Learning to love winter

A little over two years ago, I pitched a piece to Fast Company on ways to stay happy during winter. I intended to give advice such as “listen to music” and “exercise.” Then I happened upon the work of a young researcher who visited the far north of Norway to write about the (relative) lack of seasonal affective disorder. She learned that inhabitants of the far north had a different mindset about winter. It wasn’t something to endure. It was something to enjoy. The result of our interview was a piece called “The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter.” That title, much like “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” turned out to be total click-bait. It became the most-read article in the leadership section that year.

Anyway, I have been trying to take my own advice on this. January is close to done. It is not my favorite month. It has been cold. It has been snowy. Yesterday was cold and snowy, with the wind adding a certain bitterness to the march up the slick driveway to get the mail (after mailing off oodles of tax forms. Good times. The IRS is the only organization I know that still uses carbon copies.*). It has been dark. People have gotten sick.

And yet! It has not been a bad month. Not at all.

For starters, I embraced the idea that “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” With all my winter gear, I’ve been able to play outside with my kids in the snow and sleet and 13 degree temperatures. I ran outside 3-4 days per week, thanks to my Polartec pants. (I was on the treadmill the other days).

As for one of those outside runs: the Embarcadero! I took two trips this month, one to San Francisco, and one to Mont Tremblant outside Montreal. While neither was exactly a vacation (the first was work for me, the second for my husband) I snuck in some good stuff. I ran in a foggy morning along the waterfront in San Francisco, and took myself out for Peruvian seafood. In Montreal, I got a massage, and went in the outdoor hot tub several times.

Work is going startlingly well, given how distracted I’ve felt with snow school closures, the plethora of kid activities, and various household administrative stuff. I don’t think I have worked a full 40-hour week this month. I feel frustratingly behind on many things (like email — sigh). But the podcast continues to grow. Each Tuesday spike (when we release a new episode) is higher, and we crossed 100,000 downloads.** My agent sent in my time management fable to my publisher in December, and I learned this month that it’s a go, for publication in February 2019. And the speech-booking — oh my. Lots of great opportunities!

We’ve been doing some fun winter activities too. My husband and I went out for two seasonal-based tasting menu dinners, which were both incredible. There is seasonal food in January no less than June! We’ve done family excursions to science museums, and the orchid show at our area botanical gardens, and celebrated the little guy’s 3rd birthday. While he is still a handful, and not an easy child, he is getting better in so many ways, which I am grateful for.

And I’ve been reading Moby Dick! Crossing another one off the reading bucket list. Cold days are good for curling up with a book (or reading a book at gymnastics, as is more often the case. But I can curl up in bed at night, which is nice.).

Anyway, a good January. Mostly. A January of sometimes screaming at people to get into their coats and mittens because we are late again, a January of counting minutes on weekends when the kids are fighting, a January of frustration when I’m spending two hours of my “wild and precious life,” as the poet Mary Oliver might put it, trying to get the 3-year-old to bed. But when you expect the worst of a month, the good comes as a nice surprise. Like when it only takes 5 minutes, rather than 20, to get the ice off your car.

*If you were born after 1984 or so, you may not know that this is what “cc” refers to.

** 110,000 actually — but who’s counting? Other than me, I mean.

13 thoughts on “Learning to love winter

  1. This morning I went for a run outside for the first time in…weeks. My biggest worry is slippery surfaces, because an injury takes so long to come back from. Do you have any slippery pavement strategies? I know you mentioned running carefully in a recent post.

    Also: do you run when it’s dark? It’s hard to squeeze in a daylight run during the depths of December-January.

    1. @Jamie – I generally aim to run when it’s light if I’m running outside. This is a major upside of self-employment – that I can do this during the weeks, even in winter. Although sunrise is around 7:10 these days, meaning it’s somewhat light by about 6:45 – so I guess a short outdoor run could work if one had to be at work at 9-ish, without too epic a commute.

      I only ran on the slippery trail because I didn’t know it was going to be slippery. We ran slower than usual (we did 7 miles in a time we’ve often done 8) and tried to run around the worst of it. Definitely worth walking at points vs. slipping and getting an injury!

      1. @Alexicographer: I get jumpy about safety. I worry about potential encounters with others; I worry about missing my footing here in my older neighborhood where the sidewalks are uneven. I once fell while running at night and sprained my ankle badly while more than a mile from home. No fun at all.

        It’s not super-sensible to worry more about assault in the pre-dawn hours than during quiet stretches of the day (all of the attacks I know of on our multi-use trail have happened during daylight hours, for instance), but I worry anyway.

        1. @Jamie- I get jumpy about safety too. But the safety issue I worry about more in the dark is whether cars can see me. I’m running on streets. People sometimes behave as if they’ve never seen a pedestrian before. Plus it’s hilly/curvy. So to me it’s not worth it.

        2. @Jamie, @Laura … right. Full disclosure, when I run in the dark (or light, but particularly the dark b/c I do that from home not work) now, I am mostly running with my large dog. On average, he’s about as aggressive as a watermelon, but I suspect would respond differently if he thought I were threatened (he is very much “my dog.”). And while he is not the least but threatening, himself, to people who know dogs, he is big enough that even most of those approach with caution. So.

          That said, I ran in the dark before he came into my life. I live in a warmer and smaller place than Laura does, so the conditions are different (even mid-winter, I rarely need to worry about slipping on something frozen). And up until about 9 at night (I do not run in the morning), there are a pretty good number of walkers/runners out and about where I live. The lumpy sidewalks are an issue, so I go slower, or lift my feet higher (or both), or run on the roads — which does not mean “in traffic,” where I am talking about. And there are neighborhoods near mine with paved or smooth greenways that I make some use of, though less when it is dark.

          Honestly, as with anything I think it’s a matter of familiarity or not, and having done it without encountering trouble, I now feel comfortable doing it. Of course nothing is risk free …

  2. As long as there isn’t a bone chilling wind, and people shovel their walks so I don’t fall on a patch of ice, I kind of love the cold. This morning I walked into work all bundled up and was nice and toasty except for the tip of my nose. It was lovely.

  3. College basketball is the way I get through January – March, and now that my 13-year-old is totally into watching with me, it is all the more fun. Even the disappointing losses.

  4. Congrats on all the January wins Laura! My workout partners and I have also made lemonade out of January lemons by taking up swimming, instead of our usual winter track running. The change in workout has been refreshing on all fronts.

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