Everything's gray and chilly these days.
My soul feels a little that way too.
There are bright spots, of course. My times in the Word. Finishing up Project 365 for 2009 and looking back over all the ordinary moments, and a few standouts, from the year. Last night's Rose Bowl -- not the outcome, of course, but the drama of watching an untested freshman fumble to fill big shoes and eventually redeem himself, the words Colt McCoy spoke after the game, the friends we watched it with (in person and on Facebook!), and the delicious tomato soup we consumed. Meeting Raji, one of my faithful blog readers, for the first time in person this morning. A fresh year with new possibilities. The prospect of a date with the Professor this weekend.
Also. In the last couple weeks, we've interacted with a few people whose life struggles have made the temptation to pity myself seems a bit preposterous. I'm thankful for full use of my limbs, for a emotionally healthy and physically present husband, for wonderful friends.
Still. January is difficult, every year. With most of our regularly scheduled commitments on hiatus, days can go by of just the kids and me. As much as I love these vocal creatures, I start to feel hemmed in. I think I've been with them pretty much nonstop for the past month. What is it about being with young children that can be so genuinely, miraculously delightful and yet -- if we be completely honest -- also so fraying to one's nerves, so inducing of psychological torpor, so that you wonder whether your real self, the self with a ready smile or laugh or hey, even a feeling of effectiveness, might be hibernating in a deep winter cave?
A few years ago, I bumped into a sweet friend while I was struggling with the three of them in the Central Market parking lot. Knowing that she came from a family of five, I asked her whether her mom ever seemed to experience stress.
"Oh, sure!" she replied airily, "One time she locked herself in her room for two days straight and read Gone with the Wind. We'd be pounding on the door complaining of being hungry, and she'd remind us where the fixings for peanut butter and jelly were." Seeing my surprised face, she grinned and added without a trace of sarcasm. "What can I say? I had a happy childhood!"
Have I told that story before? Thinking of it always makes me feel better. And after lunch today, I decided that it would not harm my children's psyches for me to announce that I was going to take a vacation in my room for a while. Now, two hours later, I hear them giggling like crazy while making videos of each other. So, the wounds apparently run deep.
Reading through the Little House on the Prairie series with the kids over the years has often given me an urge to interview Ma Ingalls. I so want to hear her side of the story, to know what it really was like for her to be out on the prairie or deep in the woods with small children, no money or neighbors, and no respite from the daily drudgery. What about those long, long winter days that confined her to the snowbound cabin? In her daughter's portrayal, Ma is always complacent, always optimistic, always full of aphorisms like "All's well that ends well," or breathless excitement over -- heaven! -- panes of real glass for her windows. The woman was made of sturdy stuff, to be sure. But I can't help but think she had her moments.
Don't worry, folks. I'm fully aware that this too shall pass. But I'm just keepin' it real. And if you ever feel a hint of the January blues, know you've got a friend in me.