Buried Under Winter

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As the snow tumbles down for what feels like the millionth time in the last three months, I find myself resigned to it’s inevitability. It’s the part of the winter where the cold, gray, and ice have completely taken over everything and it feels like the sun will never show itself again. The dreary days seem to stretch on as far back as I can remember and as far forward as I can see. It is the part of winter where I realize I’ve been buried up to my eyeballs and didn’t even see it happening.

Here in New York, the fluffy white flakes settle down and cover everything in a sheen of pretty for about 10 hours before they begin to morph into something sinister. First the piles at the sides of the streets and sidewalks fill with cigarette butts and dog shit. Then they begin to gray and then to blacken. A week after the storm, what remains are iced-over mountains of detritus and soot; hulking black humps punctuated by discarded rubber gloves, soda cans, flyers for discount suits and threading salons, and lost mittens of all shapes and sizes. How does the filth pile up so quickly?

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The drudgery of pulling on boots and zipping up jackets, of slogging through slush and shivering against the wind, have become second nature. We don’t even notice it anymore. No one stops to chat at school dropoff. There are no shared walks to here or there. The parks are filled with ice and puddles and not fit for squealing, running groups of children who’ve been sitting at school all day. Every trip is a hurry in from the cold. It is lonely and long and dark.

So as the snow falls and falls and falls and I prepare to lace up my boots yet again to go out into the winter, I keep telling myself one thing…Spring is going to feel SOOOOO good!

Keeping It With You

The holidays are over. The weather is cold. The days are still too short and the sky too gray. The long stretch from January 2nd to the first nice day in March is often a dreary one. Living in the city I often feel trapped in the winter. I used to think it should be the other way around since there is so much within walking distance, but somehow it hasn’t worked out that way for me. The sidewalk and buildings and sky seem to blend together into a bleary smudge and I can’t help but become a part of it. 

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and feeling a bit lost. I’ve sat down to write so many times and been unable to form a thought to put into words. Yesterday, Brady had pinkeye (yuck) and his first sick day of the school year (not bad). Having both boys at home all day was fun for the first few hours, then it started to wear thin. Since Brady wasn’t really feeling sick, he was bored. Since Brady was home, Declan wouldn’t nap and wanted him to play. But Brady didn’t want to play with Declan, he wanted to play with me, but only if I played the games he wanted to play. And so it goes. By the time the husband arrived home from work I was “mommy, mommy, mommy-ed out” and bolted out the door to the yoga studio.

A nice class focusing on the basics with candles burning, culminating in a long, guided meditation and a savasana where somehow, someway my mind actually got quiet had me ready to face bedtime. I walked home in the cold feeling refreshed, renewed, and stronger. But I stepped through that door and the calm blew right off me. The kids were being wild, their room was a mess, they were begging for snacks when their teeth should have been brushed and all of my meditation and quiet mind were forgotten. Anxiety rushed in and I felt a mess all over again.

So how do I keep it with me? I try to get back to the breath. I sometimes do left-nostril breathing and it does have a calming effect. I tell myself to remember the quiet moments that I’ve had and to put myself back into that mindset. This is nothing new. In the years I have been practicing yoga I have found that it has an amazing ability to calm my anxiety and to hold the depression that follows it at bay. Clearly, I am keeping something of my time on the mat with me as I go through my day-to-day. But I want a way to preserve the wonderful feelings I leave class with, even if life outside of the studio is chaotic. I don’t want that falling apart feeling that I get when it all hits me again.

I remind myself of my intentions from my practice: calm, acceptance, love, understanding. I breathe deep and recite mantras in my head. I remind myself to be present and to look around and find the thing that can make me happy. It isn’t easy. It’s a process. 

How do you get back to the calm when life is anything but? Do you find it more difficult to cope in this long stretch of winter?