January Reflections: On Winter

I’m no stranger to winter. I grew up in Minnesota, a part of the country famous (or maybe infamous) for its frigid, snowbound winters, and I’ve spent most of my adult life in the Northeast, land of the (similarly infamous!) nor’easter. There are plenty of things I love about this season: the first snowfall, glittering frost patterns on windows, Christmas sweaters, hot drinks, cozy time with family and friends. 

But there’s always a point in mid-winter when I hit a wall, and that time is right around now. The early charm of the season has worn off, but we still have a few cold, gray months to get through before spring. This is when I think of the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s famous line: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Yes, winter can be a slog, but what can we do? We have to slog right on through it. 

Like a lot of people, I got sick at the start of this month and spent a few days in bed. Being sick is rarely fun, but I’ve found there is pleasure in giving myself over to the rest my body needs, instead of trying to fight it or work through it. I logged out of email, pulled on some blankets, and indulged in unlimited, guilt-free TV. As a kid, whenever I had to stay home sick from school, my parents would let me watch “The Price is Right”—a treat that felt so special I almost looked forward to getting sick. This time around, I binged the newest seasons of “Search Party” and “Queer Eye,” along with Adam McKay’s latest farce Don’t Look Up. Did I feel bad about lying around watching hours and hours of TV? I did not! 

If there’s ever been a time to cut yourself some slack, that time is now. Winter is tough, so it’s more important than ever to make space for things that feel good. Since I’ve gotten back on my feet, I’ve been browsing for beach clothes online, and making plans for summer trips. Sure, it’s good to “live in the moment,” but when the specific moment we’re living in is freezing and bleak, there’s nothing wrong with casting our imaginations forward to a warmer, sunnier time. 

A friend recently told me that the thing she loves most about winter is that it is, in her estimation, the worst season. She spends the second half of fall dreading winter’s arrival, but once she’s in it, she can take comfort knowing it won’t come around again for three more seasons. Meanwhile the earth keeps spinning. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, every day is a little bit longer and a little bit brighter than the day before. Take courage, friends. We’ll get there. 

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