Remember this surprising love letter I wrote you last year? Well…I feel the same this year, except, ENOUGH ALREADY. The Polar Vortices and homebound snow days with restless children and dangerous travel conditions and cancelled social plans and what seems like forever just to bundle up to get outside on days that we are left with no choice but to leave our house. Enough.
And running? It’s become something of a chore. I’ve started to dread it because no matter how hard I feel I’m running, with my feet fighting for balance in treacherous snow, even in Yak Trax, I often feel like I’m standing still. The cold seeps past the two, three layers, and by the time I’m home, my body is frozen – and not in a sweet, Disney sing-along way. The miles feel arduous, and my lungs cry out to me. Enough.
Then there’s that day when My Guy’s car spun out of control because of black ice. He was, thankfully, unhurt, but his car? Not so much. And when I tried to get Pickle and me out of the house the other day, our other car, the bigger SUV, wouldn’t even budge out of its spot. With the shovel already broken from a previous attempt to get us unburied from the snow, I couldn’t dig ourselves out.
To compensate, we took a walk around the block instead, at Pickle’s insistence. 7-degree weather didn’t seem to faze her as she kept suggesting we walk further and further, and we did, just to appease her. But my toes, prepared only for a drive to our destination but not a walk around the neighborhood, felt like they were about ready to fall off my feet. Actually, strike that. By the time we got back, I couldn’t even feel anything so even if they did, I wouldn’t have noticed.
So, yes, enough already.
Having had many years of mild winters, I had forgotten how formidable you can be. I remember now, the ice in my nostrils during my work commute, the layers that never seemed enough, and the gloomy, winter-feels-eternal days that had us in a vice grip for months. How soon we forget those things after a few romantic winters. Chicago is one of the coldest major cities in America, and I’d forgotten that.
These days, when My Guy cusses at the first sight of snow, I have to try to retrieve the memories of winter I love to battle the ones we’re experiencing. It’s hard work, trying to love this season, because sometimes, all I want to do is retreat into myself. I want to hibernate until the first signs of spring emerge from the sodden ground. But I also have two girls who are still enamored with the season – yay, it’s snowing! – and for their sake, I dig deep.
And here is what I find: That you, my dear winter, are still beautiful. That I still love the serenity of a pristine white city after a fresh snowfall. That there are few comforts more gratifying than snuggling under the blanket with My Guy with tea in hand. That I am still thrilled by the feeling of fresh snow under my boots as well as what Maria from “The Sound of Music” sings, “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes”.
Yesterday, I even opted out of cleaning my disaster zone of a kitchen from prepping comfort foods like pulled pork and roasted carrots and parsnips to nestle comfortably into my reading nook with a book in hand, in the middle of the day while Pickle napped. Mid-day reading with the snow silently falling beside me, just outside my window. How delicious. How indulgent. I was reveling in the beauty and serenity, until concern for My Guy’s safety nudged its way into my thoughts, I hope he gets home safely.
I am digging deep these days, because, with inches and inches of snow surrounding us, I have to. I am tunneling through my discomfort to find that joy that so easily found me in the seasons before. I continue to run, dreading the 15-degree days but riding on the high of accomplishment when I return home and savoring every moment of a hot, hot shower.
I am also learning to be more gentle with myself. When I had stuck to my running schedule religiously last winter, it felt great, even triumphant. I hadn’t allowed the weather to stop me and that made me feel unstoppable. But then again, other than a handful of snowstorms and a day of hail, it was one of the mildest winters I’ve experienced, so running the three days a week didn’t feel so impossible.
As it does now. I’m not strong enough? crazy enough? to go outside when the temperatures dip below 10 degrees or when it’s impossible to walk in snow-covered sidewalks, let alone run, and there had been many of those days. This year, it feels especially difficult to convince myself to go outside to run, and so I have to dig deep again, which entails finding a running partner on Sundays for my longer runs and getting on the elliptical machine at home instead of going outside when the conditions are unfriendly.
This also means I have to learn to be gentler with myself. If I can’t make it outside, I won’t berate myself. If I am slow and sluggish on my run because of unshoveled paths, I try to appreciate the fact that I was even out there at all. When it comes to running, I don’t feel at all victorious this winter, but at least I don’t feel like I’m defeated either. Because I am still out there.
Running slowly. Digging deep. All in search of a silver lining.
And I’m realizing that, even in the cold, grey darkness of winter, there is always one.
Justine, also known as, Cannot Wait for Spring.
The silver lining you see here is the vapor that rose from Lake Michigan on a rare and breathtaking –10-degree (Fahrenheit) day.