“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty
“I got no patience, and I hate waiting.” – Jay Z
If you are anything like me you’re anxiously, curmudgeonly, waiting for winter to end. With the groundhog’s foolproof shadow forecast and March 1st coming up, we know there is light at the end of the snow tunnel we’ve formed where our driveways once stood.
I remember when I was a kid, I’d hear adults mention “cabin fever” when my brothers and I would get rambunctious this time of year. A bad case of cabin fever, if left untreated as a child, might turn into seasonal depression as an adult.
For me, I need to be active. I need to move around. I need things to do. Challenges, choirs, projects. We spend a bunch of money on satellite tv programming, and on the best days we don’t watch any of it.
It’s hard to do that in the winter though. Record amounts of snow coupled with frigid temps the past couple months have created a situation where it’s almost enjoyable to shovel or snow-blow. It’s something to do.
And that’s just the thing about winter. Everything is just a bit more difficult, a bit more uncomfortable to do. It’s easy to fall into a negative attitude. It’s easy to get lazy. It sucks so bad that a bear is just like “fuck this, I’m going to bed for 3 months.”
I became aware of seasonal depression a few years after my brothers died. Not sure exactly how I ended up talking to a therapist- it could have been a court requirement, or maybe something my mom asked me to do. At any rate, I was explaining that I had a hard time with the holidays, with Josh and Jon not being there, and that it lasted until after Jon’s death date (February 18). I explained that those months from Thanksgiving to March just seemed to drag on forever, that my mind would race and go places I didn’t enjoy, that I would drown those thoughts out with whatever. I said things like “the only thing there really is to do is go out” as an excuse for drinking five nights a week. The therapist was insightful and didn’t accept my rationale for my behavior. He wondered why other holidays, like my birthday in March, or Memorial Day, or the 4th of July didn’t effect me the same way Christmas and Thanksgiving did in terms of my brothers. I said something about being outside for those holidays or being in the sun. He wondered why Josh’s death date in September didn’t bother me as much. He wondered why their birthdays (in April and June) didn’t bother me the same as that date in February. My answers again were centered around being outdoors, the sun, the good feeling the summer reminds me of, the warmth in the air. Even writing this, I associate good feelings with summertime… and the Fresh Prince song. Duh.
It was at that point that I first heard the term “seasonal depression.” I was a skeptic back then. I was young and not that open to new ideas. It felt a little like an excuse, and excuses were actually something I was really into at the time. So I went with it.
Eventually, most likely when I stopped drinking, the excuse part of the diagnosis gave way and the self aware portion was all that was left.
The winter still sucks. I still get “cabin fever.” I just know why now, and I have learned some coping mechanisms. I’ve learned some signals to look for and a way to respond to the signals that keep me from becoming a bitter, angry, lazy asshole by mid-February.
This year I had two foot surgeries and my self awareness, coping mechanisms, and signal spotting were all put to the test. I was confined to my living room for so much of the past three months, letting my wounds heal, that I really started to sink into a hole. The winter was really really dragging on. Everything was pissing me off. Normal stuff that pisses everyone off, I was just ranting about it to anyone who would listen. I had read too many articles and watched too many TV shows. My head was getting filled with noise instead of peace. My escapes were all out of order until I could move around again. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t play basketball, I couldn’t work on anything in the garage, or in the house. I couldn’t buy something to put it together. I couldn’t even shovel snow, for f***’s sake.
Eventually my feet started to heal, and 2 weeks ago I was able to start working out again.
When you work out everyday or however often, it can become such a drag. Like something you have to do instead of something you want to do. BUT when you haven’t been able to exercise for several months, the release of endorphins is so incredible. Right now I am completely hooked on being in the gym. Which is great because I am totally out of shape. I’m hoping I can ride this wave of endorphins to getting my summer dad bod back, instead of this weird ball of clay thing I have going on right now.
I also played basketball today. I still have a decent hole in the side of my foot, so I am certain no doctor would have released me to play, but I didn’t ask and hopefully no doctors read this blog…(Hey Blake).
It felt so good to be back out there. I was totally a non-factor and probably a liability on defense but I think I made up for it with my positive attitude. There was joy in being on the court today. Sometimes that joy can fall victim to the competitive nature of sports when you are playing often.
So having my two favorite winter coping mechanisms back feels incredible, but I also learned that I need to add something to my arsenal that doesn’t require the ability to move around. I need to be able to find some peace of mind without a gym, because I won’t always have one.
Right now, I am leaning toward taking my wildlife observation skills to the next level. This entire winter we have been blessed with an incredibly active field behind our house. There have been hundred of geese hanging out and flying around in cool formations. The other day I was taking a video of the geese and a couple big swans flew into my view. They were much bigger than the geese and made a distinctly different sound.
At times we’ve counted over 50 deer in the field. The deer come out from the tree lines each day starting around 2 pm. As evening approaches, the deer move closer towards our fence line. A few nights last week, the deer were bedding down in the small amounts of leftover corn stalks and brush just outside our yard. I could shine a flashlight out at 9 pm and see 15 sets of beady eyes reflecting back at me, laying along that fence. One of the nights was a super winter blizzard polar vortex moon or some shit, and I didn’t need a flashlight that night. It almost got to be creepy, a feeling of being closed in on by a bunch of deer once it got dark. What if they are zombie deer? [That’s a real thing. Read about Zombie Deer here.]
We also have a really nice group of bright red cardinals hanging out, and some grey and red too. I believe the grey and red are female, and the all red are male. I put some food out for them earlier and now I am watching a neighborhood bird party through our picture window. There are 10 to 12 cardinals, black birds of all different sizes, a blue jay, and a woodpecker (looks just like Woody) at the feeders today.
Next year I am going to get a bird book and put a water feature out there for them. Next level bird watching.
It’s a peaceful hobby. You can listen to a record and watch the animals in the field. It’s nice.
I get it though, my things aren’t your things. That’s what makes us interesting as people.
If you hate the winter the way I hate the winter, if you feel depressed or agitated as a result of it, I really hope you find some things of your own- some things that make you feel that good feeling. The warm peaceful feeling, similar to the sun. Just something to make the waiting tolerable.
And like my friend Eddie Vedder said “no matter how cold the winter, there’s a spring time ahead.”