How to Survive this Winter: A Self-Help Guide

October 19, 2009

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Our front door last winter.

(Our front door last winter.)

Anyone who has spoken with me for longer than eighteen seconds is aware that I have struggled with winter, in a profound way, for years now. The problem? Well, I don’t ski or snowboard (or want to), I like to go ice skating and sledding maybe once a year, I get depressed by the lack of sun, I feel claustrophobic in my house, and I become a freakishly obsessive germophobe.

While I’m sure we would all agree that I am at least somewhat charming during the other three seasons, winter transforms me into a totally miserable louse and I’m pretty sure that I make everyone around me miserable, too – and if I don’t, it’s not for lack of trying.

One might even suggest that, perhaps, New England is not the best place for me. And one is probably correct. But for numerous reasons that would probably be an entire entry of their own, I am here for at least another winter. Or two. Maybe more. I feel completely nauseous just typing that.

Knowing that this is the case, I am trying really hard to make winter less soul-crushing than in recent years. It is part of my recent campaign to Take Charge of My Life, and to start making positive decisions that are all about me, and what I want to do! It’s about synergy, it’s about re-branding, it’s about alignment and it’s about monetization. (It’s also possible that it is about none of those things.) And it all starts here, with identifying the specific issues, and then – are you even ready for this? – finding possible solutions.

It’s not going to work, you say? Yeah, you’re probably right. But what the hell am I supposed to do? It’s October 18th and my car is covered with snow. So here goes nothing. My guide on How to Survive Winter.

Problem #1: Winter seems endless and there’s nothing to do.

Solution: Schedule time and cultivate interests!

You’ve probably gathered by now that I do not hold a traditional job. If we’re going to be sticklers about labels, like “employed” and “unemployed,” I would have to say that I am the latter. I certainly have many responsibilities, but my duties are more things that can be done at various, flexible times. Come winter, I need to schedule all this free-form time. I’m talking yoga twice a week, I’m talking tennis on a regular basis, I’m talking no-cancel movie nights with friends, I’m talking self-imposed writing hours. Schedulization will make the days, weeks, and months fly by. I am certain of it. And, if not, I will at least amuse myself by using the word “schedulization.”

Problem #2: I loathe the extreme cold and darkness.

Solution: Turn on the heat!

David loves to tell people how cold I keep our house in the winter. His favorite stories are about me wearing a ski hat or a fleece jacket to bed (both true). What can I say? When I was growing up – in a house built in 1702 – and I told my mom that it was cold, she said “Put on a sweater.” When I said I was already wearing a sweater, she said, “Put on another sweater.” And that was that! I put a sweater on over my sweater! Heat became, to me, a luxury. And, I know, it is a luxury! But it is a luxury to which I have access and so, along with being very grateful that it’s there, this year I am also going to turn on the heat. In addition, we have scheduled an independent energy audit, which will likely result in the purchase of one or more of the following: a pellet stove, storm doors, blown-in insulation, those thingees that regulate radiators, or an entirely new heating system. One way or another, though, this mofo is going to be blazing this year.

Problem #3: Food options suck in winter. Weight gains abound.

Solution: Obtain good food.

We were, admittedly, spoiled this summer with David’s great garden and the summer CSA share and, once you’ve eaten that amazing, fresh food, it is very difficult to go back to pre-packaged crap and a typical all-carbs diet. So this year we have signed up for our farm’s winter share, so there will be fresh veggies all up in here, and David has also agreed to grant my wish for fresh herbs grown under the grow lights in the basement. Between that and a freezer filled with high-quality meat (which we still need to get) I will feel like we can eat the same healthy stuff that we ate, and loved, this summer, even in a blizzard. I will still be feeling all stabby when my West Coast friends tweet, in February, about riding their bikes to the farmer’s market to buy all manner of unavailable-to-me fruits but I will just have to be happy as I gnaw on my parsnip, or whatever. If they really loved me, they wouldn’t write about that stuff in the first place.

Problem #4: I become paralyzed by fear of illness.

Solution: Therapy? Medication? Hmm.

I’m not really sure what to say about this one. I’ve already decided that I will have my daughter stay home – for as long as necessary – if anything obvious is lurking at the school. I busted out the Lysol for a pre-season clean-and-spray, I bought a new thermometer, I use the free “cart wipes” at the supermarket, and I carry anti-bacterial wipes and gel in my bag. We will not go to any indoor playground/museum/playspace etc. from now until spring. This one, though, is dicey. I am definitely accepting suggestions. I have admitted that I have a problem, which, I’m told, is the first step.

Problem #5: I hate winter. See all of the above.

Solution: Plan trips to warm destinations.

I am all over this one – I have a good recommendation for a Jamaican resort, so that will cover the slightly cheesy, all-inclusive, water park trip. And then I believe there will still be room for a jaunt to the west coast, or perhaps back to Austin, or maybe south of the border? Remains to be seen. Florida will be in there somewhere, too. It is fun to plan trips and even more fun to go on them. I do plan to invest in travel insurance this year. See #4.

And, with these techniques, I do believe I will survive. As an aside, it was recently discovered that I have a vitamin-D deficiency. I am currently taking supplements but I’m going to assume that this has also played a role in my SAD. Who knows, maybe I will actually thrive – but the goal, again, is just to survive. I’d love to hear your tips.

  • Love it! As usual! And I promise not to rub it in about the farmer's market and our year-round fresh-fruititude. PS, nice work incorporating “stabby.” PPS, grass is always greener… I get SO SICK of the sun and feel like I might die from the sameness of my days in L.A. I also get sick of using sunscreen. My hands look old. But you're right — I don't suffer the kind of SAD that I used to back in New York. Please visit us this winter! I will be so happy to see The Friend enjoy our weather!!

  • lcarrigg

    Before this week, when it got freezing and snowed, we were enjoying an absolutely gorgeous fall. Just one week ago I was at a Red Sox game under a blue sky, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and there were also days where we'd walk on the beach in the afternoon and the air was chilly but the sun was warm and it was so, so good. the days felt so specifically New England and they were so amazing that I thought more than once, Okay, maybe winter is just the price we have to pay for days like this. So I definitely hear you and I think I would also die from sameness in SoCal. Honestly, it's the length of winter that kills me. It is fine for a while, the snow is pretty and it works with the holidays…and then it is mid-January and you realize that you're going to be freezing until April. We'll see how things pan out on the vacays. I may fly out there just to eat a guava or mango or something. Fruititude, indeed.

  • Andrea

    This was totally funny — and yeah, winter does suck and I envy the west coast people SO MUCH (although not so much when they smell smoke during the “fire season”). And how they are always out in just jeans a a tee. Sigh. Have you ever thought aobut one of those lamps they market to those of us who get SAD — it provides (I think) ultraviolet or something to make you feel more cheerful during the winter months. I always debate buying one but I don't think they are very cheap.
    PS Very jealous you have a winter CSA! I wonder what kind of stuff you'll be getting.

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