Ope—my Midwestern grit is showing.
by Bianca Smith
Last winter was, well, the worst I’ve experienced in my entire 26-year stint here on Earth.
Uncertainty was at its peak. Vaccines were still in pre-production. Seeing anyone you didn’t cohabitate with was anxiety-inducing. My relationship with alcohol became questionable. And general physical movement? Nonexistent.
I was down and out for the count altogether—mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So to be frank, I’ll do anything to not revisit last winter’s state of being this go-around.
I’m straight-up terrified of it.
I’ve realized there’s this self-imposed pressure to be perceived as one who “enjoys Winter” in the Midwest. And if that’s an exaggeration, there’s at least the pressure to be perceived as one who can endure it. A kind of perverted pride. We wear the sub-zero-with-windchill temperatures like little badges. Some of our “funniest” stories during this stretch of three or four months involve spending hours shoveling our cars out of the snow. Hilarious.
Chicago-born comedy hero Bob Odenkirk went as far as to say
, “It is a cold that makes you feel more alone in the universe…This toughness mutates inside you and makes you scrunch up your face, and it makes you harrumph at the naive idealism of the easygoing Southwesterners, or scowl at the braggadocio of New Yorkers, who claim to have winter but only have a fairly gentle snow-globe week or two as they wander around with big shopping bags and rotten old chestnuts full of worms. They don’t know what goes on! They know nothing of winter! You, meanwhile, now have a scrunchy face, a scowl, and a harrumph for the world. You’re a riot!”
I digress. What I’m really trying to say is that this quarter of bone-chilling cold and grey skies and wet socks and blistering wind doesn’t need to be admired. Can we turn street snow into sparkling water, though? Potentially.
While I’d never say fear is a healthy motivator, it’s important to see if I can rework this feeling of dread into active, happier habits. Ones that will help get me through the forthcoming months of darkness.
In no particular order or priority, here is my initial list of things I intend to do to make this cold spell a smidge warmer:
- Take showers only lit by candles
- Stretch every morning before starting work
- Stock our liquor shelf with some tasty non-alcoholic options
- Read a proper book for 30 minutes every day
- Limit my doom-scrolling (utilize those notification blocker and time limit settings)
- Start and end the day with a big glass of water
- Call a friend or family member once a week for a quick chat
- Plan low-stakes mini-adventures (to the antique mall, to a new neighborhood, to a forest preserve)
- Watch a new movie once a week
- Get and give hugs (whenever possible and appropriate)
This is just my humble start.
I strongly believe that whether you’re a cold Chicagoan or a Winter-worn New Yorker or in a puffer jacket while it’s 50 degrees in LA, these seasonal shifts’ effects on you are worth assessing.
Don’t grit your teeth and push through it as I did. Face it with an optimism and a gentleness it’s never shown you. Let’s make a pact: Refuse to let Winter bully you this year.
Bianca is a writer and strategist from Chicago. She helps run a digital community called Distant, spends too much time cuddling her two cats Pearl & Norman, and refuses to acknowledge that pasta sauce can also be called gravy. You can find more of her work at www.biancapsmith.com and you can find her on Instagram at @biancapsmith and @distant.community.