Okay, I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that I don’t blog very often. I hate it, actually. I’ve been avoiding relaunching my website for months because every time I start to do it, frustration sets in within a few minutes of trying to figure out WordPress and I just give up. I’d rather write multiple novels (and have) rather than work on my website, and I’d rather do pretty much anything than blog.
But at the beginning of the week I was hit with a weird cold virus that has no other symptoms besides making me feel like I’m going to pass out all the time, and for that reason I found myself huddled in bed this morning instead of at the gym, which is where I had expected to be. I was doing that thing you do to avoid getting up where you scroll endlessly through social media posts, most of which you’ve already seen, searching for a nugget of interesting information. Amidst the deluge of wedding photos and vacation pics that most twenty-somethings are flooded with every day, I found an article that captured my interest. I’ve included the link here so that you, too, can be similarly intrigued. It was this that inspired me, despite my terribly slow website, to write this post, and I hope you gain something from it.
The article is called “The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter,” and I would definitely recommend giving it a read. It interested me because, as someone who has struggled with increasingly severe seasonal depression throughout my college and post-grad years, my love of winter generally peters out with the last stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I like to say that I enjoy the aesthetic of winter–sweaters, warm drinks, and soft light–without appreciating the cold and dark. Most of that lasts until the end of the Christmas season, and then, at least around here, it’s packed up for next year.
The article is about a woman who went to research the residents of one of the northernmost villages in Norway, where seasonal depression rates are significantly lower than expected despite the fact that the sun never rises in the winter. What she found was that the difference came down largely to attitude. The villagers saw winter as something to be enjoyed rather than endured, and looked forward to the special things it brought (skiing, sledding, etc.) every year. They spread the coziness of Christmas throughout the entire season. Coffee shops lit candles and lanterns, and people bundled up to spend time outside (which is always healthier than locking yourself in) no matter what the weather. They have a saying that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” In the end, the researcher concluded that “changing your mindset can do more than distracting yourself from the weather.” While she conceded that the Norwegian villagers have a more close-knit culture than most Americans, which makes this easier, the point was still that attitude is a huge contributing factor to the human ability to withstand harsh conditions–and maybe even enjoy them.
As I let this information sink in, I realized that I haven’t always felt the way I do now about winter. As a child, the weeks after Christmas were when The Snow Came, and my siblings and I would spend hours flying down well-worn tracks on a variety of differently-shaped sleds. Afterwards we’d stumble into the entryway, red-faced and dripping, and race to peel off our seventeen layers of clothing and warm our numb fingers around mugs of hot coco. Recently my dad mentioned his frustration with the steep hill in our backyard, and I argued immediately, as if prompted by the tiny voice of my eight-year-old self in the back of my head, “no, that’s the sledding hill.”
It didn’t occur to me then how long it’s been since I’ve actually been sledding. It did this morning.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think changing my attitude is necessarily going to solve all of my seasonal depression issues (I still need my vitamin D supplements), nor do I think I can convince all the coffee shops in the surrounding area to begin lighting candles in January (though I wish I could). But I was deeply struck by the idea that I used to love winter, and then at some point bought into a lie that’s very popular in the Midwest of America, the lie that at a certain age you’re supposed to grow out of the wonder of the snow and begin complaining about black ice at the neighborhood entrance. I think we all need to wake up a bit to the point made in this article that often we bond by complaining about cold weather rather than bonding through the beauty of it. Even while searching for images for this post, I was struck by the fairy-tale-esque beauty of this season, when everything is wrapped in crystal strands of light and shadow. How much better would our moods be if we got out of our houses and spent time with people, rather than locking ourselves in and away from the fresh air and socialization our bodies need? Sure, it might be a little more difficult, but wouldn’t it be worth it? Even to just stand on the porch for a minute when going out is too hard and breath in a few gulps of stinging cold air without a single negative thought?
It doesn’t just apply to cold weather–if you’ve spent much time around humans, you know we do the same thing in hot weather, too, and in a million other unchangeable circumstances.
Whatever your views on winter are, I submit to you that I’d like to be the kind of person who is constantly unwrapping the beauty in everything around me, especially the things I can’t change, rather than groaning about the ways it inconveniences me.