. He already chose his wife and had his kids. He raised them. And now, while many of his friends venture into the territory of having a family—a territory he already navigated—he’ll soon be released into the childless wild, at the tender age of forty. The rest of his life is up to him. Just like the rest of my mine is up to me.

1441996275528.jpgEvery day we’re faced with decisions. It’s how we deal with the wrenches in our journey and the decisions we made in our past that will often define our future.

While it was easy for me to see that Mathew is facing an opportunity in his future, he seemed determined to look back.

Sometimes talking to other people can force you to see everything you’re sleeping through.

Every day holds the possibility to grant us a change in life. It isn’t limited to graduations, our children venturing away from home, or our retirements. Every day we can change our future.

While I’ve been allowing myself to wallow in my “wrench,”–my recurring winter blues, and the loss of a silly little grant–I don’t have to. I can make a conscious effort to fight it. I can wake up. I can take a walk when the sun shines, enjoy my children, and will myself to write; to finish the book that has haunted me ever since my very own “old soul,” Hellion #1, was born.

Thanks to Mathew, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.


 

67 thoughts on “Fighting Winter Blues

  1. Love your blog. Meeting people can reveal fascinating stories, some which the rest of the world may never know. Our duty as writers is LISTEN as well as write (even on our crummy days … ) Thanks again!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I love this post and thank you for sharing. I believe there are more people than let on that get these winter blues. And yes there are people who seem to have it all together and they keep rolling onward, but a part of me questions if there is really anyone like that and what planet they come from. But to me, the truly brave person is the one who pulls themselves up every day, because sometimes just showing up may be the bravest thing you do all day long but it counts because family and friends depend on you even if it’s just for a smile. And that book you’re writing is depending on you to get it published. So from one member of the winter blues to another, have a’ good day.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I stopped suffering from SAD when I moved to WA. I am one of the rare group that actually gets depressed by too much sun. LOL. So you can imagine my 300 days of rain keep me pretty even. But last year I actually had a very long bout of depression. Looking back I can see it was brought about by the world largely ignoring my first book. Even though I told myself that was normal, it’s hard to get traction in publishing and that really I sold way more than the average…I was kind of heart broken by the collective vote of “Not good enough.”
    It’s a hard place to be. But you aren’t alone by any stretch. I think every artist goes through periods of self doubt. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Loved this post. Very inspiring. I’ll admit that there have been times I’ve looked at my 9 and 4 year olds and thought about the days when they will be off living lives of their own. What will I do? Anything I want. Lol. Of course, I know not to rush for those types of things because while they may seem glorious now, I’ll miss them being little once they aren’t. Live in the now because that’s what we have and what we’ve been blessed with. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I found this post very interesting; understanding where you are coming from with regard to SAD and then this interesting encounter with someone looking to the past and you resolving to look ahead and enjoy the now. It was a good re-affirmation for me to be present and to look ahead with optimism.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Two responses. First, I’m so creative I’m bipolar. As I’m sure you know, it doesn’t take a rational reason like a rejection to bring on a bout of depression.
    Second, my wife and I, like Matthew, had our kids in our (very) early 20s. Now they’re adults and when they have problems we can’t do anything about them but worry. Parenting never ends.
    Finally, another writer and I have spent a week examining the proposition: “If the unexamined life is not worth living, so also the unlived life is not worth examining.” In other words, get on with the live you made. We disagreed, concluding that imagining the path not chosen is the source of many good scenes.
    A personally honest and thought-provoking post. Thanks for giving it to us.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You are such a bright and charming and hilarious person, it’s hard to believe you get depressed.

    YES, FINISH THE DAMN BOOK!

    Oops, did I say that out loud?

    People like you are so bubbly it’s hard to imagine you being any other way.

    BUT FINISH THE DAMN BOOK!

    I did not know you suffered from depression, but there are times when we go quite a while without chatting and I instinctively feel something is wrong. At those times I should probably reach out sooner, but I have not.

    FINISH THE BOOK!

    FINISH THE BOOOOOOOOK!

    I will not make that mistake going forward.

    You bring so much joy to other peoples’ lives! You probably have no idea. It would be for purely selfish reasons that I would chat with you more often than I do, but if it helps you, too, then so much the better.

    With that said, I look forward to talking with you on Friday if not sooner!

    FINISH

    Let’s see… I had something else I wanted to say.

    THE

    What was it?

    BOOK

    Oh yeah:

    FOR GOD’S SAKE, FINISH THE BOOK!

    It’s brilliant and you have deprived the world of it long enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m a regular sufferer of the winter blues too so I know how very difficult it is to snap yourself out of that state of mind. It’s not just a little sleep, but a hibernation! Even so, I am confident that you can do it. The fact that you were able to write this is proof enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Allie. I’m beginning to think most people go through the same mild depression from time to time. It is important recognize and move on I guess.
      In any case, winter don’t last forever (thank God) and time moves on. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You may need more Vitamin D, and try a SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lamp. People also say to get outside during the day, even for a few minutes, but that’s about the hardest thing to do.

    (For the record, I personally see SAD not as a disorder, but a response–a hibernation response. Our crazy world ignores natural signals on all levels, which includes light.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commenting, Eva.
      My stepmother has mentioned a SAD light as well. She swears by hers. I suppose I’m stubborn, trying to convince myself I don’t need it yet. Maybe one day I will.
      It is easy to agree with your hibernation theory. We’re only human after all. The world around us is going to have an effect.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Ace Sales & Authors News and commented:
    Writing is so difficult sometimes as you say it’s depressing but even saying that this post proves what a great writer you are already … So thanks for sharing and thanks for visiting and 👍 and we all all get inspired by what our senses tell us daily … I was and am in inspired to read more of your life … That’s a grant of knowledge … Worth more than money … Regards Ian ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Powerful! Sometimes when we don’t get what we think we really want (like the grant), it’s because God is sending something better. I’m sorry about your winter blues and hope the sunlight returns soon! It’s a depressing grey winter much of the year here in Scotland, but looking for the sunshine in the soul helps. May your sunshine in your soul blast you out of the blues and into a great new place, writing and all!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh we understand SAD! We moved to Florida and discovered sunshine and blue skies year around! Best 10 years ever. But then we had to return to where the sun shines a few days a year – to visit our grandsons. We can only handle being there about a month at a time!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps husband doesn’t allow me to wallow too long. 🙂 He finally realizes the wallowing time is necessary and I finally realize I can let it go on for too long.

    Best wishes from cold, dark Upstate NY!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hello, J.A.
    … I was impressed with the very first post. I also suffer depression, and it does seem to be a common thread for people like us, but in this piece you totally brought it around, and it was bright and hopefull. I think talking with people has an amazing effect, especially when you are hearing them bare their souls.For a few moments there is a connection, and then they pass, like a ghost, but they leave a part of themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A delightful inspiring post. Listening is one of a writers most powerful tools, it can make our pen move rapidly across the page. And, as far as the winter snow? You know the old saying; “When Mother Nature covers your world with snow, get out there and throw a few snow balls around”.
    Just kidding, I just made that up. :o)

    Liked by 2 people

  16. You had me at “I suffer from depression” and you lost me at ” I can wake up”. Don’t treat your depression lightly, it will only linger on, causing a dragging pain. Once you have it, it’s for life. You only learn to live with it. Maybe you don’t have it, maybe you just named it wrongly. It’s excruciating to see depressed people being polite. It’s fake, a jolly smile for the world outside, while you hurt like a motherfuker inside. I know it, because I do it. Now, you got me all raged up with your little princess article about depression. Also, I googled you: you look very beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Depression can be a monster, it’s true. I have seen its effects take down members of my family for years on end. And while I don’t suffer with the depth as millions of others, its something I have trained myself to be aware of in my own life. The potential to slink a little deeper into it is always there.
      Talking about my experiences was in no way an endeavor to trivialize yours, or anyone else’s. We all have our crosses to bear, and alternately, our mechanisms for coping. May you have overwhelming success with yours.
      Despite your back-handed compliment, I have been enjoying your blog this morning, Dr. Love 😉 . Your dog is one of the cutest little fur-balls I have ever seen.

      Like

  17. Pingback: Fighting Winter Blues – Jolie La Vie

  18. I find this truly inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing this with your readers. I would definitely be re-blogging this and I hope you don’t mind.

    Just tonight, I told myself – almost scolded actually – that I will not be sidetracked or slowed down anymore. I’m probably only allowing laziness to triumph and making excuses to hide the truth… So, I told myself that not even technology will stop me. ‘That time of the month that causes some pains for womankind’ and a spider bite will not slow me down either. It took effort to get up from the couch but it wasn’t as tough a challenge as I thought it will be. Ha-ha!

    You have just reinforced what I was thinking. I’m up, wide awake and getting some things, including writing, done. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Reblogged this on I think, I say, I do and commented:
    Whether fighting winter blues, the remotest sign of depression relapse or the temptation to simply be a couch potato, lazily, and finding excuses to do nothing instead of slowly but surely ticking off items on the ‘Things to do’ list, this ought to inspire!

    Excerpt:
    “Every day holds the possibility to grant us a change in life. It isn’t limited to graduations, our children venturing away from home, or our retirements. Every day we can change our future.
    While I’ve been allowing myself to wallow in my “wrench,”–my recurring winter blues, and the loss of a silly little grant–I don’t have to. I can make a conscious effort to fight it. I can wake up. I can take a walk when the sun shines, enjoy my children, and will myself to write; to finish the book that has haunted me…”

    So, what are we waiting for?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m just glad I found you again. BTW – You seem to write well while depressed. Perhaps you should look at it differently. Maybe it’s a healthy state for you. Beethoven wrote his best pieces while depressed – AND DEAF. Hemmingway wrote well and was eternally depressed. (I could eat your entire comments page listing successfully depressed notables.) Wait – ‘Successful while depressed’ notables. Whew!
    Embrace it, JA. Maybe it’s your formula for success as a writer.

    God, I sound like some promotional guru. Sorry. Not sure how or why that happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I am lucky, in that I kind of like the dark, dank days of winter! I’m sorry about the grant, but I always say that one of the best things about putting your work out there is to get used to rejection! At the end of the day, they’re just people with opinions, and they’re as likely to be wrong as we are (and I’m wrong a lot, if I’m honest with myself!) Good luck with the next one and the spring is almost here … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Great post. When the winter greyness lightens a little we can all look forward to a brighter spring, and your energy will return I’m sure to help you write and be as positive as you really are. Never give up, and rejection comes with the territory of being a writer, so we have to develop a thick skin. Good luck with getting your novel out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You are a beautiful person with a good life. Don’t wallow in anything. I can see that from the outside looking into your life. I also suffer from seasonal depression. Sometimes, we need someone to remind us of how special we truly are.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What an uplifting article! As I also am affected by seasonal blahs, your wise words really hit home. We just returned from a combination family business trip/vacation in a lovely, warm place. Even though duties took up more of our time than we would have liked, the beautiful backdrop made everything worth it. Now that we are back in our northern home, it is time to put this trip in the happy memory category and return to our normal routines. Your post is what I need to get back on track.

    Thank you for liking my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Good morning Jenny,
    I’m dipping into your blog again as I drink my morning cup of tea. This post gave me more of an insight into who you are, what you do and how you feel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I had no idea you do all the things you do and I am still amazed at how you find the time to achieve so much and still carefully listen to others. The picture of one of my favourite blogpals (you), the one who inspires me to chase all the words running round my head, catch them and set them free, is becoming clearer. And it’s a pretty picture.
    Sending you lots of sunshine from the west of France. Hopefully it’s sunny now where you are too.
    Juliet

    Like

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