“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”
Anne Bradstreet, 1655
It’s a rainy mid-January Wednesday in Boston. The sky is a blank sheet of gray. The air is chilled. In the Northeast, on days like today, most of us wait anxiously for spring. Others wish we’d get more snow so it at least felt like winter.
It’s not pretty out there on the streets. You can’t ski when it’s like this. You can’t frolic through the snow. The roads and sidewalks are slick and full of puddles. The heat indoors is dry. Spring feels a long, long way off.
This is the time of year we start getting cranky. We complain a lot about the temperature and snarl at the Weather Channel. We don’t get enough exercise. We eat too much. As one colleague reported, “I’m irritable, tired of wearing the same coat everyday and sick of being indoors. I want to be lying on a slab of granite in the Greek Islands.” Another co-worker added, “It’s this time of year when I get nervous about how I’ll look when spring finally gets here.” Me, I try to convince myself that the days are getting warmer. I’m generally unsuccessful and sometimes end up with a chill from wearing a coat that’s not warm enough.
It’s this time of year that tends to turn us toward one of three personal management styles:
- Getting desperate;
- Faking it; or
- Persevering and dealing with it.
For those of us who don’t suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but simply grow weary of winter, it’s important to acknowledge that, eventually, spring will return as it always does. You can use the dog days of winter to prepare for warmer weather, and even provide yourself with a little entertainment and perhaps a couple of dollars in pocket cash. A few suggestions to (at least temporarily) avert desperation:
- Do your spring-cleaning in winter. I have several friends who clear out their closets, give their unused clothes and “tchotchkes” away or bring them to consignment shops, and purchase a few select items.
- Add some color to your life. The same way that flowers perk up the world, they can perk up your home. Hyacinth and amaryllis bulbs are inexpensive and easy to grow. Many are sold in pots where all you need to do is add water and bingo, a little bit of instant springtime.
- Hot, hot, hot. Listen to the music of warmer climates. Dance around your home (alone or with others) to some salsa, reggae or merengue music. Work up a sweat. If you use alcohol (in moderation), drink a daiquiri.
Alter Your Reality
“Faking it” can take many forms. Here in Boston, thousands of students start roaming the streets in shorts as soon as the temperature climbs above 50 degrees. This is not recommended. However, you might try one of the following:
- Go green. Find a hothouse. Most large greenhouses have a section that’s kept warm and humid all year round where you can close your eyes and feel like you’re in the Caribbean, or at least South Carolina. You can also visit a florist and stick your nose in the roses and take a good whiff of springtime to come.
- Turn up the heat. Try to find a public (and clean) steam bath near you or some other such locale. Last week, I went with three friends to “ladies’ night” at the oldest Russian-style steam bath in the U.S. Lots of women all ages, shapes, and sizes sat and sweated together while an ice storm pelted the streets outside. We happily wore green mud masks, smiling, sweating, and momentarily forgetting the reality of our climate.
- Go outside. Even though there may still be a chill in the air, it’s worth your while to get outside. Not only do we need vitamin D (provided by sunlight), but fresh air is curative all by itself. Bundle up and get on out there!
- Vacate. While this isn’t always possible, a short trip south of the border is a fantastic antidote to winter blahs. Many websites offer exceptional reduced-price vacations that can be booked either in advance or at the last minute.
Go With the Flow
And then, of course, there’s the “grin and bear it” option. When all else fails, know that spring will come. The crocuses will open toward the sun, windows will open, and the days will lengthen. As George Herbert said in the 17th century, “Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses.” Those sweet days will be back; I know this in my heart, even as I look down at the street, covered with filthy melting snow, and the sky a leaden gray. But I have hope; in fact, I can see a patch of blue far off toward the east.