It’s not uncommon for someone to say to me something to the effect of, “Dude, how do you get through winter up here?” The comment might come from people who have recently relocated here, deceived into thinking it’s Fourth of July weekend 52 weeks a year. Or it might come from people who have lived here for years.
I understand the question, but I also understand the solution, and lucky for you, I’m going to share it in a metaphor. This is a metaphor that I made up myself and whenever I begin to say it at home, my family pretty much in unison tells me to shut up. But I like it, so here goes.
Winter is like a powerful river. When you are in it, if you try to fight the current you will quickly tire, become overwhelmed and drown. If, on the other hand, you swim with the current, you float downstream, travel to cool places and arrive at the banks happy and refreshed and feeling dynamite. So, moral of the story: winter, go with the flow.
Feel free to ridicule this metaphor in its simplicity and weirdness, but don’t ridicule its message because it is central to thriving not just surviving winter. And you want to thrive, right?
So, in real life, what this means is you have to get outside at least a half an hour a day (see my previous post: It’s Never as Bad Outside as It Looks). You get the clothes on, you get the blood moving, you breathe the air, you elevate the mood. And most important, you come back having lost the sense that winter is oppressive and overpowering and you are a weak and feeble being at the mercy of cold and icy snow. That is the opposite of thriving.
Fact is, for me winter is when I often feel most alive and have many of my year’s peak moments. These moments tend to happen on XC skis or snowshoes, with a friend or with my pooch. You obviously need to figure your own way to get outside. Know that if this is a new thing for you, the early stages will be a pain in the keister. You’ll have to round up some sort of gear, you’ll feel uncomfortable with learning something new, you’ll think, “I’m just not a winter person.” But this is all worth working through as you march toward the promised land: thriving in winter, having peak moments of alive-ness and being happy.
So there ya go. Winter, go with the flow. Thrive not just survive.
Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.