Friday, October 31, 2014

October Blues

I always thought I liked fall, aside from that whole back-to-school nonsense. The heat of summer is no longer a threat, and western Oregon can be singularly lovely at this time of year. It's fun to get out your sweaters again. Rainy days can be an excuse to curl up and be cozy. But I've been thinking a lot about October lately, and I've started to wonder if maybe it just isn't my month.

In October 2013, I was in Portland, coming down hard from the high of two years of travel. I totaled my car, which I'd become very attached to in the course of my road trip, and received news that a dear friend died too young. Meanwhile, overhead loomed the spectre of this epic writing assignment I'd set up for myself. How was I going to begin?

In October 2012, I stayed with beloved friends in Nashville while they prepared for, experienced, and mourned the death of a family member. I grieved with them, my heart still raw from the loss of another friend the previous month.

In October 2011, I was in Los Angeles, where plans fell through and I struggled to connect with communities to write about. It took weeks to find a spot on a tall ship, and when I did, the crew and administrative staff were prickly and tricky to work with.



It's hard to sort out previous Octobers from the unhappy blur of a career that didn't fit me, but I have enough evidence to suggest a pattern here. This year's October has brought a bad cold and a lot of gray days, but no major tragedies or stresses. Yet other aspects of the pattern continue. I'm still feeling stuck and discouraged and insecure. I'm still asking questions like "What's wrong with me?" and "Why is everything so hard?" I'm still experiencing low energy, lingering illness, trouble sleeping at night and getting up in the morning. I still want to spend most of the month in bed.

And I'm still, as in the past three Octobers, surrounded by kind and supportive friends, and leaning hard on their grace. I'm still given more than my share of bright moments and beauty: small gifts of comfort and delight, which remind me to look for brighter days. I'm still (mostly) aware that this discomfort, too, shall pass.


Occasionally, in darker moments, I allow myself to wonder, "Do I have an actual psychological problem? Is there a drug for this?" There may well be something I could swallow that would inject more gusto into my days, something that could carry me over this Swamp of Sadness without getting my feet muddy. As tempting as that sounds -- and with all respect to those who really do need drugs -- I don't want to miss my chance to learn what this time has to teach me. A similar malaise once led me to seek, to question, to re-evaluate my choices and, ultimately, to launch myself out of my comfort zone and into a new life. Who knows what gifts this gloomy season may have in store?


I grew up in a house where Hallowe'en was a bad word. It was a time when other people inexplicably celebrated the worst things: Fear, Evil, Death, and Sugar. In more recent years, I've learned how fitting it is that this season has a holy day for mocking and embracing our mortality, for looking our fears in the eye and laughing at ourselves, for sitting with the darkness and saying, This too is part of life.

16 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. I'm sorry this is a hard time for you.

    My old naturopath (masters degree TCM) insists that October is supposed to be a sad, low, grief-filled time/season as the very earth itself, even the light is dying. She thinks it is a time for cocooning, self-reflection and letting those who love you care for you. She say when we try to behave 'normally' during this downtime and create all sorts of physical and mental stress which leads to colds, depression and malaise. Her take away is that if you slow down and really take gentle, restful care in October-November then you're more in synch and when the heat of the summer and all it's excitement arrives, it's more tolerable and you experience more joy.

    While that sounds hokey as can be, I see it too often to write it off entirely.

    In my family Halloween was from the devil. I had to sit in the cloakroom for all the crafts and parties at school as to avoid the occult. So I'm really bad at Halloween. I just don't have much history with it.

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    1. Thank you, Nicole. Wise words there, hokey or no. I want to be aware of these rhythms in myself and plan my life accordingly. Sometimes it's hard to get life to slow down when you need it to, though!

      I totally get being "bad at Halloween." I freeze up every time I even think of trying to come up with a costume. :)

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    1. I'm pleased to hear it, J. Thanks for reading, and for the signal boost.

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  3. I am also encouraged by this.

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    1. I am encouraged by your encouragedness! Thanks for letting me know, Boone. :)

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  4. So many wisdom paths speak of the "dark night of the soul". We are invited to not fear it, but rather to befriend the dark and learn what our shadow side has to teach us.

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    1. Wise words, Bonnie. Thank you for reading!

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    1. It's not always easy, is it? I'm glad you get where I'm coming from. :)

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  6. We interrupt all this depth and spiritual wisdom to share the following observation: "Who knows what gifts this gloomy season may have in store?" ...Followed by a picture of a big glass of wine. Coincidence? ha ha ha

    You're all right though--it is normal for lots of people to get the blues this time of year. I would too, I suppose, except I'm usually too busy attempting to work mortal harm on large, hoofed mammals to think much about it. Perhaps both hunting season and the NFL were originally devised as a way to get through the Autumn slump.

    Hang in there. We're all pulling for you.

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    1. Thank you, Tom.

      Haha. I did have some qualms about putting the wine photo immediately after "There may well be something I could swallow that would inject more gusto into my days...." :) But you called it -- the warmth of that photo was indeed intended to illustrate some "gifts of the season": nourishment, fellowship, celebration, communion. To be fair, it's hard to get a sense of scale in that shot... but it was actually a very very small glass of wine!

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  7. Lindsey, Thank you for sharing this lovely piece of yourself. What you wrote resonated with me, no doubt because I struggle with SAD. After living in Western Oregon for 20 years one would think that I would have become accustomed to this season, but no. The lack of energy and crushing apathy make life difficult, at times nearly impossible. In the past I have turned to prescription medications, but discovered that they simply blunted the peaks and valleys of my life - not a pleasant trade-off. As someone else suggested, I use my light therapy, make myself get outside when it isn't raining, and try to find my way to the sunlight every winter. I wish you (and all of us) sunshine and wellness.

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    1. Thank you, Kate. I feel for you, and really appreciate your comments.

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  8. It should be a verb:

    "octobered"

    of coarse that resembles octobreed, which probably isnt good either.

    yep, we all got a bit octobered here along with you - - love you.

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    1. Octoblued? :( My heart has definitely been with you all, even though my fingers failed to communicate.

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