This letter was written by one of my dear friends, Sarah Parrish. She’s an Austin native in the film industry, but she’s so much more than that. She’s a kind friend, a hilarious roommate, and has a huge loving heart. [PSA: We are birthday twins!!]
This letter resonated with me a whole lot as I’ve also weathered many “winters” in my life. It captures one of the reasons I started this blog: I wanted to be honest and real about mental health, growing up, and navigating a complex world. I find her weaving of light and dark moments to be an incredible representation of life: the way our the depths of our sadness yield overwhelming growth and warmth once you’ve made it through. Enjoy!
Perhaps it’s unwise for me to be writing a letter in the Winter of my life.
It’s winter outside, but it’s in me as well. Cry me a river, white girl, I know. But hear me out – it’s not meant to be all too poetic. I really do have my own “seasons.” And I’ve been using this figure of speech long before the release of the cult favorite ‘Ride’ music video by Lana Del Rey, thank you very much.
I have had several Winters and only a handful of Summers and Spring. Fall comes rarely. I love Fall. I enjoy brisk air – not frigid, nor scalding – and I prefer the colors of Fall to those of Spring. I’m not unique in this. Women tend to love a good cozy Fall, for the delights of better fashion and better food of course. Hashtag aesthetic. We’re into it.
But for me, it’s especially a season that is… oddly ritualistic. I chase something strange about it. I have only vaguely pinpointed what it is.
I’ll say, though, that the sheer joy those colors give is intensely ironic. Fall brings a sense of foreboding with its palette, in reality. The delicious oranges and reds and yellows are not a sign of life. Quite the opposite. It’s the bringing of a deep sleep, the end of flowering and the playfulness of Summer and Spring… it’s the need to conserve energy and huddle up in a cave.
A dark thought, sure – but truthful. The bright colors are the Dying.
Odd then, that the Dying attracts me that much more so than the flowering colors of Spring. I’ve wondered, what does it say about me? Does the attraction explain the abundance of my Winters? I see it sometimes – I’m longing for a season doomed to end in failure.
I chase what is unwell for me.
You’re wondering what my point is, I suspect. I have one, I promise. Mostly I wanted to touch base after a long time of avoiding you.
You’re me, and you’re only about 16 I bet by the time you’d need this letter. I’m sure by my age you’d fantasize that I’m well-off and brave. You’d dream I’m comfortable, at last. Above all else, I finally get the attention you crave dangerously – ravenously, as a baby’s first meal. A kind that you’ve lied for, stolen and cheated for. Embarrassed yourself for. I’ve seen inside your head; all you do is daydream.
You’re hoping I’ve changed. I fear I disappoint you.
That’s why I ignore you so intensely, of course. I’ve burned photos of you; I’ve purged Facebook albums and hard drives. Anything before grade 12, I’ve done my best to eliminate any trace of you. I detest your skin, your hair, the blinding desperation behind your eyes. You’ve never managed to shake it. Your jokes refuse to land. I fear I disappoint you, that I haven’t learned.
With every season you crave the next – nothing is ever enough. You can’t take anything in, and then when you freeze and trip it’s possible you’ve fallen for good.
I’ve been lying where you fell the last time for a few years now. Every now and then I rise for a wee and a snack.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you – in fact, I was just thinking that today is an odd day. As I’m writing this, I’ve noticed it’s been a bit warmer in here.
I took my hoodie off this morning and haven’t felt the need for it since; I even put away the bedding. It’s the afternoon and I’m lying on my back in a near hot sweat and I’m enjoying myself, a little.
It’s got me thinking a lot of the cold. That’s why I’m writing you. I already almost miss it. What a foolish, filthy thing to feel.
I remember when you and I were in the darkest of our Winters. It was as if we only had 3 hours of daylight to play with for months, and we didn’t even utilize them. When the clocks finally changed back and the Earth tilted over again and we didn’t even have to wear a coat anymore, or a sweater or even any clothes at all, that’s how warm it was – I couldn’t believe it. I thought, we’re out. We’re finally here. The summer of the rest of our lives; we did it, didn’t we? You and me.
We didn’t lie again for a couple years. Both literally, on the ground, and from our mouths, we never lied. We told the truth and we went to the beach often.
We worked hard.
But it’s terrible. It’s terrible, terrible to remember… After a couple years of that Summer, again I began craving the Fall. As I do. I chased the colors of the Dying; I betrayed friends deeply and ate rats and garbage for weeks, as I used to in the pictures of you I burned, the darkest Winter; I fell back into old habits like a cold embrace. I stabbed the women in my life in the back as one would an attacker, again and again, and I traded in their lives and their love for attention from mediocre boys. I abandoned our projects and the creativity that came with it. I scrolled endlessly through my phone, worshiping like a new God. I turned my back on the old one. I lost the need to do anything – it was cold, but calm and windless. Winter came at last, and I slept in our cave. I conserved energy; I stopped working hard. I haven’t worked hard for us since.
Well… Goodness, I’m sorry again. I am writing this for a reason.
I suppose I just wanted you to know – it really is a bit warmer in here today. I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but, it’s warm. I took off my hoodie this morning. I woke up on time, I wrote down an idea, I sent a nice email, I may have some work coming for us again. I ate a vegetable (wild, I know). I feel a familiar tingling.
I had a day like this last week, and a couple days after that – it keeps happening. It’s melting out there, I think.
In addition, I wanted to apologize. I’m sorry for burning your pictures. I don’t want to hate us anymore.
And I’m texting your friends back again. It’s hard but it’s been helpful. I know I have to keep them for us; I’ve let so many slip off and away.
And I’m recognizing my privileges and working with our sadness simultaneously. I’ve realized life doesn’t have to be a constant guilt trip, but we needn’t pretend to be alright when I again begin to forget eating and sleeping. To our loves we must say, “I am not well.” We must face discomfort.
Lastly, you’ll be delighted to know I’ve finally begun traveling, twice in just a couple of months. I did it for you. I hope it helps in the long run. I have very little money, but I am thrifty and I’ll try to get us out more often.
I am gently breaking our bad habits. I often fail, but I haven’t given up. I didn’t get out of bed today, but I did write this.
It’s definitely warmer in here.
I just wanted you to know – I think I’ll stop disappointing you soon.