Back in 2000, I started trying to get a handle on my annual winter funk, a mindset that's anything but danceable. At the time, all I knew was that some time after Halloween, I invariably started sliding on the ice toward the Slough of Despond, and there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. I wrote at the time:
The land, almost all the way from here to Manitoba, is flatter than Britney Spears' voice, and once a cold front forms in Flin Flon, there's nothing to stop it from falling right down the map on top of us and it's no consolation knowing that the Dakotas and Nebraska and even Kansas get it first. If anything, the time lag just builds up the inevitable apprehension.
Recent innovations in weather reporting if not in actual weather, of course have brought us the phenomenon known as the Polar Vortex, which, I am told, we are not in at this moment. The snow and sleet and other S words on the street could not possibly care less about their origins.
The logical thing to do, in this case, would seem to be to relocate to some place with more climate and less weather. Southern California, for instance. Except that I've tried that before, it failed miserably, and it did so before winter ever so much as hinted at its existence.
So there must be other factors involved. Again, from 2000:
In an effort to make this time of the year bearable, the cultural arbiters have inflicted upon us a panoply of dubious celebrations, starting with the smug self-absorption (not to mention calorie absorption) of Thanksgiving, continuing with the botched pagan festival which is all that remains of Christmas, dissolving into the mishmash of bacchanalia and banality that constitutes New Year's, and finally descending into the hormonal fatuity of Valentine's Day. Not only are these hollow holidays overcommercialized to the point of nausea (and occasionally beyond), but all of them are played out in front of a backdrop of bare trees and dead grass with occasional sprinkles of road hazards.
Well, yeah, they'd have to be in front of a backdrop, wouldn't they?
There may be yet other factors at work here. When I was younger, there were three birthdays to be celebrated, one on Halloween, one near Thanksgiving, and one in between. Now two of them are gone, and I have no urge to celebrate that third birthday, which is my own.
There used to be something called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Its history as a defined disorder is curious:
In the United States, a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder was first proposed by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD in 1984. Rosenthal wondered why he became sluggish during the winter after moving from sunny South Africa to New York. He started experimenting increasing exposure to artificial light, and found this made a difference.
Then again, were it winter in South Africa, would it not be summer in New York?
SAD made it into the DSM, but was deprecated in versions IV and V: it's now considered merely a seasonal pattern for recurrent major depression, which somehow vanishes during the rest of the year. This doesn't sound like me: I'm not majorly depressed, so far as I understand the term having been treated for it, I think I have at least some understanding of it and I can't say that I'm upbeat and sprightly in the middle of June, either.
So I'm currently working on the hypothesis that I am always at least slightly disturbed, but there are enough stressful incidents in the winter to make me seem much more so. As a diagnosis, this is not emotionally satisfying. Still, I'm not quite sure what else I can do about it, other than to hope the employer decides to relocate to some place like San Diego. This is a decidedly unlikely prospect, inasmuch as we do little business in that part of the world, and besides, the founders long ago fled to Florida.
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Copyright © 2014 by Charles G. Hill