My son told me we need to get some pumpkins soon because it was already two days into fall and we hadn’t decorated yet. What he didn’t know is that I had just picked up a new bottle of vitamin D as my first autumnal decorative offering. It sits next to my coffee maker and anti-anxiety medication. So festive!
I asked him if we could at least go apple picking before we head to the pumpkin patch; it felt a little early to look for this year’s jack-o-lantern. Thankfully he seemed okay with that because the cooler air, shorter days, and flip of the calendar do not encourage me to run to Starbucks for my pumpkin spice or declare, “It’s fall, y’all!” Pumpkins, sweaters, and foliage do not trigger a sense of cozy calm as we begin to take on a form of hibernation and turn inward for winter. Nope, not me, no thank you.
Gourds and Halloween candy—dear God, let there be a Halloween—are not strong enough to keep me from slipping into seasonal depression. Call it the placebo effect or holistic care, but I’m going to need all of the vitamins, black coffee, and my best curmudgeonly snark to get me through this fall and winter.
I struggle every year with this particular change of season because it feels the most dramatic and is the shift that my body feels the most. My love of the bright blue fall skies highlighted by the changing New England leaves can’t eclipse my love of heat. The fall chilliness settles deeper into my body every year. I blame age and wear and tear on a body I push to its limits, but I think, for this year at least, we can collectively agree that the chilling effects of a pandemic that could have been under control months ago can take most of the credit.
I am panicked about the unknown bullshit that will come from cold and flu season layered with COVID-19; I am dreading winter and the holiday season.
I love thick fleece blankets, twinkle lights, and holiday movies, but my hesitation to get too excited about the holidays is because it places unnecessary expectation and anticipation of ideals that can’t be met. My love of anything is usually a slow burn without judgement of how excited others may get over the same event or product. I have no shame in my lackluster show-of-emotion game, but it can be exhausting to be told I “should” be happy during the most wonderful time of the year.
The only way I will call this year’s fall and winter seasons wonderful is if Trump is voted out of office and the nation doesn’t implode into a civil war.
On top of the days getting shorter, the world feels darker, too. I know there will still be sunshine and we can find light if we look hard enough, but I’m nervous about the state of humanity. Anti-maskers and conspiracy theorists highlight the selfishness and stupidity that sucks in fearmongers and the perpetuation of dangerous fake news. People’s inability to see truth, or at least question sources and understand basic science and logical thinking pains me.
Watching Trump supporters believe his lies while making excuses for the lies they tell themselves through their white, cisgender privilege is as maddening as watching a toddler try to buckle themselves into their own car seat. They cry and scream that they can do it. They kick and bite until you walk away. Then they exhaust themselves and demand your help but your time has been wasted and your patience and kindness have worn thin. These people are our neighbors, family members, and friends. These are the people who don’t think systemic racism exists. These are the people who will choose religion over queer rights. These are the people who believe reproductive rights should be determined by cisgender men who will never have to worry about the consequences of a pregnancy.
Sorry, Son, but no pumpkins yet because fall is a nosedive into an election season that is going to be ugly, and I need to hang onto summer a little longer. The thought of another four years of a man whose ego is increasing along with his fascist rhetoric immobilizes me. And it’s not like I can take comfort in my partner; I can’t see her thanks to unsafe travel conditions, because people still think this deadly virus no big deal. But I still need to be a comfort to my kids who believe they will have to wear masks forever and are on edge waiting for the next change to their school schedule. They have been so resilient and understanding, but they are exhausted too. They understand that normal will look different, but they want predictability and are tired of being told events are cancelled and spaces are closed because of COVID-19.
I try to draw strength and offer warmth from under clothes that add to my body dysphoria. The bulk of layers from pants and long sleeve shirts make me feel claustrophobic and unsafe. I feel even more trapped in a body that I struggle to find connection with. I don’t want to turn inward; I want to crawl out of my skin and hide under the blankets and not emerge until April, y’all.
And all of this starts with the changing of leaves and drop in temperatures. The season changes, and so does my mood, and no amount of fall décor or limited-edition pumpkin-flavored foods will make it better. Cultivating a sunnier disposition isn’t the answer either. I’m doing my best just to keep it together, and that best is often achieved via skepticism and low expectations.
Wrap yourself in your cardigans; I’ll be over here wrapped in new layers of anxiety and depression. But it’s fine. Nothing a little candy corn, cider, and staring off into space won’t (eventually) fix.