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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Monday, January 12 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

January's slough of despond

One of the members of our Nanty Glo Forum List, Sallie Covolo, responding to last Monday's Jonal, asked for thoughts about the "slough of despond" that many experience in the days and weeks after Christmas. I'm not sure these haphazard thoughts are on the mark, but at least they're an attempt to speak to the question. Experts on the human mind have observed that there is more than usual despondency or at least depression in the winter, and it's no doubt compounded by a kind of "post-partum" over the passing of Christmas.

To those of us who love Christmas and always find the day and most of its accoutrements a source of renewed joy every year, there's a great buildup, in this era covering at least two months, leading up to December 25. We get so focused on that day that the rest of the calendar, toward the end of the advent cycle, falls away. Nothing else matters much. Then there's the sacred nativity services, the family get-togethers, the rituals of exchanging gifts and warm familial love, and usually a cullinary feast as well; endless playing and singing of carols and songs of the season arranged in every musical style from classical to jazz. Then, there's a sinkful of dirty dishes. There's December 26, when often all the guests are back home or on their way, the house is empty, there are the remnants of the packages and the preparations cluttering everything, and you wonder, at least fleetingly, why you bothered. Will you do it again next year?

Well of course, most of us immediately respond in our own minds, never even getting these thoughts to surface in discourse with our loved ones. But for some, there is more to it. It really becomes a struggle to even think of having another Christmas a year later. And when the season rolls around again, some of those are dreading it more than welcoming it, and though usually going through the motions one more time, asking the question now even before they get to December 26: Why am I doing this knowing the joy is fleeting, perhaps even hollow, the expectations more unmet than met, and the real spirit of the thing is "gimme, gimme, gimme," with no real spiritual uplift? Even after December 26 there are other bleak tasks and days ahead. There's the untrimming of the house. Returning to work or classrooms. Getting on to life in a day, or two, or at the outside, a week or two, as though nothing really important even happened.

I submit that this is part of all our post-partum experience of the wake of Christmas, even for those of us who don't doubt for as much as a whole minute that it was indeed worth it. The antidote I propose is to ensure that your Christmas is truly Christ-centered, not self-centered. Make sure you're doing for others more than yourself, and not concentrating on how well you are being cared for by your loved ones. Putting energy there will be most destructive. Learn to make every gift, even the gift of wrapping the packages rather than just handing them over from the store bag, a gift not to your loved ones primarily, but to the Holy Child whose birthday it's about. In other words, if it's no longer a source of abiding joy for you, work really hard on making an attitude adjustment. Take to heart Charles Dickens' lessons in The Christmas Carol. Then if this doesn't owrk, consider chucking the whole thing.

There is more to the winter blues and blahs than post-Christmas post-partum feelings, however. The weather itself contributes to feeling down, in many climatological zones; certainly including Western Pennsylvania. The beauty of the first snows soon become tiresome, ugly slush, and seeming unending challenges as you face a daily routine of commuting. I've read that spending time each day with specially arranged bright lights help lift your mood. But I think a major part of the answer to this aspect of the January slough of despond is related to the one I recommend for curing the Christmas blues— taking it to the King of the winter who is also the newborn King of Christmas. But then you'd expect as much from me.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


On a Plumber's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed."

At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee: "Invite us to your next blowout." "

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz 

Thought for today

You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.

— C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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