[This Commentary originally appeared in the February 15, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
As we approach mid-February we enter the depths of winter. All in all winter is a fine season. The pleasant snow covers everything. Yes, it’s a pain in the neck when it comes to driving, but it’s especially beautiful when it outlines the branches of all the trees.
The variety of the seasons enlivens us. Even constant sunshine and warm weather can oppress. The quarterly changes allow us to regularly anticipate and experience beginnings and endings. This cycle brings emotional health.
Yet, for all the good things, we must endure one great burden: the mid-Winter Blahs. I’m not quite sure if psychologists have coined a catchy term for this mental morass. I don’t read a lot of those hip psycho-analytic magazines. (Although I admit once some girl got me to take one of those Cosmo tests.)
February seems as good a time as any to suffer from winter depression. The holidays are over. The joy of the New Year has come and gone. And the Superbowl has been played, signifying the long arduous six month hibernation of shoulder pads and cleats. Simply put, February represents the nadir of living in northern latitudes.
Not only have the good things ended, but the hope of spring lies just far enough away to elude us. We can never be quite sure what March will bring, so we can’t count on an early end to winter. Also, about this time of year work really starts piling up. All the stuff we put off at home and at the office now beckons us. Small, generally mindless tasks inundate us.
How can we avoid being overcome by the Mid-Winter Blahs? Certainly, many people have aimed to discover the solution to this riddle. Indeed, the first and most apparent method of avoiding the dreariness involves leaving the winter behind. Jet off to Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean. Take a vacation to Arizona. Basically, follow the sun.
While quite attractive, most of us have a hard time affording this option. Airplane tickets cost a lot, even for a modestly sized family. Additionally, time off merely delays the inevitable. When we come back all tanned and refreshed, we’ll find a much larger mountain of things to do.
We can count many other creative ways of putting off the Mid-Winter Blahs. These methods can also be constructive. For instance, we can build shelves or begin refurbishing the basement. We can take inventory of our favorite collection (e.g., baseball cards, souvenir spoons or first edition book plates).
My favorite activity involves choosing one room in our house to clean up. This room usually has a door that closes. Visitors find this door closed on virtually every occasion. This room spends most of the year collecting the assorted trinkets of other rooms (which you hastily clean up just before the guests arrive).
This room has various names. While growing up, we called it “the sewing room” and the “the play room.” Now I call it “my den.” These private rooms do not find themselves on any visitor’s agenda (except my mother’s, who constantly asks why they’re so messy).
The weekends of Mid-Winter present an opportune time to begin the meaningless, but fruitful, task of straightening out these rooms. Loose papers can be sorted, catalogued, filed and thrown out. Unassigned objects can be redistributed to empty shelf space throughout the entire house. Magazines can be placed in their respective binders and months-old junk mail can finally be tossed (after all, the offers have expired by now).
In less than a handful of weekends, the targeted room becomes a shining highlight on the house tour. With everything all orderly and neat, even my mother avoids the room (lest my father begin to ask her why she can’t keep her rooms that clean).
Of course, all I’ve accomplished in the cleaning becomes undone over the course of the next eleven months. Each time the house has visitors, I hurriedly rush through all the public rooms in an attempt to make them presentable. Along the way I collect various items which require much contemplation before deciding whether or not to put them in the nearest garbage can.
Ultimately, I table all decisions and these items find themselves parked in limbo and placed on the most convenient space in my den. By the summer, the doors to the den close to the public, the room having become an unsightly mess. (Once again, my mother feels compelled to find some excuse to enter my den and complain about its ragged condition.)
I guess she just fails to see the strategy. Each February, while many others dote on about the seemingly never ending winter and consider moving to Southern California, I escape the torture of the Mid-Winter Blahs. I’m having too much fun reading year-old mail addressed to “Occupant.”
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]