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Archive for January 17th, 2013

IndianJPsycholMed_2012_34_2_193_101791_f2

According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the doldrums are, “a belt of calms and light winds between the northern and southern trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific.” Years ago, when wind power was utilized for blowing the sails of the ships of the day, ending up in the doldrums could result in sailors being stranded for days, or even weeks, without enough wind to move their sails … possibly resulting in death.

Samuel Coleridge, in his famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, described this nautical region:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The doldrums do not necessarily only have to do with a location in the ocean.

For many of us the doldrums might be related to the C. S. Lewis phrase, “always winter, but not never Christmas.”

In full force and with no doubt … the winter doldrums land. Oh, it is not immediate, it starts slowly with an increasing difficulty to get out of bed in the mornings. There is the appeal of bedtime, anytime after dinner. There is the recoiling whenever some new responsibility or activity or meeting is added to the calendar. There is a lack of excitement about just about anything.

Like the doldrums out in the waters, the winter doldrums back on land can be quite a time of thirsting for refreshment that is so needed, the sun. Our days are shorter, and for those of us living in the monsoon belt, the skies are so much darker. Our bodies are lacking from the natural infusion of Vitamin D from our solar buddy. In our weakened physical states we are more susceptible to the viruses and colds of the flu season. We are also more susceptible to feeling unmotivated, down in the dumps, sad.

It is believed that approximately 1 in 4 people suffer with some sort of Seasonal Affective Disorder/depression due to the doldrums of winter. It can start as early as October and last until into April. For many being intentional about taking vitamins, eating healthy and getting outdoor physical activity can make the season more bearable. For others a ‘sun lamp’ saves the day. For others still, medication might be needed.

For myself it was moving to the Pacific Northwest that introduced me to the winter doldrums. Each year is different, and is accompanied by one common thread … a heaviness of heart that descends upon me like the weight of one of those x-ray blankets that the dental office uses when filming ones mouth.

The doldrums are a period of moaning, groaning … of lamenting. Lamenting like the prophet of Jeremiah in his recording of his lamentations in the Bible. Even though he recorded miseries, weeping, desolation and destruction, right in the midst of the doldrums is his reason for hope:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Just before it, Jeremiah speaks of how his “soul is downcast within him” and just after he speaks of being alone, with his face buried in the dust.

May we all, while in the doldrums, or lamenting, be able to say, great is your faithfulness!

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