Like many others, the early dark this time of year has an effect on my mood.
There's the disorientation of it being pitch black outside at 5 p.m. There's the general mood that comes with experiencing sunlight for less of the day's waking hours.
I like the dark of the early morning, and of the evening the other half of the year. But for these months, my mind tends to match the night that creeps too soon into my day. I don't feel like doing much, or going anywhere, or talking to anyone.
I can recall one instance in December years ago when this weighed on me in a particular way.
I had taken my son to Burger King for dinner. The circumstances that had us there are lost to me. I just recall that he was only a few years old. This particular franchise had a "play place," one of those indoor playgrounds consisting of tunnels to climb through and other features that a small child would find entertaining while parents finish their food or absent-mindedly scroll on their phones.
Since it was dinner time, the dark had already descended, and it was already affecting me. But the boy wanted to play after losing interest in his nuggets and fries, and I was fine with obliging him for a while. I watched as he zigged and zagged around the area, the fluorescent lights a stark and ugly contrast with the night outside.
The most jarring feature of this evening was that, due to the season, there were Christmas carols playing on the overhead speakers. Songs of typical cheer and joy serenaded us, an almost comical juxtaposition to everything else happening in that moment.
At the time I was only taken by the strangeness of it all; the muzak adding to the dark rather than making it lighter. But so many years later, I can appreciate the signs of joy that were there that evening, even if I couldn't see them at the time. That included the carols, the laughter of my son playing, even the fact that we were warm and well-fed and would soon go back to a home we called our own.
Even in the dark, there is joy. But there's no shame in needing a while to find it.