Weather used to make me anxious.
Growing up on the East Coast, I have undergone more blizzards, ice storms, death-defying drives to school, broken tree limbs over roofs, and week-long power outages than I ever really signed up for, and over time, those experiences turned me into a complainer. A loud one.
Every year, as soon as winter touched down, I would begin to pout. And then moan. And then compulsively check the Weather Channel, hoping against hope that maybe the predictions had changed overnight, and those 13 inches of snow would just miss us. I would routinely get sad 24 hours before a big storm, and downright miserable if said storm occurred in the early spring months. I hated everything about winter, but lacking any real reasons to move south, I would just sit it out and let my mood darken for months on end.
It sounds a little funny, and in a way it was, but it was also unhealthy. While I can’t be sure I was dealing with something as intense as Seasonal Affective Disorder, I would find myself quite despondent January through March. Some of my hardest struggles occurred in the winter, and my general glumness certainly didn’t help me recover quickly. If I wasn’t depressed, I was damn near close to it.
Things are a little different these days. Not because I’ve moved to a tropical climate (I currently live in Colorado, which isn’t much better, severe weather wise), but because I’ve been practicing Mindfulness for about a year now. My practice isn’t anything major – some meditation here, a class there, articles and books, therapy and a personal promise to remain as conscious and open as I can in most situations – but it has definitely improved my life in a multitude of ways. One major way?
My relationship with winter.
I know it’s an obvious thing, but it only recently occurred to me that there is absolutely nothing I can do when it comes to the weather. Complaining does nothing, panicking helps nothing, and obsessing about the cold isn’t going to make it warmer. So, since there’s nothing to be done, I might as well accept it exactly as it is, wear all the warm clothes I can, take healthy precautions and refocus my attention.
Mindful thought teaches to us simply be; allowing our experiences to glide over us and sink into whatever reality is currently happening. So instead of fighting against 6 AM car-shoveling sessions, I now just let them happen, stay as present as possible, and invest in heavy-duty shovels and scrapers. Wasted energy over weather (provided it hasn’t just taken my house or caused me to careen off the road) is just that – wasted. And since truly focusing on the moment makes it impossible to simultaneously be pissed off, the obvious choice is to practice accepting what is and let everything else fade to the background. That includes all those meteorologists who come on TV every half hour with new ways to say “lots of snow,” and grumbling coworkers who can’t help explaining to the entire office how their drive home is going to be a “nightmare” all afternoon.
Also, in case you think I’m just preaching without proof, there are blizzard warnings for my town as I write this — which means that we’re about to get six inches of snow in October – and my number of gloomy Facebook statuses is exactly zero.