This is a difficult time of year for me. Tonight, sunset in Boston will be 5:33pm. Tomorrow, when daylight saving ends, it will be 4:32. The sun will set while I still have an hour and a half at work. By the end of December it will set while the children I nanny and I are making our way home from school. We won’t get back to a 5:30 sunset till the end of February. Almost four months. Four months of driving home in the dark. Four months of eating dinner with darkened windows. Darkness is descending, not just over me, not in certain places, but over the whole city, the whole country, and it feels huge and out of my control.
There are little things I can do, of course, and I do them diligently. Rituals, exercises, both of the body and the spirit. I light candles. I try to pause every evening when the sun sets, to mark the transition, to make it feel like something I am a part of rather than something that is happening to me. I stretch out on my yoga mat, meditate and pray, breathing in the presence of the Spirit. I try to make friends with the darkness. I learn to walk in it, and try to be open to its gifts and its lessons.
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a book called Learning to Walk in the Dark. It is about times of depression or doubt, but she also undertakes a literal examination of darkness, of what it means to move about in it. She writes,
I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.
I believe this is true. But it doesn’t make it easier to face dark nights, either those of the soul, or spirit, or the revolution of the sun (combined with coastlines and country-lines that force Boston into the wrong time zone). So I prepare myself, and I work hard to make sure I have the tools at hand I’ll need, my emotional and spiritual flashlights and night lights.
But I grieve, too. I weep today, watching this last 5:30 sunset from my window. And I want to hold space for others who weep. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects different people in different ways, but it is widespread. And if you are already dealing with depression it can be compounded by the season and the time change. If you are weeping today, whether because of the earth’s coming darkness or because of darkness in your heart, I see you. You are not alone. I’ll weep with you and honor your sorrow, and then I’ll light my candles for you with hope and trust. Hold on. You are not alone. We might have trouble seeing each other here, in the night, but there are many of us. Light a candle for me, too, so I can see you. We will make it through together.
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