I’ve been seeing a lot of talk lately about these short days of winter, how the sudden darkness catches us off guard, triggers some primal urge to hibernate, makes some of our brains turn to sad mush and others settle into a restful routine. Now that the winter solstice has come and gone, many of us are looking forward to the lengthening days, however slowly they may come. It is a dark season, but it is as natural as the tides. We all know on some level that it will pass.
These past few months have been a dark season in my life, but one that felt abnormal, unsettling. I was already uneasy, struggling to repress my feelings about my grandma’s transition to hospice care. And then, as September gave way to October, the darkness flooded all the way in. As I walked from one end of our tiny studio apartment to the other, planning to scrounge around in the kitchen for ingredients to bake brownies, I stepped in it. Water. Along the edge of the kitchen floor, forming a pool inside of the pantry, and worst of all, creeping out from under our bed (I told you our place was small).
After that, everything seemed to happen all at once. We never spent more than a week in one place. First my parents’ house, then a temporary unit, and finally a new apartment. Our old studio was declared uninhabitable due to mold, and that was before the flooding. From being ordered to move half of all our belongings and our entire kitchen overnight, to being threatened with the possibility of returning to the aforementioned uninhabitable apartment, we hardly had a moment to rest.
With the stress of being completely uprooted came a breakdown of physical health. Our weak points exposed, we took turns falling apart. First Noor’s heart and then my neck. It felt like we would never catch a break. The entire time, my anxiety was at an all-time high. But a long-planned trip to Istanbul promised that better things were on the horizon. And things were better during our week abroad. Upon our return, we both promptly got sick, but in time we managed to recover.
December seemed to pass by gently, promising an end to our desperate search for peace and stability. But the dark season was not quite finished with us yet. All of the stress of moving constantly and being left behind during our trip finally caught up with our poor cat. One morning, after getting back from a weekend away, we came into the living room to find her hiding in a corner, looking disheveled and refusing to make eye contact. The moment I tried to help her stand, only for her to stumble and collapse back into bed, my heart broke apart. The next couple of days felt like a week. Waiting, hoping, dreading, and waiting some more. Leaving her at the overnight ER and coming home to an empty apartment felt so wrong. It turns out her stress caused multiple illnesses to flare up at once. She is back home and healing now, but it’s been hard not to live in fear of the next bad thing.
I expressed this anxiety to my husband, this sense of being caught off guard. It almost felt like if I settled back into some kind of normalcy, or started enjoying life again, the universe would smack me in the face with a heavy dose of dark reality. After some thought and a lot of discussion, he said this to me: “The good and the bad are not causative. Unlink them. When people say, Look at the good that came out of the bad thing, it sounds nice but it’s not true. Good things happen and bad things happen. Separate them so you don’t allow the bad memories to taint all the good ones. Otherwise, during the good times you’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. And don’t you want to be present for the good times?”
And that’s just the thing. Life will never be all good or all bad. When a good thing abruptly gives way to a bad thing, it is not some kind of divine punishment for letting my guard down. The ebb and flow of difficulty and ease, of dark seasons and light, is the only guarantee. Seasons, no matter how dark, are transitional by nature. The only constant is you. You don’t need to glean some deep wisdom or inspiration from hard times if you don’t want to. You can just reflect on the fact that after all of the darkness and difficulty, you’re still here. As someone who struggles with severe depression, and often with the general concept of staying alive, I have to remember that existence is an achievement in itself. It’s okay to just survive the dark season, waiting for the inevitable change. I don’t know when this dark season will finally ease, but when the light breaks through at last (and it will), I hope I can quell my fearful thoughts enough to step outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face.