The chaos of the mind cannot constitute a reply to the providence of the universe. All it can be is an awakening in the night, where all that can be heard is anguished poetry let loose.
― Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil
I am reading a book called “Wintering,” by Katherine May. It’s subtitled “The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times,” and that’s the part that got me to pick it up in the first place. Wintering, I would come to find out — on page ten, to be precise — is “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.”That description, though painful, spoke to me in a deeply personal way. That is, after all, where I find myself today; weeks into the aftermath of a mental collapse that has left me temporarily unable to work, or properly socialize. I exist a bit like a phantasm. Cold and glassy. Veiled to near invisibility by a thin but persistent fog, from which I am only able to catch glimpses of the outside world. A flash here and there, and I can’t imagine anyone from out there can catch much more than a glimpse of me.
Moments like these don’t happen often, and they aren’t exclusive to depressive episodes, though sadness from loss or loneliness as a result certainly fit the bill. I have not had many of these moments, but enough to dread their return. That being said, I’m able to learn from each episode how to better handle the next. This time around, I’m finding comfort in this “wintering” idea. I take “wintering” to mean an acceptance of reality, taking away any guilt one may feel for being so disconnected from the rest of the world. With this also comes the acceptance that the season will eventually end, but during this time… you’ve got to allow yourself to hibernate your own way.
I’ve been sitting on this title for a while. “I Am From Elsewhere,” that is, which is English translated from the French “Je suis d’ailleurs.” This is a song from an amazing band called Alcest. The lyrics are in French, but translate beautifully…
“I take off with a leap
To glide above the ground
But I fall, mystified
And with an inward scream
I’ve forgotten the ease
Of an era long gone
I am not from this land”
Unless you speak French, the lyrical meaning of the song takes some digging. Not much, thanks to Google and Metal Archives, but digging nevertheless. Anything beyond the shockingly obvious takes digging, and even the most perceptible truths tend to bathe in tubs of bullshit before showing the world their sometimes quite beautiful faces. That’s one reason it took me so long to understand how to use the song title for a piece. I hadn’t come up from the mud yet. Oh, I’ve often felt like I was from elsewhere, there was no denying that bit. How to explain where that place was, or what it looked like from my perspective proved much more difficult.
Then this Katherine May book catches my eye, I glimpse the concept of “wintering,” and suddenly “elsewhere” isn’t nearly as mysterious. What an incredible turn of events! Think about it. The translated song title from a French Post-Metal band invaded my headspace for nearly a year. It had no purpose. It just sat there, making faces at me, until I had a mental breakdown and went to the bookstore with my wife!
So, I am in a winter. It is also December, and I live in Ohio. Fitting, I suppose, though I have had winters in July. Feeling disconnected and misunderstood doesn’t flow with the rotation of the planet, and some people never get to see snow, or have a snowball fight with their friends (I mean, what do they throw, rocks?). A person who has never known the pure joy of watching their child make a snow angel can absolutely understand the concept of a winter. More so the associated misery of low temperatures and poor driving conditions, but certainly as a period of time one goes through and comes out of eventually.
Winters are the only reasons we have stories to tell, or lessons to teach. Winters are the reasons we appreciate warmth, and accept death, and believe in resurrection. You don’t need to have faith in Jesus having done anything to treasure the return of your garden flowers each Spring. That’s important for all of us to remember. Coming, this time, from the perspective of a depressed person, it is absolutely essential to remember that seasons end. It is also important to remember they end on their own. When they’re ready. Not because you’re ready for them to be over.
Be kind to yourselves.