Welcoming Darkness: A Different Approach To Winter Blues
I have dreaded winter for years now, because with it comes a certain darkness that makes me feel restless. It starts at the end of autumn and I feel it creeping up on me, like a shadow growing bigger as days grow shorter. This year I set an intention to appreciate this season, to find the beauty in it, and I did all the things they recommend you do to beat winter blues. But the shadow came anyway.
Then I thought: What if, instead of trying to “beat it”, I embrace it?
We often think of winter as a season to rest and gather energy, to go inwards and reflect. I’m an introvert and, as much as I love my friends, all year round I need alone time to recharge and make sense of the world, but this need is stronger in winter. And what happens when we sit alone, go inwards and reflect?
Things come up. All sorts of things. All the dark, murky things we don’t want to look at.
[It’s not a coincidence I wrote and recorded this poem in December six years ago. Whatever we suppress comes back, over and over until we finally decide to face it and heal it].
I believe winter just makes it easier for us to face our demons, whatever we need to heal or change in our lives. It helps us get in touch with our true feelings and identify the things that don’t serve us. It makes us admit to ourselves what we truly want and don’t want. It reconnects us with the truth, and the truth is always uncomfortable. Sometimes it hurts, even. Often, it’s scary, because it asks of us that we change. And so we look away until we sum up the courage to do what our soul is asking for.
I wrote about these moments of truth last winter:
Some days feel unreal, like a dream within a dream. Some days start with a sunrise that looks like something out of a fairy tale. And some days what normally feels real becomes unreal. Some days you have a moment of clarity that lasts seconds, but in those seconds you feel like you've just woken up and you look around in amazement and ask yourself: What am I doing?
And then you know. You know it's supposed to be different and that you're just going with the motions because that's what we all do. But something awakens within you in that moment and the glimpse of possibility stirs you. And if you don't listen to that whisper, if you don't respond to that nudge because what's familiar is safe even if it crushes your mind and spirit, this part of you waits for the next moment to nudge you again. And again. And again. And if it takes a thousand sunrises to remind you that everything is possible, the sun will rise a thousand times.
One of the keys to happiness is feeling gratitude for the good in our lives, but I think we must also pay attention to the darkest parts in ourselves. If something keeps nudging us, if we keep having this uncomfortable feeling in an area of our life, it’s because we need something to change. Let us not dismiss that voice. We are not being unreasonable or unrealistic. We know, we know (even if only fleetingly at times) something doesn’t align with our values, and we must address it.
This shadow that comes to visit me every winter is not an enemy but an ally. It taps my shoulder and whispers: Remember. It points at the things I’ve drowned with distractions, things I’ve procrastinated on. It tells me the truth. The bare-bones truth.
Inner work is a balancing act. We need to reach for the light but we have to learn to be comfortable with the darkness too. All the emotions both sides offer are needed. They’re all messengers that guide us in our quest for our inner truth. And I’ll let you in a little secret: As soon as we accept the darkness instead of fighting it, it becomes less heavy, less scary, less dark.
It is, after all, part of us, part of life, part of the beautiful duality of this universe.