Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't let winter blues make you SAD

I have friends who go white knuckled in January as they clinch through the short, dreary days until March – and SPRING to be exact.

They hate the short days, the cold weather, the limited sunshine, gray skies and chapped hands that come with January, February and most of March.  I used to wonder at this hate-the-winter syndrome, but not anymore.  I’m getting more white knuckled every day.

The scientific term for these winter blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). That’s appropriate. 

Scientists say usually sufferers of SAD are particularly sensitive to light or the lack of it. They say to replace lost sunlight with artificial light, the earlier in the morning the better. Winter depression may also involve brain chemicals, ions in the air and genetics. They say to take vitamins with D3, and hey, get over it. (They didn’t say that, I did.)

I Googled winter blues and found out that symptoms can mimic signs of other forms of depression:
  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability
I’m getting SAD just looking at this list.
My unscientific theory is that it’s just dreary, cold, even in the South, where we rush for bread and milk at the hint of snow flurries. After college football season and the holidays, what’s there to look forward to? The bills from Christmas, fitting into your fat clothes (because of the holidays), tax preparation and knowing it will be weeks until spring (and then it might not really be spring).  The only positive I can think of is (this is for the ladies): you can wear cute boots if you have some.  Winter cons: 111; winter pros: 1.

I’d bet most people’s least favorite months are January and February.  What’s to like? Valentine’s Day is thrown in there, fun when you had a crush in grammar school, but a retailer holiday now that doesn’t help much if you have the frigid funkies. Forgot to buy a card? More chocolate? You spent WHAT for those flowers?


I’m not saying I’ve got these winter blues, at least not a full blown case of them. However, being home most of the time, finding my place in retirement, freelancing and job-seeking land, the cold, the gray, the wind, the fleeting daylight do not help.  It’s just blah, blah, blah, and to top it off, we are having a real winter -- like 20 degree lows for days on end, in Alabama!

At least the mosquitoes will die back, we say to each other. Don’t believe it for a minute.

But, you know, the sun still shines some days, (like it is today, a sunny freezing cold) and an occasional day comes at us like it’s a fall or spring day . When this happens, we sometimes-maybe-winter-blues-sufferers need to run outside and stand in the sunshine. Maybe we should twirl around in circles or dance a dance while we’re at it.

My Elvis calendar tells me we have 56 days until the first day of spring.  Spring begins March 20 this year, as the world turns and tilts and brings the sun back closer to our side of the earth. Thanks for that, and thanks for the days when we can pretend it’s autumn or spring.

In the meantime, stand in the light, some artificial light inside or streaming sunshine if you can find it, and yes, in the light of friends and family, if they’re still speaking to us, after our winter blues.

Song of the day:
Summer Days, by Bob Dylan

“Well, my back has been to the wall for so long, it seems like it’s stuck
Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck….

….Summer days, summer nights are gone
Summer days, summer nights are gone
I know a place where there’s still somethin’ going on

Picture of the day:
Cardinals in snow, in my backyard,
several years ago.
Bet they don't have the blues.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On learning to win and lose; goodbye 2013

Considering that last time I posted here, I took University of Alabama (aka Bammers) to task about knowing how to lose without violence or threats, and considering that Auburn University (aka Barners) just lost a heartbreaker to Florida State, it’s only fair to note that loss.

We lost, on the biggest stage possible. It was close (which counts in horseshoes and hand grenades), but we lost.  We accept it. We’ll win again, and we’ll  lose again.

As football began in September after we had to cut down the poisoned Auburn oaks and after the disaster of the 2012 football season, we’d never ever would have believed then that we’d beat Bama, win the SEC and compete for the national championship. We are a proud Auburn family and look forward to next year.

We are disappointed but still proud, with no violence that I know of and no Twitter threats to kicker Cody Parkey for the missed field goal attempt. He saved the Tigers many more times than not. I like what Coach (of the year) Gus Malzahn told his team: sometimes you learn more from adversity than from winning.

After the year that was 2013, I know that’s true.

Even with the Tigers’ turnaround season of destiny in 2013, I’ve never been more glad to say goodbye to a year. 2013 began with emergency room visits following son's knee surgery and then staph (10 days to diagnose) and then a blood clot, Nurse Jackie on 24-hour unprepared duty, then two more surgeries before a surgeon change and God’s grace repaired most of the damage to son Will’s knee (see

2013 ended with a walking son, a winning team and a list of things to be grateful for and to do better at in 2014.

Never good at resolutions, I’ll instead just promise to one day soon make a to-be-kept list of things I hope to do in 2014, starting with being grateful for making it through 2013 and for the knowledge that it could have been (and always can be) so much worse than what we complain and woe-is-me about.

Someday soon, I’m share my list, including my fiction class’s group resolution to write every day.
I’ll let you know how it’s going with:

  • Posting here weekly
  • Revising a chapter a day of “Mojo Jones and the Black Bone” (or at least a chapter every other day…);
  • Getting on that dusty Total Gym;
  • Signing up for that Yoga class;
  • Finishing the three paragraphs that was going to be my first short story (or novella/memoir);
  • Finding part-time or even full-time work doing what I do;
  • Being more patient with everything and everybody;
  • Being more grateful for everything and everybody;
  • Letting my light shine (brighter).
Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if any of my fellow Auburn fans got above their raising and didn’t handle the loss well (I haven’t seen any evidence of such), then I apologize.

And, to 2013, good riddance. You didn’t break us. We just bent a little.

Welcome to 2014, our clean slate. Anything’s possible. The Auburn Tigers proved that.

Let’s not forget the lessons we learned, the blessings (disguised and otherwise) we received, and the joy of knowing we all get a new day every day.

Song of the day:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want
By The Rolling Stones, (1969) written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

“You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find
You get what you need.”

Picture of the day:

War Eagle sunset at our Wild Kingdom