Yesterday evening, I held Wyatt by the window as the first snowfall came in. It was adorable. He was slapping the window, gasping like a baby chimp. To him, this is a new world of crazy. To him, sparkling diamonds are descending from the sky, streams of flickers in the dark. To him, this is some kind of wonderland. To me, this is heartbreaking and awful.
There are a lot of different winters out there. Some are pleasant. My uncle, for instance, said that in DC they’ll get an onslaught of snow that will draw out all the neighborhood kids, boys and girls scurrying up hills and bombing down on trash can lids, having late night snowball fights and snow angels and snowmen, “and the best part,” he said, “it’s all gone the next day. It’s too warm for it to stay here.”
Not in Minnesota. Here, winter is not a come and go kind of gal. Here, winter is a vampire fresh out the coffin and she’s thirsty. Starved, for our sadness, stimulated, in our struggle, and she goes about playfully painting the world in bleakness, freezing our roads to black ice, stealing all the heat out the air, making us so cold that our cheeks are red with insulating blood, and its’ like she’s sucking the life right out of us. Except, she goes slow, decidedly slow.
I look out the window at the seemingly harmless flakes making Wyatt laugh, and I know she’s just limbering up.
For a thousand reasons, I hate winter, but the biggest is because when I was already depressed, she made it worse. She seemed to goad me along in the darkness, leading me lower and lower with her persuasive sense of tragedy. And what might’ve been manageable in summer, was an impossibility in winter, as she convinced me to wade in deep until I couldn’t touch the bottom.
And it’s all a bit surprising how much it is hitting me now. I’m in a fairly good place in life, healthy emotionally and set in a new job that I kind of love. The old problems that winter once exacerbated are resolved, and there is no deep cause for sad, but still… the effects, distant echoes of long ago pain, come roaring back with the cold winds, amassing like the snow outside my door, leaving me with no return address. No one to blame but the sky.
Just the other day, I worked with one six year old that turned out to be more horrifying than any angry teenager I’ve known. In a locked room along with another teacher, we let him unhinge: flipping tables, throwing chairs at the wall, sniping pencils at us like we were dartboards.
I said, are you done? He replied, fuck off, bitch.
Six years old.
At one point, exhausted, I got down on a knee, gently put my hands on his shoulders to say something, but before I could he spit on me. I searched his face in disbelief, looking for some regret or fear in this little man, but all I saw was resolute eyes. So cold and severe for a six year old.
After ten more minutes of kicking and screaming, I heard my tired companion, his teacher, mutter a question that should have been blaring through my mind from the start. Who taught you this?
I am very cold in Minnesota, but I am not the only one. Instead of throwing my head beneath the pillow, drawing the blinds, ignoring everything around me, I need to spend some time being aware of this. I need to rise up, seek out, snatch rocks into my hands and slam them and slam them and slam them until some sparks of hope alleviate the weight of this season.
I need to be the first person to a kid who has never thought of humans as people with hearts and feelings and dignity. I really need to get to my email inbox, it’s stacked through the roof and daunting when I approach it, effectively making me see blessings of people wanting to connect as burdens. I need to see that this whole Seasonal Affective Disorder is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that we wall off the dark winter to keep away the sad, but we also wall off everyone else. Leaving us completely alone. And sad.
And that’s exactly what winter wants. To steal my joy, peace and health while I think I am escaping her wrath. While I think I have hid from her, the unspoken truth is, I’ve been playing into her game all along.
Winter is the calculating maniac taking us all down a notch. Be it the season of the year of the season of the soul. It is the laughing face peering down on your brokenness. It is the bully that meets you as soon as you step out the door. Winter is wearing away at all of us, none more or less than the other.
But maybe, if I stop seeing her closing in around me, stop believing in the strength of cold, I could smash this glass, wave a torch in the dark, be the glow at the end for fellow sojourners steeling themselves for this abominable eternity. Hoping that this time, it might not be so damn much. This time, it might be some kind of miracle.