Good Morning, Good Night

When I was a young lass, my family moved from sunny southern California to the wilds of northern British Columbia, Canada. The first few months were a bit of a culture shock, as it was the dead of winter when we arrived. Each morning my mom would come and wake me up while it was still dark outside. I would get out of bed, run across the cold floor in bare feet and stand over the heat vent.

My nightgown would billow out like a filled balloon as the forced warm air flowed. I would stand there each day, listening to my Mom off in the kitchen humming “Do you Know the Way to San Jose” plaintively. And my thoughts would just kind of fade away. Staring into the zone, I would experience stillness and peace for those few moments.   Looking back I realize that those were my first meditations.

Nowadays I try to meditate twice a day. I have a very busy life and most days I don’t have too many chances to just relax, so those first 20 minutes of stillness, and those last 20 minutes of stillness… they mean the world to me. They are the bookends to my crazy days.

Wrapped in the luxury of my soft robe, I let go of the tensions and anxieties and allow myself to just be. My thoughts don’t always stop completely, but even if I get a few good solid breaths where I am just in the moment, I feel like I have had a great sit.

If you haven’t tried meditating, or think it is hard, please pop over here and read this. I promise you that it is easier than you think. And I promise you that when you commit to taking those moments for yourself, you will reap benefits beyond your imagination.

It is dark midwinter, and yesterday the groundhog promised 6 more weeks of the same. I took the news calmly. I have become accustomed to the four seasons we enjoy in Canada. And it only took me 45 years.

And now if you will excuse me, I have a heat vent I need to go stand over.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

The Most Wonderful Time

Photo by:  Walter Babinski, My American Husband
Photo by: Walter Babinski, My American Husband

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Christina Rossetti

Don’t you just love the holidays? As soon as the Christmas season starts, I get the warm fuzzies. Snow becomes magical. The dark nights are a great excuse to turn on the exterior Christmas lights. The tree goes up and the whole house smells like pine and gingerbread and candy canes. Fa la la la la. La la la la. Presents, mistletoe, family, food.  Sugar plums dancing in my head. It really is the most wonderful time of year.

Until December 26th.

And then it is the long, dreary, gray crawl to spring. As a Canadian you would think I was used to the four seasons and would appreciate each for the unique qualities they bring to my life. But truth be told I get some pretty vicious blues in the winter months, which seem to last from about Labour day until school lets out in June.

A few years back it was determined by my American Husband that I may need one of those lights that take away S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)   He gave me one for my birthday, which falls on January 31 (pretty much the suckiest day of the year). Turns out it was the best present I could have ever asked for.   For the first few weeks I sat in the mornings with the light beaming onto my face, pretending all the while that I was sitting on a beach somewhere tropical and that the bleak midwinter wasn’t waiting for me outside my front door. It wasn’t long at all before I began to reap the benefits of this magical little box of light. It began with my energy increasing. You know that feeling you get in the Spring when you feel that first rush of AHHHH? Yeah. That is what I started to feel. And it only got better. My mood improved immeasurably. The winter blues disappeared and I felt myself waking up from the gray nasty that had become my norm.

It was a miracle. Or science. Either way you look at it, it changed my life. From that moment forward winter no longer had the power to ruin me. And since that time I have begun to use the newfound energy and happiness to create a winter survival plan for myself. Here are a few of the things I do to bring the love back to the darkest season of all.

  1. Go into the light.  Seriously.  Try it:   Litebook. It changed my life and will change yours if you suffer the way that so many of us do here in the northern hemisphere.
  2. Take that Vitamin D! In the great white north we can’t get sufficient Vitamin D from the sun during the winter months because there are just not enough hours of daylight.   That little vitamin is uber important in fighting all sorts of things, including a multitude of cancers, osteoporosis and basically giving the immune system a much needed boost during the dreaded cold and flu season.  I take about 4000 IU per day, but each person’s needs will vary. Here is a good article to help you figure out what works best for you. I like the orange flavored chewables best. Wouldn’t it be cool if they were shaped like the Flintstones or something?  I may be a grown up, but that doesn’t mean I have to grow up.
  3. Find a way to get out into it. Ski. Curl.  Snowboard. Skate on a frozen lake whilst humming this.  Toboggan down a mountain.  Stop by a woods on a snowy evening.  (They are lovely, dark and deep).   Whatever you choose make sure to follow it up with hot chocolate next to a raging bonfire. Chocolate in this form makes the bitter cold seem mighty sweet. I recommend good socks and mittens and a really funky toque. Fashion matters, but warmth matters more. There is nothing cool about being cold.  (Unless you are a teenager).
  4. Catch up on those movies you’ve been meaning to see. Last year I made a concerted effort to get out every weekend to watch one of the movies that was being buzzed for the Oscars.  I managed to see the vast majority before Oscar night and because of it was able to predict every major win.  Not that I want to brag or anything, but BOOYAH! Now that we have moved back to Cranbrook where the one theatre in town rarely plays anything but dystopian teenage ninja vampire movies I may have to catch up on past years’ winners. Thank you Netflix. You complete me.
  5. A good book, thick, cozy blanket, yule log crackling on the flat screen and a nice glass of wine by my side and I have found my Happy Place.  Throw in some Bing and Rosemary Crooner and I am sure this must be heaven.  Next to writing, reading is my passion.  What better excuse to give in to the call of the books than a long, wintry day and longer wintry night.  Baby, it’s cold outside but a good book is sure to keep me warm.  What are you reading these days?

So as Jack Frost starts nipping at your special parts, I hope you take a few of these suggestions to help you survive the next few months.  And if all else fails, there are these things called All-Inclusives … write that down.