The Search for Sunlight: One Woman’s Struggle to Combat the Winter Blues

By Sara Vigneri

January 3, 9 a.m.: The winter vacation is over and all I’m left with is the stark reality of the cold, dark winter ahead of me. Considering the Lehigh Valley begins decorating for winter nearly three months before it begins, how soon can we start decorating for spring? Perhaps I’ll buy some yellow silk tulips and start a new trend.

January 5, 7:00 a.m.: It’s dark in my bedroom. I stumble around my nightstand to turn on the lamp. I hear it click on but nothing happens. Those darn energy efficient light bulbs take a few seconds to heat up. I wait as my room goes from pitch black to a glowing warm light. But it doesn’t help my mood so I throw the covers back over my head and decide to wait until my children harass me to get out of bed.

January 5, 9:00 a.m.: It’s turning out to be a cold, blustery day. The holiday decorations are coming down in my neighborhood and it’s feeling dreary. I decide to head to my favorite coffee shop to do some work and I order the most fattening latte on the menu. I embrace the cup with my hands and soak in the warmth–the heat from the cup, the warm smell of coffee and the coziness of the room. For the moment, I can enjoy being cold, if only to appreciate the snug feeling of warming up.

January 10, 12 p.m.: Drove past one of those tanning salons and was tempted to pop in for some fake sunlight. Decided I couldn’t risk looking like Snooki from Jersey Shore and kept driving.

January 12, 3:30 p.m.: It’s been a dark day, the clouds are hovering over the Lehigh Valley and I can’t find even a small glimmer of sunlight. I am parked outside my daughters’ school waiting for them to come out. I see them but they don’t see me. They are holding hands and sharing a secret together and I feel a sense of light and warmth as I witness this rare moment of sisterly bonding.

January 13, 10:00 a.m.: Decided to buy one of those aromatherapy candles that claim to reduce stress. I light the candle on my desk and stare at the flickering flame. Nothing. I don’t feel any less stressed, and I don’t feel warm and I really need to get out of the house.

January 14, 8:00 a.m.: As I drive to drop my kids off at school, I see a kid standing on the corner waiting for the bus, in a T-shirt! What I would give to have that disorder where you feel no cold.

January 17, 10:30 a.m.: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. My kids are home from school. Frustration at losing a workday segues into appreciation for the opportunity to kick butt in Wii Tennis. Note to self: Working up a sweat is a great way to beat the blues.

January 19, 8:30 p.m.: Driving home from the grocery store I feel lucky that I could do the trip with my eyes closed because it is so dark out I can barely see the road. A storm is coming and the sky is completely black. I never thought I could miss the moon as much as I miss the sun. As I turn down my street I see the soft twinkle of my neighbor’s Christmas lights and I’m thankful they have procrastinated in taking down their decorations. There’s something to be said for the comfortable sight of a house lit up on a dark winter night.

January 20, 6:30 a.m.: Phone rang and woke me up with a call from the school…snow day! The kids are so excited; they have padded downstairs in their pajamas to gaze at the snow. While I’m slightly annoyed at the comparative ease in which they emerge from bed on a non-school day, it’s warming to hear them planning snowball fights and hot chocolate breaks. Once the sun rises we head outside with shovels and the sun is blinding as it reflects off the freshly fallen snow. Despite the cold, I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and I feel happy.

January 21, 11:30 a.m.: Another snow day! We bundle up into our snow pants and trek out for an adventure through our neighborhood. All the neighbors are out, shoveling cars. They wave to us as we pass by. Kids are lugging their sleds to the hill by Muhlenberg College, which is already showing signs of well-worn sledding paths. After much cajoling, my kids convince me to take a spin down the hill. I load myself onto the sled, and my daughters shove me off. The wind is icy cold as it hits my face but I am struck with memories of childhood sled rides and the joy of a fast glide down a snowy hill. I ignore my frozen toes and try to enjoy the moment.

Thoroughly sick and tired of the clouds I decide to find the sun. I drive through Emmaus and head up South Mountain. When I get to the top I park my car and get out to survey the scene. Rolling hills covered in snow and fir trees dot the landscape. I tilt my face to the sky and watch the clouds roll by. Suddenly, the clouds part and a wonderful beam of sunlight peeks through. I close my eyes and soak it in. Winter can be beautiful.

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