As a nature loving explorer who doesn’t mind critters, the winter months involve things I’m never quite prepared to embrace. One of those things includes cold air. Being very small and having fractured my spine on two separate occasions, cold air tends to be quite painful in the literal sense. I am hoping that my upcoming therapy sessions will help to alleviate my extreme anxiety while I am driving, which in turn, should help relieve some of that physical ache.
Growing up, while I read and watched shows about Hank Williams, it never occurred to me to pay much attention to his death. In those days, I was far more interested in his music and how he wrote such sad songs based on his circumstances. Only when I had turned thirty and learned Hank didn’t make it beyond twenty-nine did I realize how prevalent those circumstances were in his habit of numbing the pain by way of whiskey (like so many before and after him), which subsequently resulted in his untimely demise.
Mr. Williams experienced severe back pain that often kept him from making his magic in front of an audience. Upon learning of his condition, Hank reportedly said, “Cure me or kill me, Doc. I can’t go on like this.” Even after surgery, Hank still struggled with the pain, like so many of us to this day.
And like Hank Williams, we find ways to numb the pain. This, I feel, is why seasonal depression affects so many people all over the world. Extract the hustle, bustle, stress, pressure, fear, conflict, guilt, regret, and whatever else we are tortured with during the holidays, you still find evidence there is a population (and growing one, at that) of folks who are just very plainly having difficulty going on like this: desperate for any relief from anywhere.
In addition to whiskey, Hank’s other choices for temporary numbness involved extremely unhealthy and dangerous (especially mixed with alcohol) drugs, like heroin, morphine and cocaine. After a certain line is crossed, all it takes is adding a snowstorm and torturous car ride to do in even a famously creative, artistic, talented genius. And he will sing to us no more. He will only have left behind his entire being, who was desperately pleading for help to an audience who was only invested in devouring his broken heart.
Winter is a beautiful time of year. Creatures tuck themselves away, life lays dormant, all is calm. Naturally. When we would naturally feel inclined to just relax in a hot, Epsom salt bath, the majority instead is focused on creating a wild and wonderful atmosphere of bright, shiny, colorful things that blink and twirl and rock. Our eyes become permanently fixated on highly impermanent cardboard and wrapping paper. The traditions flow like whiskey. Anyone and everyone is invited to join in the chorus of praising, thanking the Almighty for our many blessings and toys.
My house made these attempts for years. We genuinely and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the annual celebration and my tight-knit family somehow pulled it off so that each and every one of us- from Papa Bennett at age ninety-three to my brother at age three- had a grand ole time. Good food, fun and carefree atmosphere, Scrabble, coffee, live steel guitar and piano playing, singing, movies, story telling, loud laughter, sentimental presents. We still make our attempts today, but it is evident to every one of us that is left, how slow and more challenging these attempts have become.
Since I was eight years old, I have numbed my back pain in a variety of ways. I have tried and cried and lived and learned. Winter is certainly the most wonderfully challenging time of the year, especially once I turned thirty. Working at relieving my body pain becomes a greater priority as I age. Ever wonder why people retire to the South? Or why your grandmother keeps fuzzy socks on her feet and the thermostat set to 82 degrees? Good. Don’t even bother.
Finding healthy alternatives to synthetic drugs and whiskey has been something I have researched and actively implemented for years. Prayer and meditation, as I’ve written about many times, also become more and more frequent and useful.
My prayer this winter is that I reduce my anxiety. Have fun shopping.