A week in and February is already weighing heavy.
I’m not sure why. Our winter here in Kansas has been mild (for Kansas) thus far; we’ve not been housebound by bad weather or sickness. Yet, like it does every year, February brings a certain peevishness that creeps into my household, to my own self, settling into our bones like a virus.
A morning perusal of the internet shows me we’re not alone in our funk: This article suggests a February reading list claiming to be for February love and “late winter gloom.” Some blame seasonal affective disorder. My husband even sent this handy dandy countdown to spring to cheer me up. Wasn’t that nice?
Because February is historically blue for me, I jumped when a friend suggested some of us work through Space for God by Don Postema together. His book is more a guide than a prescription for deeper spirituality, a mishmash of readings by thinkers like Nouwen and Lewis, illustrated with artwork by (surprisingly) van Gogh. Each Monday night we learn how to foster inner spiritual space via prayer, Psalm reading, journaling, and time spent contemplating God, our blessings, and how much we are loved. Reading through this book in this darkest of months is threatening to change how I see February.
I write this thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drug-induced death on Sunday, and I wonder if he, too, was trying to find a way through the funk, not only of February, but of life in general. When depressed or bored, how easy is it to chase our own version of “high”… another movie, another project, another social event, anything to feel alive, or at least not bored out of our numskulls.
But, if running to the next “high” doesn’t work for the rich and famous, why do we think it will work for us? If riches/ease/power/popularity/comfort/freedom/fame is/are the goal, no wonder dull February rankles us so. We look at the gorgeous faces on the red carpet and wish they were ours, not stopping for a second to ask if all that actually brings the happiness we assume it does.
The FebFunk is in full swing, yes, and I’m tempted even while writing this to do something, anything, to get through it. But something inside me says this is the exact wrong thing to do. February forces us inside our four walls, but perhaps its real gift, if we could just see it as such, is that it also forces us to take a long look inside the four walls of our own hearts. With Lent just around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better.
Some days must be dark and dreary, Longfellow wrote, and this month proves it most true. But if that darkness and dreariness stills us into a quiet and listening state (what many wise folk call the first act of prayer), maybe even funky February can be redeemed.