Emotional Weather

November 16, 2003

I spent most of yesterday writing, with a break to go plant bulbs. I was, as I am this morning, somewhat alone with my work while J and baby did other things in the house. I had a good morning, revising chapter three again and printing it out again. I should be able to send it to my advisor on Monday.

Later today J and I are going to sit down and work up a menu for Thanksgiving and then send out an email to friends and family telling them what to bring. We are doing a semi-pot-luck Thanksgiving for 11, including both sets of parents, both brothers, some extended family, but not my sister from Albequerque. We will cook the turkey, other people will bring side dishes. It will be a lot of fun. It will also be a hassle, especially because J's father and his wife are coming early and camping out on our sleep sofa.

Reading other blogs, I see that I am not the only one thinking about the holidays. DW is feeling insecure about an emotional attachment and is sad because she has no one to go to parties with. Sarah Hatter is broken up because she is not going home for Thanksgiving. I like reading what DW and Sarah write; they are both wonderful writers and, like me, they both have a strong loner tendency.

The holidays are hard. They are a time for family and festivity, and yet family is stressful. They are a time when the ambient media clutter turns to tunes of joy and saccharine love, and yet at the same time the days are growing shorter, the leaves are dropping from the trees, and the skies are turning grey. November, for me, is a bare tree with its branches against a sky of moving grey clouds, black against pearl-grey, with undertones of brown. Those are not happy colors.

As I was reading Sarah and DW I was reminded of some lyrics by Jimmy Dale Gilmour, the operatic cowboy tenor.

You've got to go to sleep alone
even if you're lying with somebody you really love
you've still got to go to sleep alone.

I am trying to decide why Gilmour came to mind as I read Sarah talking about the way that her friends get confused because Sarah sometimes prefers to read a book alone in the park rather than sit around and chat. I think that the connection I am getting at, obliquely and poorly, is that we are all, to some extent, locked inside our own heads. And yet we all, to some extent, thrive on human contact. What varies, both from person to person and, over time, within each of us, is how we balance our inner selves and our external contacts.

The holidays jolt us out of our autumnal pattern. We fall into one set of habits as the leaves fall and the weather turns and we begin to move indoors for the winter. Just as we check the roof and fix the weatherstripping on our houses, we also adjust our temperaments as we prepare for our winter retreat. Thanksgiving and the solstice break that pattern: they draw us out when the earlier pattern had been for us to turn within. This is one of the many reasons why we like them, and it is one of the many reasons why the holidays are so stressful.

I take my moods from the weather. I like to walk outdoors, and I like to look at the sky as I do. My walks are my time to attune myself to the season, whether it be the resurrection of green in the spring or the gentle melancholy of the autumn. One thing I have noticed is that, even walking the same route around the local lake, the walk is very different if I take it alone, with the hound, with baby and hound, or with the whole family. I move at different paces; I look at different things; I go from an internal train of thought to a monologue with hound and baby to a chattering discussion with J. All are fun, yet all are different. The way I experience the sky changes depending on who I am with, and my emotions change as well.

I started writing this while partway through this read-through of chapter three. I have finished the read-through and printed the chapter. Now I will let that piece of work sit for a while so that it will be fresh to me when I go back to it. I use time to distance myself from my work so that I can more effectively edit my own words. Time and distance shape our interactions with other people as well. We distance ourselves, and then we rediscover one another. What does this mean?

We still have to go to sleep alone, but we can cuddle first. And cuddling is very good indeed.

Posted by Red Ted at November 16, 2003 11:03 AM | TrackBack