The trouble with winter in Northern Europe is that it’s too easy to stay home in the warm. When you work as a writer, like me, your work ties you to a desk and it can be an isolating experience. I find that the loneliness creeps up on me. It’s wily and insidious and its footsteps are silent.
I love my work and right now am working with some fabulous clients on their manuscripts. On a daily basis I am massively inspired by the worlds of raising teenagers, maintaining a dual career, commuter marriages, peace activism, personal finance and the reality of living abroad. I’m writing my Life Story Jar programme too and I simply love doing it. It’s fun. It’s absorbing and often I am so embroiled that I hardly notice night has fallen by the time I look up from my keyboard.
One day goes by. Then two and I realise that the most intrepid I have been was to go into the healthfood shop on our ground floor in my slippers to pick up my organic veg back and to put some dead flowers in the bin on the balcony. Shameful, I know, but when the rain is pelting down or the wind threatens to blow me off my bicycle the great outdoors does not appeal. It’s not that I don’t talk to people during the day. I often Facetime a friend or Skype with a client. I call my mother. I chat to the kids. But. I. Don’t. Go. Out.
Like I said, loneliness creeps up on me and two weeks ago, I realised I felt rather too lacklustre for my own good. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was tireder than I should have been and that scratch at the back of my throat was lingering yet not developing into a cold. Yes, you’ve got it, I was getting depressed. I spent a few hours looking up SAD lamps on Amazon but instead of buying one I got up from my chair, put on my coat and went outside in the rain to walk to the woods. Then, I made some appointments, one every day for the following week, to do something that forced me out of the house. A pilates class. A coffee date (that was today). A lunch tomorrow. A networking event. A trip to the cinema. One reason to leave the house every day.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? And I feel so stupid for letting myself slip into a bit of a black hole for a while. It’s not like I don’t know the signs. I’d had a fullblown burnout a few years ago and knew that if I spent too much time working rather than having fun it could happen again.
When I recognised that I was not being my usual bionic self I asked Ian if we could just go out for a wander together. After a couple of hours window-shopping we found ourselves a bar and sat in the candlelit window drinking a craft beer and watching the street lights dance on the water of the canal. Life was good again.
Then, as we walked home in time for supper, we passed an art gallery and I saw the sign below in the window. It made me smile. You know, since my burnout I am much better at seeking out happiness and knowing when I need to make it a priority. In the end my blue patch only lasted a week. I’m not going to let it happen again.