Every winter when the colder weather moves in I become anti-social. It’s one of those things I know will happen every year– like when you first notice the guys selling Christmas trees on the corner the weekend after Thanksgiving– and yet I always seem to think, “I will manage better this year.” I have been feeling so good for so long, that my reclusive behavior has crept up albeit very slowly over the last month. It really became apparent when my husband was away on a business trip last month. Usually when he goes away for several weeks at a time, I have a strategy in place to ward off the loneliness. I try and fill my social calendar and make a long list of things to do to keep myself occupied. Although I braced myself with my usual approach before his most recent trip, rather than going to a book reading or a movie, I found myself coming home after work most nights just to hunker down in front of the television to watch Jeopardy and Gilmore Girls. Endless episodes. But the strange thing was: I didn’t feel lonely. Or sad. I was actually in pretty good spirits. However, that was over a month ago. Eventually, my unsociable behavior catches up with me, and coupled with the cold weather and shorter days, it usually ignites the winter blues at the very least. Sometimes it can lead to a full-on depressive episode.
I am determined to manage my depression this winter. That is, after all, the best anyone with this illness can do. It’s like the required radios in North Korean homes: they can never be turned completely off, only turned down, so as to ensure that the propaganda is heard. I can’t get rid of my depression, but I can manage it by doing what I know works for me. I have to force myself out of the apartment at least a few nights during the week, as well as on the weekends. My brain needs external stimulation to counter the incessant internal messages. And it becomes really hard to do in the winter when all I want to do after work is go home, put on my pajamas, and curl up on the couch. The impulse is so strong– it almost feels like a biological instinct.
Maybe it just boils down to finding something every day to ensure a moment of quiet contentment. My husband and I discovered a great coffee shop that opened in our neighborhood recently. We’ve started going for afternoon coffee every Sunday to make certain that we get out of the apartment and check in with each other before the day is over. Today we decided to also purchase our first Christmas tree. Carrying it home, I had a big, stupid grin on my face. Of course, I suggested we put on Christmas music while decorating the tree. Seeing our little, lopsided tree all lit up made me very happy.
This is one of the easiest things you could possibly make. And dare I say one of the most delicious. I pack it up for my weekday lunches, but it could also be a vegetable side if you feel the need to have something heartier during the day. The original recipe called for dates, but I’m not a huge date fan. You could also substitute currants, golden raisins, or most likely any other dried fruit you are fond of.
Squash with Raisins and Thyme
Adapted from Bon Appétit
3 small acorn squash, scrubbed, cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/2 bunch thyme
4 garlic gloves, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup raisins
Flaky sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Toss squash, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and butter in a large baking dish; season with sea salt and pepper.
3. Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 40-45 minutes. Add raisins; toss to coat.
4. Roast until squash are very tender and raisins plump up a bit, 12-15 minutes.
5. Arrange squash, raisins, garlic, and thyme on a platter, spoon any oil in dish over squash, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.