Do you find yourself feeling a wee bit on the depressed side after this long, gray winter? Well, you’re not the only one to experience that. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”, appropriately shortened), and I’ve found that it can cause you to feel like you’ve got an internal Negative Nancy trapped inside your otherwise positive self. All the bitter days…lack of sunshine and the inability to just go pack up a picnic and sit outside for more than 5 minutes are enough to get anyone down in the dumps! We’re created to be joyful creatures, to delight in the life God has given us, and yet it’s interesting how quickly we let the weather take a toll on our soul.
Having been a somewhat willing victim myself (just plant me on the sofa with Netflix until spring), I always find myself surprised by January when I’m crying over nothing and feeling like the world is over. I’d rather not make any unnecessary move to leave the house, and if I must, it’s generally filled with sighing and complaining about the static hair that results from my ridiculous winter coverings. I am in bed earlier than my grandmother is and when I’m not wallowing under the covers, I’m Pinteresting pictures of sunny places and imagining myself there.
Hello, so not cool! What about any of that is at all helpful? Does a Netflix marathon of Audrey Hepburn movies improve my mood? No! (Actually, all that makes me want to do is spend a ton of money on vintage clothing.) Does the complaining actually release any good feelings and improve my outlook on the world? Well, no. And does the layering of covers and subsequent burial of myself in bed from December until May actually result in a reborn flowered garden version of myself? Ahem…again, no…it just creates a good compost de moi.
So, I suggest we look at an alternative answer to the woes of winter vices. Firstly, I think the biggest step is to see your internal gray skies as a something beyond your physical self and look at it with your eternal ”heavenly goggles” on. While it can be attributed to chemical stuff going haywire, it’s also most likely reflecting an interior struggle going on with the darker bits of your soul. Usually these only get exposed when you’re forced to slow down from the general hubbub of life. When you’re finally not busy running to-and-fro anymore, your heart, as mine has, starts to wrestle with and acknowledge vices that you can’t run from or ignore any longer. These vices lead to sin and the sooner we can get those under control, the better!
A wonderful priest I know once encouraged me in this. “Go, find the opposing virtue to every vice you struggle with,” he said. If you can do that, he insisted, and even just work with one at a time (so as to not get discouraged by any failures), you’ll see an improvement in your soul and in your attitude. Great idea, I thought! As I went on to examine the common thread in my recent shortcomings, I realized they all tied into my worst vice as of late: slothfulness. The result was a lack of meaningful “extracurriculars” and the symptom it produced was a tired, haggard version of myself that I didn’t recognize anymore. Well, I needed to practice the opposing virtue then! I decided for me that looked like exercising courage and diligence, and so I decided to volunteer some of my free time. I needed to be up, out and about, and definitely not at home focusing on me!
Turns out, a few blocks away from my apartment was a ministry for those in our community with special needs! I participated in a similar outreach during my college years, and it seems that God was calling me back to it all along. Our God, a true lover of the outcast and downtrodden, shows us clearly with Christ’s earthly example that we can all find people to love on and to show HIS love to. In fact, we’re made to do that! And since my efforts had been slim-to-none lately in that department, it was no wonder my soul was in such a state! After some prayer, God gave me the courage to walk through those doors and I’ve been hooked again ever since. It’s always been a perfect fit for me, and while somewhat intimidating in the beginning, has proven to be a great dose of the sunshine I had been missing while mulling in the dark chambers of my heart. God knew just what I needed!
As a result of my diligence, I have smiled more in the last few weeks than I have all winter, loved on and hugged more people than I have in a year, and truly witnessed goodness and real acceptance in a community I didn’t even know I lived near. It has stretched me and encouraged me to start surrendering myself to the furnace of His love so that He can pour what remains into that original mold of what He made me to be. And He won’t let you down, either. He’ll blow your mind with the reality of what His love can accomplish through you and in you.
Thusly, I encourage you to go out and find what virtue you can cultivate. Till your soil and ready it for spring. The Lenten season is a great time for you and God to plunge deep into your heart and discern the areas that need cleaning up. Find the opposing virtue to whatever vice you uncover and go DO something about it. You’re meant to be joyful and free, remember? My friend, God has something waiting for you that will be brighter, more fulfilling, and certainly be more entertaining than Netflix.
For your reference:
7 Vices and the Opposing 7 Virtues