The Winter of My Discontent

I actually attempted this year, for Lent, to give up "weather grumbling" and lasted for a mere nine days before another mini polar vortex broke me down.
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I never thought I'd be one to write about the weather. I recall a dinner party in my early 20s in London where my posh Italian hostess berated the rest of us when the conversation turned, as it often does in England, to the (usually dismal) weather: "Have we reached the point of boredom where there is nothing else to discuss? Surely, one of you has something more interesting to share than to talk about rain?!" We all took that reprimand in stride, and from that point on I made a mental note to avoid excessive complaints about the obvious; weather being a main one.

Yet, a decade later I'm breaking that rule. I am now living in Michigan (clearly, not a place known for any sort of predictable weather patterns) and as someone who both works and plays at home, I find myself at the mercy of the weather as a frigid, rainy day can mean endless hours cooped up inside with two energetic toddlers. As a caveat, I have lived in diverse climates: I grew up conditioned to 95 F summers in Atlanta, GA; spent university years trudging through snow in Boston, MA; worked in my early 20s in the cherry-tree swamp-land that is Washington, DC, and then spent the next eight years toggling between Durham, NC and London, England. Two years ago we made our way to the Midwest due to my husband's job at the University of Michigan. We landed in January 2012, the warmest winter since 1865, we were told. Despite the utter obliteration of the cherry and apple crop that fall, we were pleasantly surprised by the mild winter (I think I saw a snow shovel twice that year) and the gentle spring that mirrored what we had grown accustomed to in North Carolina.

Last year was a bit more of a typical Midwest winter (harsher January and February; a cold, wet March and April), but it wasn't until this year that the words "polar" and "vortex" became a typical part of my vocabulary and worries about frostbite took precedence over ear infections and croup. Judging by my family and friends in various parts of the country, it wasn't just Michigan that was experiencing erratic dramatic temperature swings; my family in Atlanta endured not one, but two, extreme snowstorms; fellow board members in NC moaned about more snow coming their way (in March!); and clients in PA and MA admitted that internal business administration had been difficult to manage due to all the snow/ice interruptions.

Even though April, and hopefully spring, is supposedly around the corner, it is hard to imagine with snow on the forecast for March. And while this is admittedly a first-world problem, I loathe what it reveals: I'm emotionally dependent on the weather, the first sign of physical discomfort causes to me whine and moan and my children are witnessing me literally digging deep to find things to do on the umpteenth -15F day. Some days, I feel that my options are nil; that my emotional reserve comes up empty. Really? In my nice suburban home with central heating, a full fridge and pantry, and access to the rest of the world with WiFi, I still feel the need, and if I'm honest, the right, to complain?

I actually attempted this year, for Lent, to give up "weather grumbling" and lasted for a mere nine days before another mini polar vortex broke me down. Honestly, giving up caffeine a few years ago was easier than this. But a friend recently sent me this blog post: "Contra Comfort: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and it reminded me that we're not promised comfort, we never were and never will be and the lesson I'd like to impact on my youngsters is not to grumble, complain, stamp feet and demand more, but to realize in this Lenten season that in the giving up, we get. It is only in the releasing that we are able to receive: emotionally, spiritually and physically. Cold comfort offers little in the long run; the ability to thrive, despite the circumstances bestowed upon us, is a lesson that I'm learning, and it's thawing this newly transplanted Midwestern heart.