Surviving the winter
Winter is super fun.
Strep, flu, stomach bug, and other weird viruses are hitting everyone these days. A quick scroll through social media will show another family down for the count. Facebook has become filled with photos of puke buckets, cans of disinfectant, and photos of sick children camped out on couches. Suddenly all those political posts don’t seem so bad anymore, right? As if these germs don’t pose enough of a challenge though, February in many areas means that it is also time to contend with blizzards and snowstorms that are measured in feet rather than inches.
We are in the doldrums.
The Doldrums are a funny thing. They are an actual place— a place near the equator where everything is often quite still. The winds and seas are calmer and life feels paused in the Doldrums. Somehow over time the term doldrums began to be used for life’s slumps — those times in life when we are just stuck: times like the thick of winter.
When I was in the Doldrums during a Semester at Sea experience, I found my days there quite magical. I remember sitting on the deck of the SS Universe Explorer as she sailed through the Doldrums, sun on my face, watching the dolphins gracefully gliding alongside our ship. Those dolphins seemed to love the stillness of the ocean and the lack of wind. There was something beautiful about that stillness and about the ability of the dolphins to find fun in such quiet. For me, the Doldrums were inspirational and recharging.
It can be hard to find the beauty in the winter doldrums though. These doldrums are filled with germs, guilt, white-knuckled driving, power outages, stretches of days without seeing the sunshine and let’s not forget about the bitter cold. The winter doldrums are nothing like the Doldrums I once visited.
Could it be that we have it all wrong?
As I sit here facing the end of February and still a potentially long time before spring finally arrives, I have come to realize that it is time for a perspective change. I need to find a way to enjoy the winter doldrums just like those dolphins enjoyed the Doldrums all those years ago and these three tips just might help us all:
- Figure out what we can control
Let’s face it. We have very little control over what happens to us during the winter doldrums. Aside from frequent hand washing, house cleaning, and not sharing drinks, we cannot do too much to avoid the winter germs. We also can’t do much about the winter weather.
The only thing we can control is how we react to the situations cast upon us in the winter doldrums.
How are you reacting when that stomach bug hits your house or when you are forced to miss a day of work because your children’s school is closed due to snow? Are you wasting energy complaining about things that you cannot control?
2. Remember that this is temporary
These winter doldrums will pass. Spring and summer always come. Yes, it may take extra time for the ball fields to be cleared, defrost, and be ready for opening day. Yes, we may have more snow days and find our kids in school a bit longer in June. Yes, we may be hit with more illnesses. Yes, we may have lost some work time because of the winter. But, days are already getting longer.
Spring is coming.
Perhaps it would help to give yourself a little countdown calendar or plan something super fun to look forward to doing once the winter doldrums are gone. When it gets to be too much, though, remember something I learned from my 100 days living on a ship: looking at the horizon can help cure seasickness. So, when the winter doldrums just get to be too much for you, turn your eyes towards our horizon — the spring — and remember that we are heading in the right direction. We’ll get there. We just need to hold on.
3. Slow down
Maybe the snow days and viruses aren’t about interrupting our life. Maybe they can be about mandatory pauses from the rush of our typical life.
Maybe we need to be like those dolphins and soak up the playful moments the winter doldrums provide us — snuggling on the coach with our children, breaking into the hallway closet’s mountain of board games, tackling some home projects, re-arranging some furniture, writing, reading, playing. Slow down. Find the fun. Just be.
What would our lives be like right now if we changed our narrative around the long, dreary, and dreadful winter and instead approached it as an opportunity to find peace, restoration, and some playfulness?
Maybe it’s time we all give it a try.