I'm totally having my usual mid-winter blues, which tend to hit at about this point every year. I do fine in December -- it's busy enough with school and bustling about, and there are holiday lights everywhere, and the cold is new enough that it's kind of fun -- but I tend to have a post-Christmas slump. And wow, did I hit that slump yesterday.
Partly it's that, as much as I look forward to the break from the school routine, I don't actually do very well with unstructured time. I did fine in the first week of winter break because I collected a set of 30 sophomore essays on the last day of classes, and I took my leisurely time grading them, doing just a few a day. (which was great, actually; I felt like I really took my time with each one and read it carefully, and I wrote a longer final comment than usual, one that took stock of how the student was doing in her trajectory of improved writing.) But then I finished off the grading yesterday, emailed them off to the students ... and promptly fell into the blues, with time hanging heavy on my hands.
What I should be doing with all of that time is some projects around the house, and having fun. What I'm doing instead is (a) wasting unbelievable amounts of time playing this new solitaire game I got for my iPad, and (b) thinking vaguely about school but not actually accomplishing anything. I tried shaking things up this afternoon by checking out a book on crocheting granny squares from the library, because I thought that would be a fun new challenge now that I've mastered the art of no-pattern-at-all scarves ... but I spent two hours getting more and more frustrated, until I was fighting back tears. Gosh, that's fun. D. then suggested that I play ukulele for awhile, but I knew that was a bad idea; playing the uke tends to push me into dark thoughts along the lines of "I'm horrible at this; I'm horrible at everything that isn't work; why don't I just accept the fact that I'm boring and have no life and no creativity or skills at all?" I figured that would be a bad epilogue to the ugly little granny square incident. (And yes, clearly I'm missing some crucial element that would let me just relax and be bad at things and have it not be a major litmus test on my character. Ah well.)
So finally I thought, "To hell with it. I might as well get some work done -- assignments written, reading done, etc. -- to make life easier in January if I'm not going to enjoy this last week in December." And indeed, that is making me feel better. But who wants to be the kind of person who doesn't know how to do anything but work?
Also, school is such a very social place, which kinds of wipes me out sometimes, but then the sudden end of all socializing, other than with D., is refreshing for a day or two but then starts getting a little lonely. I'm an extrovert enough that I do like seeing a variety of people during the day, and when I'm not at school I'm faced with our absence of local friends. Fabulous colleagues, absolutely, and they're wonderful, but friends I can call when I'm bored or want to go to the movies or just want to hang out? Nada. Zip. Zilch. And so I get lonely and depressed whenever we're on school break, and I feel bad about our friend-less lives. But it's damned hard to make new friends when one is 45. (And many of my colleagues are in fact actual friends with each other and do get together and hang out on weekends and summers, but I've not done well at crossing that boundary, which in turn does not make me feel good about myself. What kind of person can't make friends?)
I'm sure if I could get out of the house and get some fresh air, that would be better, but the weather has been crappy this week. At least now it's finally snowing and thus pretty, after the days and days of rain we've had, which have no doubt contributed to my winter gloom.
Another factor in this week's iteration of my annual mid-winter blues is that I've slept terribly the last couple of nights, although the reason for that bad sleep is at least pretty funny. You see, I've been getting back into the exercise habit in December, in part because I know that winter is always a hard time for me emotionally and that exercise can be a good antidote for feeling down. But two days ago, I tried this new exercise -- single leg hip bridges -- and the next morning I woke up before dawn in agony. Butt agony, that is. I apparently over-exercises my glutes and could barely walk yesterday. Sublimely ridiculous, of course, but also painful and very much interfering with sleep.
So there it is -- my winter blues are a literal pain in the butt! But at least that last problem is an easy one to fix -- Advil and a heating pad and gentler exercise and stretching -- so I'm hoping I'll sleep well tonight (and indeed I'm going to take a little pill to ensure that this happens). And my hope -- nay, my intention! -- is that tomorrow will thus be better than the last couple of days have been. I'll have to be outside shoveling snow, which will be more fresh air than I've had in almost a week, and the neighbors will no doubt be outside doing the same, so I'll get to have little sidewalk chats, and all of this will be ingredients in helping me shake these winter doldrums.
I have a full eight days left of winter break (we start back really late this year because New Year's falls mid-week), and I am determined not to waste them further. I've had 48 hours of moping and tearing up and going cross-eyed over solitaire, and that's more than enough of that.