How to Survive November

The first few days of November, riding high on a wave of pumpkin pie and autumn leaves, we think, it won’t be that bad. This year, it’s sunny. This year, the air is apple-crisp! This year, there won’t be dark, or rain, or sickness, or cabin fever.

Then, the clocks go back an hour. The rain starts. Leaves start to drift, then plummet, from the trees. It’s dark when we wake up and dark when we eat dinner. Noses run, and run. Our eyes are always bleary. There isn’t enough coffee in the world.

November isn’t my least favourite month (that’s January) but it can be trying. I recognize this more in recent years; with the children around, many experiences are intensified. A little tired becomes Exhausted. A time change becomes A Crisis. Three days of rain becomes Holy Fuck Will We Ever Go to A Playground Again.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep myself relatively regulated.

Five Tried and True Ways to Survive and Even Enjoy November:

1. Make Your Own Light

You need it. Open all the blinds, take out your window screens, check yourself periodically to make sure you aren’t sitting slouched in a dark room waiting for the day to end. Of course, using too much electricity will result in the early wreckage of the planet, so rather than destroying what little happiness you have in a day, light candles. I pull out all the tea lights (IKEA 100, 10 years ago) and just leave them lit — in the kitchen, bathroom, wherever. It’s a bit of trickery that makes me believe I am in the dark on purpose. Also: everything looks better by candlelight.

2. But Don’t Fear the Darkness

The other day was a dark one. Lots of cloud, lots of rain, bad news all over, and sickness all around. Fresco insisted on playing the same Elliott Smith / Eels / Richard Buckner set on the CD player. I did some breathing, lit my candles, and smiled at myself in the mirror a lot but it didn’t do any good.

At one point I gave in, said to myself, Today is a dark day. Embrace it, don’t fight it. Stay away from social media. Listen to Elliott Smith and be glad you are alive. Tomorrow will be different.

Using energy to try and banish the dark can sometimes be as fruitless as shoveling Jell-O. Sometimes it is more productive — more energizing — to dive into the darkness, revel in it, feel low and slow and nurture yourself and then? Unfurl.

3. Eat Comfort Food

I’ll repeat it in case you don’t remember what I said last November: Put cheese on it and bake the crap out of it. Whatever it is. I don’t care if you gave up dairy. Take it up again.

Remember in July when it was so hot you could only eat watermelon for dinner? Rejoice, for now you can casserole. Also, baking things will warm up your house.

Salads are for lettuce season. It’s cheese season now.

4. Don’t Drink Too Much

You will want to. It is dark and cold and raining against your window and good lord can we just be drunk until April? No. We can’t. It would be bad for us. We must drink responsibly because in the morning? We have to get out of bed and do things. We are not 20 anymore.

Also, remember: even if it is dark at 3 pm, that doesn’t make it happy hour. Have some tea.

5. Go Outside

You won’t want to. It is dark and cold and raining and windy. There are leaves blowing at your face and the children are whining about how far it is to school (Three blocks, everyone. Three damn city blocks.) and how cold their hands are. Put on rubber boots, wool socks, a rain coat, a hat, gloves and go outside. Walk around. You don’t have to go far. The fresh air will replenish you.

If you are a parent, take a walk without your children once in a while. Walk fast. Walk like you used to walk before you had children.

And; go places and see other people. Make dates and keep them. In the warm light of a pub or coffee shop, who cares what month it is.


Avoid the mall. It is probably decorated for Christmas, overheated, and full of keen shoppers and viruses.

…what works for you? SAD lamp? Vitamin B/D/Everything?

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