Friday, December 12, 2008

Outer Darkness and Inner Hope

Last night was the full moon of the Birth Moon. I got home late from a play and the moon was shining down so brightly I thought about stopping at the park for quick dog walk. Unfortunately, my tired feet and cold hands conspired against me and I went to bed. Winter will do that to you, conspire against your better judgment with dark, cold and the blues.

I've been having a rough week. It's cold, it's dark, I'm broke (despite not spending any money - how does that even happen?) and I am feeling the existential weight of a 40 hour work week. I'm making poor food choices because I don't feel up to cooking and the blood sugar spikes and troughs accentuate the angsty, depressed feelings. It's an ugly negative feedback loop.

Luckily, there is a way out of these dark feelings and these dark times. It is the hope for a better day, and the faith in the light returning. Faith is the belief in the truth of an idea while hope is desire for a positive outcome based in a real knowledge that the outcome can be expected. Hope is more emotional than optimism, but more reasoned than faith. In the Greek story about Pandora hope is the only thing left in her box after all of the ills of the world are released. Hope is the light that keeps us going.

The opposite of hope is dispair. The deadly sin called sloth was originially called sadness or despair and was described as a refusal to enjoy God's goodness or the inability to love God with all one's heart and soul. I have a close family member struggling with depression and substance abuse and I have always felt that her despair is the worst part of the affliction. I feel anger at her choice to reject the gifts that the universe has bestowed on her. She has, through conscious and unconscious choices, chosen to despair instead of hope.

This is the time of year when I feel closest to that despair of depression but make a real effort to buoy myself with hope. I bake cookies, I take long walks to enjoy the winter scenery, I enjoy time with my friends in warm bars and cozy front rooms. Even if it's just putting on a happy face until spring comes again it seems to work.

The celebrations surrounding this darkest time of the year are all about instilling hope in us as well. Long nights are lit by cheery Christmas lights and decorated trees in people's front windows. I made chocolate chip cookies the other night. They may do nothing for my blood sugar, but they sure made the night more bearable :)

Joy of Cooking Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chip cookies (or the rest of the bag after you eat some :)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease or line two baking sheets.
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. This is best done by hand, taking turns with someone else you want to hang out with. Add the egg, salt and vanilla and stir well to combine. Stir baking soda into the flour and then combine the flour with the egg mixture until blended and smooth. Add the chocolate chips and then drop by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are colored and tops are not quite set. Let cool on a rack and serve warm with a mug of whole milk.

Are you feeling the tinge of despair in these short days and long nights? What are you doing to encourage hope? What's your favorite cookie recipe? :)

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