While I enjoy all the merriment the winter holidays offer, I’m also prone to the occasional stretch of “SAD-ness” around this time of year. It’s not the sort of sadness where you find yourself pacing around an old railroad trestle with a life insurance policy tucked in the vest pocket of your suit jacket, or the kind where you spontaneously burst into tears in the Reny’s checkout line.
OK, so I’m neither emulating George Bailey nor auditioning for a show on The Oprah Network. Still, there is something oddly challenging about this time of year. With sunset arriving at mid-afternoon and the winter solstice drawing nigh, I find myself staving off another annual bout of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
And I’m not alone. In fact, SAD is an increasingly well-documented phenomenon particularly among folks like me who, some by choice, others out of sheer necessity, spend a lifetime “wintering over” in Maine, which in case you hadn’t noticed, is situated smack dab in the dark-as-pocket north-easternmost corner of the country.
Even “southerners” in balmy Portsmouth, N.H., are 8-10 times more likely to exhibit symptoms of SAD than “snowbirds” who’ve packed up their Holiday Ramblers and joined the traditional New Englander’s winter migration to Florida.
My SAD symptoms show up at pretty much the same time the last of Thanksgiving turkey is being polished off. They’re easy to spot too. The first tip off is when I start sleeping straight through both the “snooze” and the “snooze a few more minutes” alarms, on my smartphone.
Upon awakening, I stumble into the kitchen, crank up my custom made Mr. Coffee I.V. unit (patent pending) and head haltingly down the hall to my office. By the time I reach my desk, I feel certain that I’ve already gained a deeper appreciation of the professional challenges Boris Karloff must have encountered whilst lurching about a Hollywood sound stage in heavy platform shoes, sporting 50 pounds of prosthetic monster make-up. Clearly, it is occasionally necessary to suffer such indignities in the service of great art.
By noon my internal “batteries” lack the power to suppress an attack of sequential yawning. A half-hour later I’m staring blankly out my office window, vaguely aware that the last of my somnambulant brain cells have thrown in the towel. One by one, they quietly slip away, donning their tiny mufflers and overcoats, pausing only to douse the lights before simply walking off the job.
Thus relieved of all cognitive responsibilities I commence the languorous drift into familiar fantasy; meandering though a snowy, moonlit forest. Wandering ever further into its dark interior, I stumble upon a warm dry cave and am suddenly overwhelmed by the powerful urge to curl up next to a massive mama bear snoozing peacefully in the corner.
“Yes” I hear myself say, “Of course, I’ll just lay down here next to this she-bear and hibernate until spring.”
Bang, bang, bang! My delicious reverie is abruptly shattered by a series of sharp, repetitive concussions! Jolted out of my stupor, I cast about for clues. Have hunters invaded the cave? Are the neighbor kids setting off firecrackers again? My neurons rush to man their abandoned workstations and clarity begins to return.
OK, calm down now. It’s just the UPS man knocking at the front door. He needs my signature for that package he just delivered. I scrawl my name and slump back in my chair thinking, “I simply can’t go on like this.”
You know how cartoonists draw a light bulb hovering over some character’s head to indicate the birth of a “bright idea”? Well, that’s almost literally what happened to me. The light (or more to the point a whole bunch of lights) finally dawned.
Bolting down the cellar stairs at full gallop, I rummaged around, returning moments later with the first of several large, musty, cardboard boxes labeled “Xmas Stuff!”
Fired with fresh purpose, my lethargy vanished and the ensuing hours blended into a bright, dazzling blur of luminescence. Boxes were ripped open, revealing a tangled trove of twinkling Christmas lights; little ones, big ones, fat ones, thin ones, long strands, short strands, indoor and outdoor strands, lights that flashed and bulbs that glowed. I even located my favorite string of antique miniature illuminated plastic 1958 Nash Metropolitans! By midnight my home shone brilliantly enough to be seen from space.
I know, I know, it’s considered bad form to leave Christmas lights up more than a week or two past New Year’s Day. Sorry, but there’s too much at stake here to take that chance.
You’ll find my Christmas lights blazing like a bonfire straight through till the end of mud season!