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ON THE 11th HOUR: when the war went quiet
Well, folks, we made it. The longest, coldest month of the year — indeed, a month necessitating a Bell Let’s Talk finale — is behind us.
And, in case Blue Monday (arguably the most depressing day of the year) didn’t give your mood a swift dart in the nads, 2019 threw a full moon into the mix to really tip granny clean off her rocker.
It wasn’t your hormones. It was January.
If there’s one thing more January-esque than falling off a variety of well-intentioned wagons, acquiring recycled air allergies and posting beach photos captioned “take me back,” it’s feeling the blues. The drive to and from work in darkness, the blast of frost shards down your neck as you file glacial ice from your windshield with little more than a sharp-ish spatula, and the eerie sensation that your life is an arctic version of "The Truman Show" and the entire soundtrack is R.E.M.’s, "Everybody Hurts" on repeat — yep, that’s January.
The cold weather means so much more indoor family time. Everyone. Jammed in there together. Usually just in the one room, too. Are the walls getting closer? Who’s to say.
One particularly bitter January morning, I was running late for work and I couldn't get the baby's tiny, malleable thumbs inside the unfortunately angled thumb holes of his mittens (How are all these people going around with toddlers in mittens, all casually, like they haven't just solved the Rubik's cube of toddler attire?)
I couldn’t find my own mittens and had to wear my five-year-old’s ninja turtle gloves. The toddler was less than jovial, having woken at 5 a.m. Have you ever tried carrying a headstrong, wiggly toddler who’s wearing a slippery snowsuit (extra slippery against your winter jacket; he may as well have been buttered) while simultaneously carrying a jaunty owl backpack, a laptop bag and an open mug of hot coffee (because you left your travel mug at work)?
The second-degree burns set in (from the coffee slowly running up my sleeve), I was blasted in the face by gale-force snowsqualls and the greased baby hyperextended every joint in his body in an attempt to escape. I summoned my most cherry-merry voice to describe to him how “beautiful” snow is.
I dropped my keys and had to twice squat my pack-mule self down to rifle through the snow with webbed ninja turtle hands. The straps on the Air Force One-calibre car seat wouldn’t loosen, perhaps because my hands were frozen. Work started three minutes ago. I forgot to pack lunch.
Shitty months and brilliant months alike will pass.
My hat’s off to those winter go-getters who, at the end of their work days, hit the slopes for a glorious run in the majesty of new-fallen snow, revelling in every fresh-powder opportunity like newborn polar bears. Someday, I hope to join you. For now, though, my January inspiration is indoor bra-lessness and grown-up Netflix once the kids are in bed.
With the year's premiere month in our rearview mirror, things will get easier. We can embrace that part of winter that doesn’t exist in total darkness!
Carnival will bring something for everyone. For me, that something is chilli in a tent. Before we know it, birdsong and new buds will beckon the arrival of spring. Blink and we will be having barbecues seven days a week and country music will become, once again, something we admit we kinda like. We will be swimming in lakes and having campfires. And then, before we know it, the leaves will turn.
Time is fleeting. Shitty months and brilliant months alike will pass. So we’ve got to make the most of them in whatever way feels most enjoyable/bearable.
For a dear friend of mine, that means doing all things “Hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah”), which is the Danish tradition of coziness — drinking tea, eating yummy, baked-with-love treats, wearing wool socks. It's “basically living like nan”, she tells me (and she’s four per cent Norwegian so I trust her).
Other friends continue to insist that nothing lifts their spirits quite like being deep in the woods on snowshoes — their quadriceps burning, their hearts pounding — in absolute tranquility.
Whatever your version of survival in the name of preserving and, indeed, nurturing your mental health through January, you have succeeded. Congratulations and hang in there. Brighter days are comin’.
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger, wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook. Her column appears monthly.
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