Big Fat Eternal February

It’s mid-February. In these here parts (Ohio), we have endured true cold for three months and are facing at least one or two more months of the same and possibly even worse. February is synonymous with the hardest…the bleakest…the most cruel of all months. We can start to forget that it was ever warm, and worse…we can even start imagining or believing that the entire world is one frozen, eternal, tundra.

Our cars are caked with salt. Heck – the trees, are even caked with it. From the splattering of soggy, wet, slushy, muddy, salty sludge…that spews everywhere. It’s on our coats from brushing up against our cars as we hack at the ice on our windshields. It’s in our houses, workplaces…tracked in from our boots.

This is 50 shades of gray that is anything but hot and spicy. No, in fact, the shades of gray you see everywhere from the Midwest to the New England Coast is about as appealing as the ashy grey that ET was turning when he was slowly dying…

…A cold, sickly, gray, slow death.

And that is pretty much how February feels.

Don’t EVEN get me started on the layers. Layers upon layers of clothing. A Midwesterner in winter has more layers than a Vidalia onion. Getting dressed in the morning and undressed at night is like an event. It takes time!

And if you have a dog that needs out in the middle of the night…you get to do it twice as much…while the poor pooch stands at attention, head cocked and cross legged at the wonder of your ridiculous rituals as you huff and puff and fiddle with your zippers and boots in a half asleep stupor.

The honeymoon of winter is officially over at this point. Even die hard nature lovers like myself that once squealed in excitement at the glittering snow, sighed in peaceful happiness at perfectly outlined branches, and marveled at beautifully formed snowflakes, find ourselves questioning our sanity at actually living in a God forsaken place such as this.

Yes…you definitely start to question your sanity.

This is the time of year when friends that have escaped and now live in sunny tropical places post pictures of their beautiful sunny surroundings just to show you the contrast of your terrible living choices. And while one part of you is indeed encouraged that the entire world is not actually a dead, arctic desert, the other part of you wants to cry out or wince in agony like a slug that just had salt poured on it.

And the worst thing a well-meaning person can say to a Midwesterner in mid-February is something like, “Well at least you don’t live somewhere worse”, or “March is right around the corner”, or “Quit your bitching, you chose to live here”, or “Just deal with it”.

On a less silly side, anyone that has ever battled depression knows it can feel like a harsh cold…well, February. Deep depression doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while to take hold. It comes on slowly, gradually, so you don’t even notice it sneaking up on you. And then one day you wake up and you’re like, “What the hell”!? And by then, you are right smack in the middle of it with no end in sight, and you can’t see far enough ahead to feel like there is any real hope.

Just like a harsh winter storm, when depression takes hold, you have limited visibility, limited mobility, it’s hard to even focus sometimes because you can feel numb, like your body is shutting down. And depending on your circumstances and what brought you into the depression, you may even feel physical pain in your chest or limbs.

It can be debilitating. And well-meaning people can say the stupidest things just out of ignorance. Things like, “Things could always be a lot worse”, “Why can’t you just get over it”? or “Suck it up”, or my all-time favorite… “Pray about it”.

Sometimes what you really need is someone to just be there with you. Acknowledge that this moment in time SUCKS big time, and just be. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t minimize it. Don’t make them a charity case. Just treat them like a human…Like you would want to be treated. Ask if there is anything tangible that they actually do need and don’t expect any kind of thanks for it.

But trust me…they will remember random acts of kindness later. I still remember a compassionate person dropping off groceries for me at time when I didn’t have much. That was action. My daughters still refer to that moment as the time an angel helped us.

Cause just like in the dead of winter, sometimes you just need another person to acknowledge that it is damn cold out, huddle together, vent a minute, and then go shovel the drive together or something and maybe have a hot cocoa afterwards.

If you find yourself in a mid-February doldrums, literally or figuratively – know that you are not alone. And know that it truly does not last forever.  Life is just a collection of all these moments. Sometimes we do great. Sometimes we blow it. Sometimes we are the helpers, sometimes we need the help.

I write this as a clinically depressed person in remission. Maybe even completely healed. Time will tell.

I also write this as a Midwesterner in mid-February that was just given the recent diagnosis, I mean forecast, that says it’s going to be colder than ever, for longer than I can comprehend.

I’m still trying to see the beauty, but have resigned myself to the fact that the worst may be yet to come.

In either case the advice is the same:

Accept your reality. Give yourself a break now and then…(give others a break too). Set boundaries. Be careful and choosy about how you spend your energy and who you spend your energy on. And as cheesy as it sounds…Find beauty where you are and humor whenever you can . And lastly remember…

Even February doesn’t last forever. Think about it…why else would our forefathers chosen February of all months to be the shortest month? Because it SUCKS BIG FAT MONKEY BALLS my friends!!