Winter of Our Discontent

dirty snow “Now is the winter of our discontent.”  –William Shakespeare

It’s true.  We’re expecting 3 to 5 inches of snow tomorrow.  Again.  And it’s April 21.  Too blinking late in the year for snow!

Tomorrow all the dirty snow like the pile in this picture will be fresh and clean again, but not for long.  It will get dirty again.  I know it will melt fairly quickly, but that just doesn’t make us feel any better about it.  Everyone who lives in the northern states where winter is harsh feels some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, even if they aren’t formally diagnosed with it.  There are things you can do about it, but there is really no cure except to move to a place where the amount of daylight doesn’t change that much from one season to the next.

Besides moodiness, grouchiness, and general depression, SAD causes people to sleep more than normal and crave carbohydrates, so naturally it produces weight gain, as well.  Sufferers have difficulty concentrating, and lose interest in their normal activities, including socializing with friends.  Some feel a heavy, leaden feel in their arms and legs.

Although I don’t experience these symptoms with enough intensity to qualify me for a diagnosis of SAD, I do experience most of these symptoms, and it always seems that spring is the worst time, especially in years when the snow keeps on coming, as it has done this year.  We’ve actually had a fairly mild winter, and not as much snowfall as in previous years.  Still, the late spring snows and one major ice storm have tested everyone’s patience.  One other thing to consider is that spring isn’t the beautiful season it is farther south of here.  In fact, it is usually rather chilly and wet.  The ground is muddy, and the roads are filthy with sand, salt and dust left over from the snow until the street cleaners wash them off.  The grass is brown and the trees stay bare for quite a while in spring.  Nobody plants anything outdoors until the temperature no longer goes below freezing at night.  In years like this one, that’s mid to late April, at least.  The only good thing about spring in the north is that it’s not as cold as it was in winter.  I used to wonder, before I lived in other places in the world, why there were so many rapturous poems about spring.  As a student at the University of Kansas, I found out.  Spring was lovely there, with beautiful green grass, delicate green leaves on the trees, and flowers of all kinds all over the place.  The dogwood trees were enchanting… until I developed an allergy to them later in life.

I’m not the only one whose mood has been affected by the weather.  Just about everybody I know has complained, even though my friends tend to be among those who are aware of the effects of negative thinking.  Sure, we try to tone down the complaints, but we also know that it is sometimes best to just acknowledge how we are feeling.  One of my friends is so disgusted with the weather that she bought a ticket to Mexico.  Wish I could do that.   When I complained on Facebook, several of my wonderful friends immediately invited me to come and stay with them.  What a lovely bunch of people!  And someday I really will take them up on their offer of hospitality.

A lot of things that are suggested to beat the winter blahs are a little costly.  There’s no way I can take a trip right now, and it would also be a bit too spendy to re-decorate my apartment right now.  Light Box therapy is also out.  The cheapest Light Box I saw on the web was $135, and they went up to $300.  A special alarm clock that emits graduated light might be an option for me next winter.  Those seemed to run from a low of $47 to #176 for a deluxe model.  I’ll definitely think about doing that next year.

Some of the things suggested at various online sites included eating chocolate or something sweet such as sorbet.  That’s actually not such a good idea for me, since I’m really trying to lose weight.  I’ve actually been on a weight-loss plateau all these winter months, and now I think I know why.  I guess I’ll just have to wait until spring well and truly comes to get off the plateau.

Another suggestion was to visit a local conservatory.  When I lived in the Twin Cities, I did just that, and it was so great to walk around among the greenery in the various climate-controlled rooms.  Unfortunately, the only conservatories in the Sioux Falls area are the ones you can have built onto your home.  That’s if you have a home to build onto, which I don’t.  So that’s out.

A couple of suggestions that I have been following:

1)  Learn something new: In preparation for writing these blog entries, I have had to do a bit of research and have learned a lot of things I didn’t know before.  That’s been very beneficial, and I find that writing takes my mind off my troubles for a while.

2) Connect with other people:  Facebook has been so helpful, especially during these long winter months.  I enjoy chatting with various friends each day and checking their status posts.  Many of the ideas for my blogs come from ideas and images that my online friends have recently shared.  Another thing that has happened over the winter months is the formation of a group of writers in the Sioux Falls area.  We are looking forward to our first working meeting in May, and I am pleased to be having the prologue of my book critiqued at that first meeting.

3) Read a book or watch a video: I still have a few unread books lying around, but I have finally seen all the videos that I bought in the last few years and never got around to watching.  Some friends from Nigeria recommended books by Chinua Achebe, a literary figure in that country who recently died.  I’ve read A Man of the People and  I am currently  in the middle of Things Fall Apart. When I finish that, I will start No Longer at Ease.   Recently, in preparation for a meeting, I read Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying to Be Me.  That has led to a lot of introspection on my part, and a couple of blog posts resulted from it.

4) Plan a garden for spring: This will be something new for me.  My dad has agreed to build me a raised box garden in my parents’ back yard, and I’ve been reading up on square-foot gardening and looking at charts that tell which types of crops go well together in a small garden of this type.   It is something I’m looking forward to.

OK, so one more snowstorm to go, and then the temperatures are supposed to go up fairly quickly.  I hope and pray that we will not have any snow this year in May.  :-/

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