November can be a rotten time of the year. The clocks go back, and it’s suddenly as if winter has arrived overnight. The one blissful morning of having an extra hour in bed is simply a herald of darker evenings to come, ever decreasing daylight hours and an impending sense of lethargy.
Winter blues are normal
Academic studies suggest it is completely normal for us to experience anything from increased listlessness to clinical depression. Thankfully, most of us suffer from the milder effects of the bleak, grey skies and colder temperatures.
Typically, it seems that we just all feel a bit sad. As a result, this is also the time of year when the media is full of tips on how to beat these ‘winter blues’.
This article is not one of them.
If you can’t beat them …
I’m more interested in what happens if, instead of trying to ‘beat’ the feeling of melancholy, we instead look it right in the face and let it all in?
I don’t mean to trivialise the seriousness of some people’s condition at this time of year, but I want to explore what happens if we, as Yeats puts it at the end of ‘The Circus Animal’s Desertion’, “Lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”
We not only acknowledge we’re feeling low, but explore what we are feeling, even if it can be uncomfortable to rummage around in there. It is admittedly a rather scary thought – like looking over the edge of a precipice.
Reminder of humanity
Nevertheless, welcoming melancholy can ironically enough lead to a way out of it. Embracing sadness with an acceptance – that we know the feeling is a temporary one and that this feeling will pass – can lead to a calm acceptance. Our emotions are messengers after all – if we don’t explore them, the message will be lost.
The fact that we’re so susceptible to the changing of the seasons, sunlight and warmth also just reminds us that we’re human, merely sparks of consciousness moving around in a meat-covered skeleton, interconnected to everything around us.
Seen from that perspective, the long winter evenings bring us a chance to reflect, and any opportunity for that is a gift to be welcomed.