Happiness has been eluding me lately, as it often does at this time of year. Most years, in the late fall, as we move deeper into darkness, I feel something heavy settle upon me. A touch of seasonal affect disorder and a predisposition toward depression coupled with the mania of the Christmas season combine to create a noxious cocktail for my psyche, leaving me with a strong desire to hunker down indoors, not emerge until the new year.
This is not a full blown depression, but a slow plummeting arc. I grow more existential. Everything seems damp and muted, as if covered in gauze. I perceive myself at an acute angle to the world, shrunken and contracted. I’m not my best, most scintillating self; conversation feels labored, and my wit deserts me. I’m more self-absorbed, less patient, more brittle. I sigh more, I cry more, I vacuum more.
My season of despair reaches its nadir on January 2, which is my wedding anniversary. Our engagement was fraught, with our families behaving badly throughout. One date was set and cancelled, leaving David and I bewildered, with many empty bottles of bourbon and a strong desire to elope. The whole affair culminated in fisticuffs and a visit from the police the night before our wedding at our rehearsal dinner. They were exciting times, and when the wedding was over, we were more than happy to be left the fuck alone to the comparatively dull business of marriage.
As good as the intervening years have been to me, I am a ruminative type. The past is like an old injury; although it healed long ago, when the weather gets damp, I feel a familiar dull, nagging ache, and every year afresh, I’m left to confront my upper-middle white trash family history.
So when I woke on January 3 I felt a tiny shiver of something, a slight shift, so subtle as to possibly a figment of my imagination. I quieted myself down to listen carefully, there it was, faint but audible, like a threading pulse: joy. I savored it until it dissipated.
My mood moves along an unsteady trajectory. Some days I have stretches of contentment, or even elation, and others these feelings elude me entirely. I’ve grown adept at riding these waves and being patient with myself. Like the seasons, this too will pass.