I’ve written this phrase so many times in the last eleven months, but it’s one of the truest and simplest mantras in life after losing somebody: Grief is not linear.
Right now, I feel lonelier than I’ve felt during this entire season of grief. In the months after Alyssa’s death, I was inundated with support. I was checked on constantly and people were kinder and gentler than normal (understandably so). Due to my proclivity to try to avoid being in a negative or pouty mood in front of others, I’ve been less open about my struggles in person recently. It isn’t a total façade; I genuinely feel better in the company of others and my extroverted personality flourishes when with others. With that being said, I’ve been less forthcoming when in a sad mood. I should be more careful with myself. When I’m not in a great mood, I should inform others that I’m having a hard time and I want to sulk (I believe sulking can be beneficial in small doses). Instead, I sometimes rush out of these bad moods, leading me to sometimes neglect the full spectrum of emotions I should allow myself to experience.
To compound my grief, I despise winter. Or at least I think I do. I don’t actually despise the cold or everything about the winter. What I despise most is the lack of sunlight, though I do appreciate the gloomy days. Today’s a gloomy day and I’m enjoying writing during this evening. It’s 6:15pm and the sun is mostly set. I’m looking outside the front windows of my house, the trees appearing as silhouettes against a backdrop of that late winter bluish-grey sky with freezing rain falling. There’s no doubt that I’m better suited for the summer – something I swear is genetically inherited. I enjoy the sun and blistering hot long summer days (I don’t enjoy sweating in nice clothes though!). Honestly, I love all the seasons, each with their own quirks that I admire and dislike.
The biggest issue for me has always been what I once saw derisively termed “JanuFeb.” It’s during these months that the Midwestern climate never seems to figure itself out. The spectrum of weather possibilities ranges from freezing cold days with no snow, chilly days with snow or freezing rain, or even spring-like “perfect” days where the temperature sprawls into the sixties and even sometimes seventies. This inconsistency drives me nuts. I long for spring days, even rainy days. I adore seeing people seemingly sprouting from their winter slumps, mimicking the newly sprouted flowers recovering from the winter chills. Now, JanuFeb carries added significance: It was these months that were Alyssa’s last, the universe or God or whatever else not even allowing her to live her final days in the season she loved the most. Maybe I should reframe my perspective. It was unlikely I’d ever like JanuFeb nearly as much as the other months, so now that these months will forever carry those difficult feelings I experienced in 2018 should magnify my disdain for them. I don’t like harboring these feelings, but I find it difficult to view them in any other way.
My depression seems to mirror the sun. While almost always present, my depression is worse during the months where the sun shows up the least. This isn’t exactly surprising: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a well-documented seasonal depression possibly linked to Vitamin D deficiency. I can remember in high school when I first noticed how I felt so much differently during the winter. My taste in music differs wildly, my demeanor is certainly different, and I almost feel like a different person entirely. I ache during these months of a miserable loneliness, where I feel my world and life is one nobody else has ever experienced. To some degree, that’s true, but in the way that that’s true of everybody else. We’re all navigating paths never walked before. I try to rationalize where I have to move forward, knowing no path is traveled to the point where it’s easy to navigate. I know I “should” not feel lonely, as if how we “should” feel even matters. Anxiety and loneliness are rational emotions that can be manifested in irrational ways. Most people that feel these emotions to a debilitating degree know they are not rational; I’m aware I have unrelenting support. It just doesn’t always feel like it. (I hope this doesn’t imply I don’t appreciate the support I have because I very sincerely do.)
In this metaphor, I dearly want to walk this path with my head held high and clear eyes. Instead, I feel like I’m limping down this wearing a blindfold, tripping over every twig in the way, sometimes reaching creeks that resemble rivers, other times needing to turn around and change my path completely.
Maybe that’s what it’s important. None of us are walking the paths that others think we are walking. As I feel the weight of my despair, I wake up every single day and try to seek out insights from the world, as scary as it can be. Some days it’s unbearable, other days it goes along a bit more smoothly. The path of life is one we all walk, until one day we reach our final destination. I don’t know what my destination is, but I’m going to keep on walking.