Today is Groundhog Day, which shouldn’t mean much since whether the overgrown rodent sees his shadow or not, winter always seems to last too long. For the record, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow today, which means six more weeks of winter. No one thinks much of this; the weather in most of the country has been very mild anyway and, shockingly, groundhogs cannot actually predict the weather. But as a child I remember eagerly anticipating the prognosis on how harsh the winter would be, dreading the dark silence of another snowfall. While other kids prayed for snow days so they could frolick outside instead of going to class, I just hoped spring would come and come quickly.
I took an Abnormal Psychology class in college and although I thought for at least a second that I had every single disorder we studied, it would take years before I could decide on the one that seemed all too real: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m positive that I don’t have multiple personalities or schizophrenia, but I know that if I spend a few weeks in the short days and chilly air of winter I get pretty seriously depressed. I’ve called them my “winter blues” for years but never wanted to turn the low feeling into a disease. For a while, I theorized that the perfect storm of Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and Valentine’s Day simply made for a period of reflection on a life that needed improvement. But a few years ago I accepted that my life is fine, it’s just old man winter that makes me so sad.
So I moved. Finding new career opportunities was the driving force behind my relocation from East to West coast, but there was a very curious empiricist in me ready to prove that winter itself was dragging down my life. I rejoiced as I put my heaviest winter coats in storage and let out a squeal of glee when my mechanic told me that I shouldn’t need new tires since my car would probably never drive in snow again. Just the idea of not freezing in the darkness lifted my mood before the winter months even came and I couldn’t wait for proof that for me a happier life means a warmer life.
I’ve spent the past two winters in Los Angeles shaking my head at global warming but sitting outside in the sun wearing short sleeves on most days. It’s not quite beach weather, but it’s hard to be depressed when the sun is shining on your face and the local produce is ripe. The dark, short days of Mid-Atlantic winters are a distant memory that make me a little uncomfortable when I think of them. I feel a tinge of pity for my friends back home when they rave that today’s temperature is an unseasonably mild 50 degrees (to me, now, still rather cold). When I tell them that I can’t even imagine living with “real” winters anymore, they say that they need seasons to break things up. What they don’t realize is that seasons do break things up: for me, into depressed times and happy times.
Do you get “The Winter Blues”? How do you deal with it?