I love my column, I do. It leads to great things. But this morning, a week past deadline in mid-December, I realize I have nothing to write about. No neighbourly wine-making, no backcountry exploration – nothing. If I had the time and energy I'd find something, surely. But I don't, so I won't.
“Hello! My name is Jesse, andI'm in a fall-to-winter funk.”
For the past several weeks my usual eagerness melts away with that exciting early-November snow. I might blame the suffocating cloud coverage, the all-encompassing work, an inconvenient gym schedule, but truthfully, I can't – it's me. I'm the problem. Somewhere between early morning dog walks and late nights with Detective Olivia Benson, I lost my good juju.
I sip two coffees in the morning and a third in the afternoon, sleep later as the days grow shorter, hide from the light beneath my down duvet. No great adventure falls into my lap, and I never seek to find one.
On the cusp of a New Year, I ask myself: where did things go wrong?
The month starts off well. I clean out the gutters, fill our hot tub for winter. A beautiful snow falls, and I dye my hair dark, feel fresh. On November 10, I attend a writer's conference at St. Eugene in Cranbrook. The conference leaves me more inspired to write than ever before.
Then, as sudden as the snow, red spots appear on my hands and feet. My muscles ache that deep ache only sleep relieves. Exhaustion weighs down on me the way a train does onto tracks, and I stir awake with icy chills and scorching sweats. Sick for a week, a small part of me wonders if my mental health is responsible for these symptoms – it's been a dark month, I've cried a lot, it seems.
And so, I make a doctor's appointment.
“You have hand, foot and mouth disease,” says the doctor.
“What?” I reply. Hand, foot and mouth disease? Is that a thing?
It's a thing.
I leave the office a little relieved. I'm not crazy, just sick. I take the rest of the week off. Then, Saturday in the kitchen I notice a flickering. Light shimmers in my left eye for the better part of an hour, followed by a headache so fierce a vice tightens at my temples. Too bright, too loud. Hand/foot/mouth, and my first ocular migraine; November, you suck.
Not until the last weekend of the month do I briefly find myself. A heavy two-day rain washes the good snow away, and in a desperate attempt to recover from the last two weeks failings, I take a walk. I leave my phone at home, and drive past the tunnel into the sunshine. Meandering through hibernated woods alone I reach my sacred space, a lake hidden away from the patter of other people's feet.
Collecting branches and witches hair, I start a fire on the rocks, sit cross-legged on a blanket with my dog, listen to the flames hiss and the wood crackle. The lake ripples only slightly, a gentle but chilly breeze. Finally, after a suffocating month, I can breathe again. For a few short hours everything falls away.
And then suddenly it's year's end. A deadline's passed, the Ghost of Christmas present, and I, ill-prepared for everything. For writing my column, for 2018. But, who actually cares? The fall-to-winter funk exists, the same way resolutions and revelations of a New Year do. The demands ebb and flow. Another bottle of wine in the hot tub with a girlfriend won't change the outcome of uncertainty.
I'm confident the good juju will come back, it always does. Next week, or next month, after an epic weekend of powder skiing or a road trip to the west coast. And with that good juju, the return of ideas for my column.
Life's good, even when it isn't. Even if you have hand/foot/mouth, and watch too much Law & Order.
My New Year's resolution is this: feel all the feels, even if those feels sometimes make you feel bad. Embrace exactly who and where you are. And then find the thing that makes you feel good, and do the thing.