Does the cold make us cold?

It is the worst part of winter in Massachusetts. The time when the novelty and joy of the holiday season is a distant memory and the first snow has come and gone, but it is too early to start thinking about spring. It is the time of year when I proclaim my hatred of winter to anyone who will listen or sometimes to myself when I am alone (which is especially awkward when you are yelling while shoveling your car and some innocent bystander walks by to hear your cursing).

I often blame winter for all problems. In a bad mood? Obviously it’s winter. Don’t feel like socializing? Of course no one would want to leave the house in this weather. Famine in Africa? Well that one is a stretch… Occasionally I convince myself that the solution to feeling down is to simply move somewhere else. I like to think my “quality of life” would be better somewhere if I were outside all the time and I would certainly be the best most super active version of myself who never felt down. However, is this really solution? Is winter really the problem? And furthermore, I heard this rumor that life is not about being happy ALL the time.

It is easy to convince oneself that winter makes people sad and cranky. The latest evidence of this is the parking situation across Boston after two successive blizzards. After the first blizzard I criticized the people who left big orange garbage bins to save the parking space they just shoveled out. Did they really think they now owned that spot for the rest of winter? I even went so far as to research whether this was allowed (it is not). By blizzard two and after several efforts to shovel out my car and laying on a bed of snow on the roof of Shaun’s car watching him painstakingly shovel his car out, I have decided that those spot savers might be onto something. Someone I know (and may or may not live with) has recently started using an orange bucket to save his spot. I am sure I would do the same if my car was not parked on a mound of snow in our driveway. The point being, it is easy to think we are all just trying to get by during this miserable time and will do anything for self-preservation, even if it once seemed beneath us or rude.

However, in the last snowstorm my faith in community was renewed. Shaun and I were laying on the couch contemplating our napping schedule when we saw an elderly lady across the street shoveling out her driveway by herself. After the first snowstorm I happened to meet this elderly lady because having nowhere to pull my car I accidentally pulled into her driveway the same moment she was trying to get home. Her friend yelled at me, but as I apologized profusely, the lady across the street smiled and told me in accented English not to worry.

We saw this lady as we were procrastinating moving from the couch and I immediately decided we had to help her. Maybe I had to make a mends, maybe I had to renew my sense I was still capable of acts of goodness, or maybe I just wanted to prevent our couch from having a permanent indent of my ass. Shaun and I bundled up and helped her shovel her sidewalk and bring in her garbage cans. To be honest, we barely spent anytime doing this. However, the woman kept thanking us and placing her hand on her heart. We insisted that she get out of the cold and waved goodbye. I skipped across the street to start shoveling our sidewalk. Maybe I had found the trick to getting out of my winter funk that did not require me to move somewhere tropical.

As we were shoveling our sidewalk we see the elderly lady open her door and call at us. Her English was limited (and we have narrowed it down that she is either Italian or Russian), but she was holding a plate covered in foil. She must have sensed we were low on groceries this blizzard because she had put cookies on a plate for us to show her thanks. Maybe she was as convinced as me that all warmth was lost in the blizzard and we had shown her otherwise. Or maybe she was just happy the crazy frantic neighbor who blocked her driveway could be useful in a blizzard…


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