It is October. This always takes me by surprise. In the midwest the changing of the seasons was marked by a crisp note in the air. The shorts were put away, the sweaters were pulled out. Fall did not sneak up on us. Now I live in the south (I mean, I used the word y’all a thousand times in my last post) and the fall sneaks up on me. I am still wearing sundresses, and strip off my cardigan in the school parking because it is too warm to wear it in my car.
But the warmth does not make up for the lack of light these days. I can feel the depression, hazy around the edges of my brain, waiting for the chance to descend. You can track the cycles of my mental health, following the waning sunlight, since late elementary school. October starts to get spotty, November is never good. I begin to recover in March when the sun comes back.
In my worst October, I turned 17. I wore a soft pink sweater to school and it was just a touch too warm. My mom got a chocolate raspberry tort from our favorite bakery. My boyfriend and a friend from school came over for dinner. My friend gave me a poster that read, CHOOSE JOY. That Friday night I missed yet another football game and my friends from the marching band called from the band room after the game. They called to wish me a happy birthday and I couldn’t stop crying.
My friends mom called mine, and they came to my rescue in a mini-van, took me to a sleepover that had been transformed to an impromptu birthday party. Half way through the midnight movie I went upstairs to pee and started sobbing uncontrollably. When a girl came upstairs after me, found me sobbing at the kitchen sink and asked me what was wrong, I remember gasping for breath, and howling “I DON’T KNOW.” I started medicating my depression (under the careful watch of my mom) that weekend.
It was hard that year, choosing joy. I am grateful my friends saw me struggling. I am grateful for the reminder. I needed it that fall. I need it in the fall. I can feel the depression seeping in. I am trying to choose joy.
I am trying to choose joy in the two herbal supplements I swallow every morning, with them I swallow the prideful idea I should be able to do it on my own. Sometimes God’s grace comes inside the bottles you buy 2 for 1 at the GNC.
I am trying to choose joy in the simple things. It is scarf week! I love scarves, and am sporting one every day in my classroom. This makes me happy, not shallow.
I am trying to choose joy in leaning into this season, pumpkin patches, fires in the evening, salted caramel mochas, Last night I made a grilled cheese sandwich with brie and honey crisp apples. Sometimes fall is subtle, and that is delicious.
I am choosing joy by letting go and laughing. My girls want to wear their Halloween costumes recently acquired on Ebay pretty much daily. Why not? Why not let Priscilla dress up as a cupcake and sing happy birthday to herself for the rest of the month? Why not let Juliet sport her ice-cream head and let her tell me she is delicious? She is delicious, they both are.
I am choosing to see the beauty, in the fall leaves, in myself, in the people who love. Sometimes the imperfections are the exact reason I love them so much.
This choosing joy thing, it is a fight for me. I think it always will be. So often I hear of joy as something you are surprised by, something soft and warm. In the fall, for me, joy is something I have to fight for, cling to, swallow hard. But I have read the promises in the word. This is a thing that already belongs to me.
It is the fall, October has come, and I am fighting for my joy.