Jan 26 2012

Surviving Winter With Minimal Suffering

tumblr_lwk8yvyupW1qzx6wko1_500Ahhh…such a great movie!

My dear friends,

Today was a day like any other.  A lot of day-dreaming, a lot of thinking how I could really go for a hot dog right now, a lot of time congratulating myself for drinking green tea, a lot of time wondering what my dog’s favourite song is, and then a lot of time genuinely wondering where the day went.  Except today was not quite a day like any other: I had to book an appointment to get my winter tires balanced and slapped on my car.  (Yes, I am aware that this is January, I live in Canada, and thus have already had to contend with snow for at least a month now).  I looked outside, and saw not-so-special snow flakes piling up so spitefully on my car, and blanketing the rest of the countryside with their treacherous lies of “Oh, there’s no ice over here…You’ll be saaaafe…Just a little bit closer….” and BOOM! Broken hip!  Although most winter guides have already come and gone in November, well, January *is* the month where all the holiday baking runs out, you feel pressured meet some sort of obligatory New Year’s resolution, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is in full, glorious swing.  January is also the month where one comes to the grim realization that maaaaaaaannn, there are at least two months left of this suckitude.  So here are some tried and true words of wisdom from someone who knows this weather all too well:

1) Maybe winter doesn’t have to suck. Like all your mom’s self-help books are quick to remind you, we may not have the ability to control everything that happens to us, but we certainly have the power to control how we respond to them.  Changing our mindset about winter just might allow us to enjoy ourselves, and appreciate the season as one of crucial of restoration.  Instead of seeing winter as something to endure, let’s try to see the positive things winter has to offer.  Look to Canada, Scandinavia, the Northern U.S. and other places who have incorporated winter into their culture, identity and pastimes.  And y’know, while we have to trudge through un-plowed driveways and warm up our cars well in advance, let’s give major props to our wintry ancestors, who wouldn’t really know whether or not they’d survive the winter. It lends an extra urgency to Christmas celebrations, eh?

2) Dress for the weather. Just because you’re wearing a pair of tights as pants, it doesn’t mean that Old Man Winter is going to take notice and crank up the sun.  To paraphrase an old saying from Somewhere Cold, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation for it. If there’s a blizzard outside, don’t put on your Spring trench and ballerina flats.  For the longest time, and to my mom’s dismay, I’d be the idiot who’d wear little sneakers everywhere and spend half of the time assuring my friends that my feet weren’t freezing.  Two years ago, I finally got myself a pair of boots, and they changed my life.  I no longer prance from semi-dry spot to semi-dry spot like a demented deer ballerina.  If you have go-go-gadget arms like me, winter ushers in at least three months of cold wrists.  Step out of that most un-fun rap fame, friends, and get yourself some extra-long mittens to stave off the chill, and keep your eyes open for coats with long sleeves.  It’s a bit of a challenging hunt, but they’re out there, and they’re worth it!

3) Make sure others can dress for the weather, too. Donating your surplus warm clothes and coats to the less fortunate will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling elsewhere: your heart!

4) Try to exercise. Think of those rosy-cheeked snowshoe and ski enthusiasts you see in weekend adverts, forget that they’re models who are likely posing in front of a screen, and head out for some winter fun of your own. Skiing, skating, sledding…endless possibilities to take advantage of!  Plus, if you fast-forward to a dreary, rainy Spring day, you’ll be wishing for an afternoon at the skating rink, followed with hot chocolates (extra chocolate, extra marshmallows).  My former boyfriend got really ambitious last winter, when he was training for a fitness test.  Regardless of the cold, he would run laps outdoors at top speed.  Flush with admiration(while he was flush with wind-burn), I had the oh-so-important task of logging his progress…from my seat on the (indoor) couch.  If you’re cabin-bound, try to do some indoor exercise, like tackling a long-procrastinated project around the house, or spending a few minutes dancing, or head out to the gym with a friend.

5) Comfort food! Comfort food is always the right choice, regardless of the season.  This winter, though, take advantage of the special pleasure of stews, hot soup, dumplings, fancy bread, pierogies, heavy beer, mac and cheese, Korean BBQ, cinnamon rolls, holiday baking, turkey, heavenly mashed potatoes, and every possible combination of sugar and carbs.  Leave those microwave suppers and “salad-for-supper” meals for warmer times, when they might actually be filling.  Winter is time for hibernation!

6) Try to keep your house kind of clean. In wintertime, we have Ab Fab marathons to watch, hot chocolate to drink, and skates to think about lacing up.  We don’t really have the time to be scrubbing mountains of dishes, nor do we have the will to.  A dirty house can put a damper on your spirits, so try to keep your house semi-clean on a regular basis, with the hope that you won’t have to summon massive reserves of energy to spend the weekend cleaning house.  Since we’re indoors more often in winter, our surroundings play an even bigger role in our moods and motivation.

7) Treat yo’ self. Wear your favourite outfits on undeserving days.  Have that second lunch.  Spend the entire day crafting a winter playlist.  Splurge at the grocery store.  Buy yourself flowers.  Top up your savings account.  Put off your chores to write in your journal.  Hot drinks that are heavy on the Bailey’s. Call your friends to hang out, even if you just saw them yesterday.  Buy fancy coffees with flavoured shots, whipped cream, and a high sprinkle quotient.  Take your vitamins. Look at puppies doing cute things on Youtube. Daydream.  Anything you do to cheer yourself up, by all means, do it!

And there we have it! An exploration of our winter patterns, and a pretty formidable list of ways we can make the most of this winter season!  I’m sure you have your own winter survival secrets squirreled away, so share them with us, won’t you?

On to the next round of hot chocolates!


Jan 2 2012

Welcome, 2012!!

HPIM0815Little Rabbit, Big Carrot

Happiest of Happy New Years to all of us! I was going to say that 2012 is upon us, but it has already barreled through the door.  Since I like to pretend it’s December 27th for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (maximum pyjama-wearing and holiday-baking-eating!), I generally feel a little sluggish and unprepared for the new year.  That might also be because I’ve been eating fudge every single day for the past two weeks.  It’s the candy of candy!

Even though I’m feeling a bit scatterbrained and fretting that my 2012 calendar isn’t up yet, I’ve been mapping out my visions and schemes for 2012 in the midst of the merry whirl of Christmas activities.  I usually hate change, and despair that another year has slipped away so quickly (maybe it’s all the fudge that’s responsible for the dramatics), but I’m ready for 2012.  Frankly, 2011 has kicked me in the teeth- -over and over- -and didn’t even apologize for breaking my retainer. Wow, what a year.  Worldwide, it was a year that we really stood up to the fight, and on an itty-bitty- individual level, I did, too.  Not in a political-economic protest sense, but just in living courageously in the face of some way-harsh-Tai adversities.  This past 2011 shall henceforth be known as The Year of Character.

To be sure, 2011 brought along some life-altering gifts: giddy, joyful reunions with both silver and gold friends, a dazzling and imagination-boosting trip to Las Vegas with my then-boyfriend and his family, a leather jacket that I’ve been pining for all my life (fine leather goods!! Yes!), as well as exciting work gigs like conference-planning for The Canadian Museum of Civilization, copy-editing and general-persnickety-ness for The University of Ottawa, and charmingly-enumerating for Census Canada.   There were newborn puppies, music that changed my world, the fact that I can still earnestly say that a song changed my world, unforgettable small moments of triumph, connecting with mentors and like-minded spirits, eternally-supportive family and friends, writing inspiration, watching the entire series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” romance, laughing so hard my face fell off, joyfully watching great things unfurl in the lives of my loved ones, and the smug satisfaction of having taken my vitamins regularly. I also discovered “Breaking Bad.”

Yes, 2011 offered heart attacks of happiness on a platter, and then it hit me over the head with it.  Plus, the grapes were mushy.  In no particular order, here’s the Airing of my Grievances: I started the year off with skin cancer surgery and skin grafts, and continued that enchanting trend into the Spring, where I had another skin cancer surgery on the lower rim of my left eye, immediately followed with reconstruction surgery.  While basal cells and cool scars aren’t new to the neighbourhood, this was beyond my comfort zone (er, if one could actually be comfortable when people are hatcheting away at one’s face for fun and profit), and I had to sidle up to some deeply-carved insecurities and fears about health and beauty.  The summer brought forth more skin cancer treatments, which kicked my ass more than I’d care to admit.  A favourite aunt and dear confidante of my mom was diagnosed with cancer for a second time.  We have a lot of reasons for hope, which is glorious, triumphant news, but the initial blow was deep and lasting.  Six years ago, she won, and we’re all visualizing another victory.  It was a year of major stresses for my parents and siblings, and it’s so hard to watch the ones you love suffer.  It was a year of many uncertainties and set-backs for my friends.   While I had an abundance of non-monetary opportunities, it was still a year of shaky and scarce employment for me, and the stress of that seeped into every little corner of my life.  There was an awful lot of slouching in front of my computer.  I didn’t manage to make major coinage, as I had hoped. There was a little bit (and even a little bit is far too much) of comparing myself unfavourably to other people.  Deliberate hermitude.   Fluttering worries pinioned to the pit of my stomach. And to cap off an agonizing November of silence, I was unceremoniously dumped…on my birthday.

So, December wasn’t all prancing around and Mariah Carey, but I still managed to have fun.  I was staggeringly mature about the break-up (after having written some melodramatic e-mails to my friends, obviously), and surprised myself with my humour and resilience.  After a reluctant dip in reality, I realized that this was definitely a blessing in disguise, and that the actions of others are in no way a barometre of my self-worth.  This entire year has been a test in building character, and I aced it.  I might be bruised and hobbling- and where the hell is my hat?- but my heart is open and my smile is so bright, we all have to wear shades.

The Year of Character taught me a great many lessons; pummeled me with them, to be more accurate.  The state of my life and the state of my world haven’t exactly been unfolding according to “plan,” and I’ve been angry about it.  Really angry, actually.  I didn’t really realize the extent of my anger, nor did I come around quickly to even recognizing these hastily-suppressed feelings as anger.  I sincerely believed that my guilt and anger at this arrested development (the upcoming AD movie was a massive bit of good news in 2011, by the by!) was important, because it would somehow “motivate me” and “keep me on track to my goals.”  Hmmm… O hai, Catholic guilt!

My new plan for 2012 is to let go of the plan.  I’m no longer wringing my hands over the way things were supposed to be.  I’m letting go of my anxiety-addled expectations that this must happen by exactly this arbitrary date, or I’m this doomed failure of a human being. To clarify, it’s not like I’m going to while away the days in pyjamas covered in a fine mist of processed cheese products, or just give up on everything.  I’m still aiming for a year of new love, happiness, health and mucho succcess, but I now realize that I can more easily achieve it by being extra-kind and compassionate to myself and others, and by trusting that this present moment is exactly the way things are supposed to happen.  Over-investing myself in an arbitrary plan, trying to control the uncontrollable, and punishing myself when things don’t work out is a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness.

I’m launching a revolution against the tyranny of expectations, and my victory will be sweet.  Oh man, that sounded like a voiceover for a second-rate video game for 15-year-old boys, but my background is in War Studies, so I guess you should all just feel grateful that I haven’t made any “you sunk my battleship”-themed jokes.  Yet.


whoihavbecomeYou…read my mind, PostSecret

So, what sorts of visions, goals, resolutions, major and/or minor epiphanies do you have in store for the newborn year?  I wish that your 2012 is nothing short of magnificent!!

Three cups of holiday cheer, and a cup of an unidentifiable liquid that was pushed back to the recesses of the fridge, to you!