A few years ago, I wrote an improbably-popular story for Fast Company called “The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter.” Winter is dark and cold here in Pennsylvania, but it’s even darker and colder in northern Norway (and other such places) where the sun doesn’t rise from mid-November to mid-January.
It sounds depressing, but people have all kinds of coping mechanisms.
Christmas is one. The lights and the celebrations are a great way to get through the darkest days.
Then, by the time you finish the holidays, northern Norway is almost at the point where the sun starts coming up again. It also turns out that once the sun starts coming up, it stays up for measurably longer amounts each day. In Tromsø, for instance, the sun will rise for the first time on January 15, and by January 31 the daylight already lasts for 5 hours. This makes sense if you think about it. You have to go from nothing in mid-January to 24 hours of light in mid-May, so it’s somewhat like an explosion of light.
But the most important secret is a mindset shift. Winter can be seen as something to be enjoyed, rather than something to be endured.
Over the past few years, I’ve really tried to work on this. It is not easy. I like light as much as anyone. There are also my personal bugaboos. I have some circulation issues that mean my hands are always freezing (one reason I don’t ski). When the weather turned suddenly wet and freezing in Grand Teton last August, I actually broke out in hives. Good times!
Then there are the inevitable snow days (including travel woes) and gastrointestinal illnesses.
But as with all things, I can choose which stories to tell myself. I am telling myself that I actually really like winter. I’m going to do many fun things this winter. I am making a post-holiday Winter Fun list that includes some escapist things, some things that are only possible this time of year, and just general things-to-look-forward-to, which should get me to mid-March, at which point the daffodils should be up (unless we get a repeat of last year’s three March snowstorms…)
See the orchids at Longwood and the Philly flower show. Both happen long before there are flowers outside! The Longwood greenhouse is always beautiful, and the kids like playing in the children’s garden.
Run on the beach in San Diego. My 11-year-old asked for a San Diego trip as his main Christmas gift. I’m the parent taking him. We’re doing the Zoo Safari Park and the zoo, and staying at a hotel on the beach, so a beach run will be a special mid-winter treat.
Go to Disney! This family vacation has been planned for well over 180 days, which alert readers will recognize as the amount of time you have to plan in advance in order to get certain character dining opportunities. Cinderella’s castle, here I come! (I am pondering how to get my runs in during this trip. I figure I’ll probably get up early and do a loop around our hotel complex or some such each day. But hey — another opportunity to run outside in reasonable weather)
Go to a basketball game. I had great tickets to a 76-ers game last March and then wound up snowed in, with no power. So that didn’t happen. Maybe Villanova, maybe the 76-ers. Many good options around here, but I feel like the end of the college basketball season always sneaks up on me, and then my spring travel calendar gets too full to make it to a pro game. This year! Or at least I’ll watch more games on TV.
Go outside for 20 minutes a day. (Inspired by the Humans Outside project). I usually hit this with my run. The weather has so far been mild enough that I’ve been able to run outside pretty much every day this winter. My gear means the cold isn’t a problem (well, down to about 15 degrees, and it’s rare that a full day stays below that around here). It’s only precipitation. Even in sleet, though, I can stomp around in the yard. And if we get a big fluffy snow I’m going to go outside and play in it. Indeed, I’m kind of hoping for at least one fluffy snow, albeit on a week I don’t need to travel anywhere.
Drink tea. It warms me up.
Go out to lunch once a week. As a work-from-home sort, this always feels festive.
Run the Frostbite 5-miler. I was quite proud of myself for keeping a sub-10 min/mile pace for this whole race last year. We’’ll see if I can come in under 50 minutes this year too. (I reserve the right to not run if it’s under 15 degrees or sleeting).
Go down the waterslides at the YMCA. We already went once before Christmas. There are very few activities that my whole family enjoys, but the YMCA’s indoor pool is one of them. We can definitely do this some weekend afternoons.
Make sure my little guy learns to ski. Once he learns to ski, we can all go on a ski vacation next winter, I can put all the kids in ski school or send them with my husband, and then I can sit by the fire and read all day, all by myself.
Celebrate the launch of Juliet’s School of Possibilities. I feel like I’ve been waiting on this one for a while! It comes out March 12th. I’ll definitely raise a glass of something festive that week.
How will you be enjoying yourself this winter?
Photo: Life lesson — don’t park on the roof deck of an airport if you’re flying from a place where snow is a possibility.