Monday, December 21, 2009

Fighting the urge to wallow

When I was a child, I did not understand how anyone could possibly be depressed during this happy and gleeful time of year. Out of town family buys you presents. Santa comes. The streets are filled with twinkling lights and there is talk of being loving and giving. All things that are seemingly NOT depressing. As an adult, I find myself fighting the downward spiral to that depression and start to see how much work the adults had put in to make the holidays a magical time for us ignorant children.

The first step on that journey was learning that Santa isn't real. I distinctly recall honestly believing the myth, honestly believing the guy at the mall was really him, and honestly believing my mom was a part time elf (that was her answer when I'd asked her why Santa had the same handwriting as she did). The next step down happened somewhere in the teen era, when the gifts from the out of town family became more and more generic, candles and trinket boxes galore. I don't think I actually purchased a candle until I was twenty-three because of all the leftovers from the teen Christmases (no offense to out of town family, I always appreciated the thought and I know it was due to our lack of closeness). Then later I realized all this talk of giving has more to do with keeping our precious economy afloat...sort of like how banks "help" us get homes by charging interest. Stores tell us we are "giving" when we are really "spending."

This year going into public has been a grand challenge. Ever since the night before Thanksgiving when I ventured into a liquor store to purchase wine for our family gathering. No one smiled, no one was happy, and it was basically a large mosh pit with shopping carts (thank God I've never needed a shopping cart in a liquor store, but that's another blog entirely). Ever since that night, going into public has sparked a terrible illness inside my stomach, whether it's to a resturant or just to the local store. Stopping at the gas station has been annoying. Driving down the street has been annoying. I feel like everyone is feigning joy when really we are all just irritated. Or at least, I am just irritated and can't even bring myself to feign joy. I feel like I am simply wading through it all, not feeling a thing other than this irritation, and like there is nothing really different about these days leading up to Christmas than any other winter day.

Around noon today I woke up from my hibernation and realized today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. I have spent the last two days hibernating, watching movies, and avoiding public places, and suddenly this abberent behavior made a little more sense to me. Of course I'm hibernating, I'm supposed to! Maybe tomorrow I will miraculously have more tolerance for the crowds and the will power to leave the house. I hope so--I still have at least two gifts to buy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Five Things to Love about Winter

So many people hate winter, and for good reason. It's cold. Snow presents oodles of inconveniences from slippery roads to shoveling. I myself cursed the Old Man as I endured a long bonus workout with a shovel and large drifts that piled in my driveway earlier this week during our first notable snowfall. At the end of the day, we choose to live in this climate. I grew up in Minnesota, so I know no different. It was not until one year I spent Christmas in Florida and found it disconcerting to hear carols while wearing flip-flops did I begin to appreciate the variety of the seasons. And, as much as it can be hard to admit, there are many wonderful things about winter, and my top five are described here.

Number Five: Outdoor activity. I am not a serious outdoors woman even in the best of weather, but the winter has yielded us with one half of all Olympic games with a variety of athletic challenges that cannot be sought above thirty-two degrees. In sticking with what I know, I do enjoy a good run in the winter. Today I ran nearly six miles in fifteen degrees, sunshine, and just enough wind to cut through my clothing. The cold pushed me in a way warmer temperatures cannot, and upon completing the run I felt more refreshed than I had in months. Not to mention the same old terrain has a totally new look: a sparkling, white blanket.

Number Four: Hockey. I realize this may also be considered an outdoor activity, however, these days most hockey is played in a heated arena where little more than a hoodie is required to stay warm. I am referring to hockey as a spectator sport, sheer blood lusted entertainment. Ever since I went out with a boy who played junior varsity hockey in high school, I have been hooked on watching it, the bulk of which is played in the winter.

Number Three: Hot beverages. In my gene pool, coffee is year-round mainstay. But only when the temps and snow fall do other hot beverages creep into my diet. Hot cocoa tastes so good when coming in from the cold, and green tea warms the soul on weekend afternoons. Even the occasional spiced apple cidar can hit the spot, and let's not forget the Bailey's in our coffee on Christmas morning.

Number Two: Cooking anything in the oven. Cooking in the oven is tolerated when it's warmer simply because of one side effect: it warms the house. So in the winter, the oven can turn into an auxillary heater that also creates wonderful smells and nourishment. For further elaboration on this thing to love about winter, refer to my entry on chocolate chip cookies.

Number One (drumroll, please): Snuggling. Hands down. Whether you have a significant other, a child, a teddy bear, or like me, cats, snuggling is simply better when it's cold.