Winter Doldrums

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If you’re anything like me, the winter doldrums really hit hard come February. Gone are the holiday festivities and new year enthusiasm, and in rolls the sluggish apathy that makes itself at home this time of year. I used to fancy myself fairly unaffected by seasonal affective disorder as my days remained full of teaching fourth graders, dining out with friends, and binging Netflix with my husband on weekends in our cozy, fire-lit Broadripple basement.

But then, kids. Winter in Indiana with kids is its own kind of caged circus, at least at our house. I often play my odds at an indoor play place, desperately hoping we don’t get plagued with another stomach bug. In addition to now feeling significantly affected by the changing seasons, I have also become somewhat of a germaphobe. I try so hard to keep my chill, but I cringe every time I see my toddler with her hands in her mouth, knowing what will inevitably befall us approximately 48 hours later. Then there’s losing access to that post-dinner energy burn outside; it stuns me every year when we set the clocks back, no matter how much I try and prepare. My husband and I have tried everything: bundling up the kids to play flashlight tag, riding bikes around in the dark with headlamps, buying a light-up football to toss around in the dark, and bribing with hot chocolate to play outside for just a few minutes. Even on a “successful” night where the outside time lasts more than seven minutes, I still find myself scouring Redfin for homes in South Carolina with sunny palm tree-lined yards come February 1. There’s no way around it–winter is just hard.

Ironically, I’ve found being outside on a walk to be what I look forward to most, even though “outside” is often the enemy in my head, robbing me of my February joy. The crisp air helps give me perspective, and I reflect on the morning coffees with my husband by the fire (with chaos and kids very much present), extra check-ins and spontaneous playdates with friends because winter takes a toll on all of us, lego building sessions, wrestling matches, and a plethora of books with my daughter. These things don’t happen as often in the summer because life is busy being lived outside, as it should be! The slow pace of the winter creates space to stretch my creative muscles with my kids a bit and is a physical reminder of the seasonality of this life, much like parenting. Some days feel so brutal I’m begging God for them to end, and others feel much too good to be my reality.

So, if given the chance to move to South Carolina, I don’t know that I would, although check in with me because I’m making no promises. The doldrums always weasel their way in, but I’ve found they don’t linger. I watched my mom take walks in all kinds of crazy weather for my entire life. She has always found so much beauty in the cold winter days and prefers them over any type of weather. I never really understood it until now, but she was onto something.

As for today, I’ll keep bundling up, watching my breath swirl in the frigid air, and walking back through the door to a warm house filled with my four favorite people who make it impossible for me to be sad for too long.

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