The Prelude to Comfort and Joy

Photo by brickrena/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by brickrena/iStock / Getty Images

Many people claim that the holidays are a tough time for them, especially when they’re alone, find themselves far away from home, or have not-so-fond memories of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. For me, it’s the lead-up to the holidays, the gray zone of November and early December, when it hasn’t quite snowed yet but most of the trees are bare and remind me of arthritic hands. If I’ve ever thought of myself as a well-adjusted person, all the weather has to do is remain grey, and suddenly I want to rent out a sizable rock to crawl under until it’s time to put up decorations.

As much as I like to partake in a variety of holiday festivities, I’m not what you’d call a true, blue die-hard. No feverish Xmas countdowns or full-grown man elf will appear anywhere on my social media newsfeeds. The holidays, for me, are more about the light, both literally and figuratively. My anxiety-riddled brain seems to rebel when the hours get shorter and shorter and there’s a certain existential dread that washes over me. I find it harder to take in those little moments of joy during the day and I can’t wait to get home to drown myself in wine and mediocre television series.

The minute the soft glow of holiday lights start lining the streets, and glittery decal can spotted in just about every storefront, it somehow counteracts my ennui.  I’ve wept outside holiday displays for no good reason, where little mice under floorboards are being tucked into bed on Christmas Eve. I’ve reveled in the glimmer of a beautiful menorah. I’ve rejoiced in the light that is reflected off of heaps of snow, and would welcome a mammoth snowstorm over a splash of winter rain.

I’ve never been tested for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I know I’m not the only one who finds the slow descent into winter tough. It seems to me that we all retreat further into ourselves around this time of year. I live with my fiancée and come home to a warm meal and a sweet gray house cat. My life is filled with plenty of friends and books to ignite my imagination and transport me from this northern climate. Still, with the ammunition of a relatively happy life, I find it no match for the fear that the darkness will one day swallow me whole. I know it’s just a fear, but it’s potent when it brews inside my head for too long.

The artificial light is both a distraction and a promise. It signals that in less than a week's time, I will get on a bus and travel the six hours home to Montreal to visit my parents. I will wake up to an old, diabetic Yorkshire terrier at my feet named Roxy, she will hop onto my lap and snort, making me feel whole again. I will listen to my father talk about his tennis buddies, and watch my mother knit another hat for me in lime green yarn. I will wear it no matter what it ends up looking like. My brother will talk too loud and I will love him for it. I will mockingly roll my eyes at him with his wife, but we both know deep down that we wouldn’t be complete without him. I will try on my wedding dress while chugging back eggnog and hope that I can still fit into it by June of next year. I will silently thank the universe for allowing me to lean on my family, time and time again. I will wait for my fiancée to join us and he will see a subtle change in my face, lines easing from the number of hours I’ve spent staring into the family fireplace. Light therapy in its most basic form.

Now, just to get through the rest of the week.  I tell myself that I have to resist making excuses.  That I have to urge myself to walk outside even when my bones feel chilled, or show up to parties even when I find myself more easily distracted and less in the mood to talk. To resist overfilling myself on coffee and croissants, thinking they could magically protect me from my worries. To resist falling asleep at 7pm because it feels much easier than staying awake.  I joke with coworkers that I’ve got a case of the ‘Pre-Holiday Blahs’, package it up in a way that can be easily understood. Because what exactly is the truth? That I’m a full-grown woman who’s still afraid of the dark? I’d rather hum underneath my breath “let it glow, let it glow, let it glow” until someone answers my plea.