05 February 2010

Friday Five: Staving Off the Gloom

Let me start by saying how much there is in my life for which I’m thankful. I have a beautiful, wonderful, incredible wife who continues to bless and surprise me in many, many ways. I am the father of two adorable girls who fill me with joy on a daily basis. Sometimes hourly, even. I’m the called pastor of a campus ministry where I feel as though the gifts God has given me for ministry are a good fit, and I get a lot of satisfaction from the work entrusted to me. And I love winter – snow, cold, ice; none of those things really bother me as much as some (and no, that’s not a judgment on those who dislike winter: I’m only saying I’m not one of them).

All that having been said, the 2009-2010 winter has been, for lack of a better word, pretty rough. Some of it I can’t share here. But between lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of focus and the daily struggle to be a good father, the word for the winter is "frustrated." So this week’s Friday Five is a good one to use as an opportunity to take stock, and I hope you don’t mind if I do it with you all listening in.

From Sally, then:

Candlemas is past, and Christmas is well and truly over; here in the UK February looks set to be its usual grey and cold self. Signs of spring are yet to emerge; if like me you long for them perhaps you need ways to get through these long dark days. So lets share a few tips for a cold and rainy/ snowy day....

1. Exercise, what do you do if you can't face getting out into the cold and damp?

One thing I’ve really enjoyed this winter is our spin class. Holy cow, there’s nothing like pushing your body to the limit over the course of 45 minutes or so. Even on bad days, I still feel as though all the sweat and burning legs are worth the while, and of course it’s easy on the joints. The fact that we’ve become friends with a couple of our class leaders is nice as well, although we do keep one of them in our prayers as she begins a fight against cancer.

At the same time, I’m disappointed with myself for not running regularly, and I think it’s beginning to affect Jack as well. One of the reasons we got Jack, of course, was so I’d have a partner for my runs, but between excessive snow, schedules with the kids, lack of quality sleep and ennui due to some of the unbloggable stuff, my mileage has plummeted since August or so. I had hopes of doing a marathon this coming summer, but I need to kick it in the butt if I’m going to make that a reality. And Jack could definitely use the time outside as well.

2. Food; time to comfort eat, or time to prepare your body for the coming spring/summer?

I’ve eaten like crap this winter. Too much fast food, too many M&Ms, not enough fruits & veggies. It’s odd: when I went through the divorce, I lost my appetite completely, to the point of losing about 40-50 lbs in the course of three or four months. This time, with the emotional turmoil we’re experiencing, all I want to do is scarf down fast food burgers and pizza. What’s up with that? Here’s hoping that starting a garden this spring will bring about the dietary change I need.

3. Brainpower; do you like me need to stave off depression, if so how do you do it?

I’m not entirely sure about this, but I think the mild depression for which I’ve been taking an anti-depressant might have intensified this year, or at least this winter. Reading is a struggle, which will shock most of you who’ve known me over the years. But I just can’t focus, and I feel as though I can’t even think properly these days. I miss appointments and drop to-dos far too often. A good portion of the time I feel like a dunder-headed ninnymuggins, and that ain’t good. We'll see how things change come spring, and if they do, then maybe it's time to look into ways to handle Seasonal Affective Disorder or something like it. And, of course, if I could think more clearly there'd be more to offer here as well - so if your particular neurosis includes an affinity for what I've got to say, you could pray I get this figured out, eh?

4. How about a story that lifts your spirits, is there a book or film that you return to to stave off the gloom?

This makes me wonder – maybe it’s my reading choices that are driving my ennui? I’ve been spending a lot of time with The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, and if he weren’t the personification of Dream, I’d say that Morpheus would be the personification of Depression instead. Perhaps I need to get away from him for a while.

We’ve been watching Friday Night Lights on DirecTV, and even though every episode is a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster that never ceases to make us sick to our stomachs, watching Eric and Tammi Taylor manage all the stress while maintaining the absolute bedrock solidity of their marriage is truly inspiring. I said it on Facebook yesterday: the fact that this show is not in NBC’s rotation is proof positive that if their executives were any dumber they’d need to be watered once a week. (God bless you, Molly Ivins, and I can't wait to meet you in heaven - I have a feeling we'll get along fabulously.)

5. Looking forward, do you have a favourite spring flower/ is there something that says spring is here more than anything else?

I always watch for the hostas to break the surface. It happens early, of course, but I love playing in the dirt, and seeing green shooting out of last year’s stalks tells me that it’s almost time to break out my pruning shears and shovel and get ready for some fun.

Bonus; post a poem/ piece of music that points to the coming spring...

Copland captured it pretty well:

ps: Please don’t take this as a ‘woe is me’ post – reread the first paragraph if that is how this sounds. I might compare the present moment to mile 21 of a marathon: painful, slow, and filled with questions, but I continue to move forward and, most importantly, I’m trying to find the joy in the race. That second wind is bound to come along one of these days, right? Life is good, friends, because it is a gift from the Giver, with all its complexities and questions. We trust the God who gives life more than the life itself.

Grace & peace,



  1. i'm with you on friday night lights... awesome show. real somehow in ways that other shows cannot quite pull off.

    prayers for you as the energy hopefully creeps right in...

  2. I hear ya on the depression side of things. A long winter definitely does not help. I have not, however, heard any of the symptoms described as "dunder-headed ninnymuggins". And yet, as soon as I read the words I thought "That's it!!! That's me!!!"

    Also, you ended that question with the classic Canadian ending to all good sentences, eh? :)