Monday, March 19, 2018

The EXTREME, Frustrating Fluctuations Of A Canadian "Spring." How I Cope and Keep My Sanity In the Dreary Months. Coffee, The "Unwritten" Perspective, Music and Other Mechanisms.

 Spring has "officially" arrived! Er...Our version anyway. Our Springtime signature sign is that there are patches of brown peeking through the snow. Doesn't it look so welcoming?!? When I viewed this photo, I realized why sometimes people think Canadians live in a "Frozen Desert."
"Canadian man, at your service from the land of the chill. If I can't warm you, baby nobody will...A genuine Canadian man. Strong and free. That's the true north and baby that's me...Well, it's hush hush, while we mush mush, on my dog sled made for two. It's cold outside, but OH! What a ride! to the warmth of my Igloo... Canadian Man, That's me, the icebreaker supreme, Forget your American dream, and wake up to Canadian Man.."- Paul Brandt (*1- This song was played for my Husband's pictures on my Wedding slide show.)

Canadian Weather can be summed up in the eerily accurate pin below. I have used my winter jacket in the summer and I generally don't put it away with the Seasonal changes. We have had snow in July. I think the only month I have yet to see snow is August. But I'm sure we have had that too... On the flip side, sometimes in the winter, I don't need a jacket, but the next day I require a toque, mittens and the cold care works. Our weather is part crazy in a endearing way (like how I think of myself) and quite crazy in a frustrating way (like how most others think of me!) Yet, in all of it's chaos...I still love where I live. I am explaining my weather specifically because I get blog traffic from all over the world...except my home country. I'm perhaps redundant to Canadians? Eh, oh well...
Recently, our snow was beginning to melt, hope was on the horizon, and then we had enough snow to do this:
I captioned it, "Do you want to build a snowman? (*2) P.S. You're welcome- for getting that song in your head:)" And my husband cleverly commentated, "Yes, I want to build a snowman and then I want to blow it up. So sick of the snow." Yes, yes, most of us seasoned Northerners also want to vent our aggression to our current predicament. Usually we have a few Chinooks to break up the winter, but this year the cold lasted far too long. In some ways the excuse to bury into comfort is welcome, but when there is green elsewhere, flowers blooming, and pictures of people in flip flops, it is tough not to want something that is NOT given. 

I have written before HERE and HERE about how Canada's crazy weather builds resilience. There is a stark beauty, a cold, aloof sort of dangerous moodiness that is unique in it's presentation, even though other countries also can get vast fluctuations. Canada is definitely seasonal. 
We enjoy a lot of bright sun. Sometimes the sun is too bright, when it bounces off the reflective snow. I wear sunglasses more in the Winter months. But I LOVE this about where I live although sometimes it makes sense that there is not a massive take over of our country. Who wants cold, drastic weather for more than half a year?  (Apparently I do.) The days I find the toughest, are when the fog or clouds cover the sky and it becomes gray. I can not handle the dreariness. The sun is my fuel. The unusual, regular amounts of fog have been dampening to the spirits. Near the end of February I felt like I was going a little crazy. I craved Spring like a PMS need for chocolate. The song from State Fair kept ringing in my brain, "I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm, I'm as jumpy as a puppet on a string. I'd say that I have Spring fever. But I know it isn't Spring. I am starry eyed and vaguely discontented. Like a Nightingale without a song to sing...I haven't seen a crocus or a rose bud or a robin on the might as well be Spring."- Rogers and Hammerstein. (*3- This song was my favourite "restless" song as a pre teen. I sang it wistfully out my window. I adored this musical. Ha- Yea, I was not nerdy at all.)

There were weeks in February when the sun rarely shined. I started to feel like Gollum and his counterpart Smeagal. I was having conversations with myself that probably were not healthy. One side of myself was trying it's best to be positive and grateful, while the other side was aggressive, moody and depressed. Before I began descending more into this grim fantasy, I decided that I needed to take action. If we were lucky, Spring would come near the end of April ( in the sense of green grass and blooms), but most likely it would be near the end of May. Which meant that I had at least 2-3 more months of white or brown and a general lack of colour to endure. During that week in February I made a decision. I was going to try my best, to not just get through the season, but embrace it. I decided to view it through the lens of "Pretend this is an all year winter. How would you live if this was your only Season and this was your ONLY story?" I jotted a few coping mechanisms down and used them as a guide, and then I chose to wake up every morning and be intentional.

My ENFJ daughter teaches me a lot about being open, joyful and "poppy." When we watched the movie "Trolls" and then the seasons of Trolls on Netflix, our family was blown away by how Poppy reflects the disposition of our delightful girl. If she is 'Poppy' - I am 'Branch.' Each time I hear the Season's theme song- I smile; "Live it up! Every day you wake up singing. Turn it up! The party's just beginning. All together you and me. Hair in the air. We' re a family. We've got everything we need.  Hair in the air- cuz we're proud to be. Celebrating who we are. Yea, we made it through the dark. Harmony is everywhere..." - (*4) Trolls Seasons Theme

My daughter starts her day singing and brings harmony quite literally. She has alarms and playlists for going to bed, working out, doing chores, doing school work, and waking up. I don't think she is ever not surrounded by music. She is worse than I am. Which is saying a lot, because I have a song for every few sentences I hear or utter. During the day, at home, I will often burst into song, when certain phrases are said or when things pop into my head. I communicate more in song than any other medium. She is louder, brighter, and caters toward more of the poppy genre, but she has taken my gift and multiplied it. Sometimes it drives my husband nuts when he walks in from work and the music is blasting. And I will admit to moments of slight irritation if I have had to listen to the Hairspray soundtrack one more time. But I also understand that music IS a language, communication, and coping mechanism all rolled into a melodious cacophony. We all have our preferences. I decided that I could afford to adapt more of her happiness strategies when the outer world looks bleak. I bought the lame Trolls song...and realized it wasn't so lame, because it made me smile and think of ridiculous happy moments and my "party beach" daughter who blossoms even in the winter snows.

Music has been my first comfort. On days that I forget to put some tunes on or get too lazy to find a playlist to suit my mood, I realize that my psyche takes a hit. I have also discovered that I need to move every day. I love having a treadmill because the weather never stops me from taking at least a half hour brisk walk. I also don't suffer injuries (Ok, I admit I still do but I get LESS injuries on the treadmill.) Where we live, the danger is real. Signs are on hospitals and on buildings to "Watch your step" or to "Beware of slips and trips." I am klutzy anyway, and a leisurely stroll or outdoor workout is not for me in the best of times. Thus, I watch Glee or blast my tunes while I strut on the Treadmill. Without fail, the Glee rendition of "We Are Young" (*5) gives me pep in my step every time. I love the background, the simplicity, the connections between characters and the harmonies.

To cope with colder times, I have also been intentional about food. I am always counting calories and eating healthy due to my chronic conditions and general inability to lose weight, but I make sure that I choose warmth on cold days. I also allow myself, within reasonable amounts, the comforts of home baking occasionally. It is amazing how a chewy, gluten free donut, fresh from my mother's oven, can lift the spirits. We also had a "picnic" in our library with all the foods of Summer, and with the sun beating in our windows and heat cranked up, we 'pretended' it was actually Summer. A little bit of imagination can give a healthy dose of sanity.  I also began building up my low tolerance to coffee in the mornings. Sometimes I can not handle even a cup, but I can now drink a mug of delightful coffee before lunch. This has given me a surprising amount of resilience. I get now why some people have dubbed it "the nectar of the gods." It truly has some mental benefits. "Coffee time, my dreamy friend, Let's listen to some jazz and rhyme, and have a cup of coffee...Greeting time, the music box is beatin' time, it's good ol' fashioned meeting time...Let's drink a cup of coffee."- Natalie Cole ( *6) It is important to note that I do NOT drink coffee every day nor do I consume on an empty stomach (See HERE and for a little article on coffee. And THIS.)  Vitamin D has also benefited, probably more than song worthy coffee.
I keep reminding myself the summer will come and bring it's own set of problems. Perspective is everything. I have had to ask myself, "What does this season give that other seasons do not?" I have decided to build my days and weeks around what the season GIVES.

I love the lyrics from Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten (*7) because of the possibility and perspective depicted:
"I am unwritten. Can't read my mind. I'm undefined. I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand. Ending unplanned. Staring at the blank page before you, let the sun illuminate the words that you can't find..."

What if every day I woke up thinking that it's my day to write on the pages of my life? What if I picture myself as a glorious, sun dappled piece of paper but that I also get to be the ink filled pen? I love the thought of the sun illuminating the words that can not be music.

"No one else can speak the words on your lips. Drench yourself in words unspoken. Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins...the rest is still unwritten..."(*7)
Obviously, like most good lyrics, this can be taken as both philosophical and literal. For the literal, I often will cope with harsh weather and the doldrums by writing. 'Drenching myself in words unspoken.'  No one else can write exactly what I write (well, without plagiarizing) nor speak the way I speak. That is an incredible DAILY gift! What freedom which enables me to live with my arms wide open to possibilities. A beautiful sentiment.

Another positive about a cold season, is the concept of hibernation. Winter gives a fresh cold and an excuse to be inward. It provides a bit of insulation before the long bursts of dramatic energy that is summer. Our Summers are often spent providing, being outside, and preparing for Winter. A prolonged Winter season can mean more downtime indoors (This Canadian gal does not love her skating, sledding nor snowboarding. But I would still consider myself "a Northern girl. Strong and Free. With Four strong winds to carry me." (*8) but hey, maybe another positive for your lists?)

"I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines. We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way..."- Unwritten. (*7)

Sometimes I allow my sassy nature to come out of it's shell during the long winters. Since I am engaging naturally with less people, I explore the mistakes within myself and allow for more exploration of my gifts, strengths and weaknesses. I am happy to announce that I regularly make mistakes. Many of them I feel guilty for but then I learn to embrace them and the cycle begins again...and it's beautiful in it's own way. Winter protects a bit of this mode.

Since my new mentality, I have indulged in reading more books guilt free (!) to both my kids and self. I started reading Rick Roirdon books. Since I am well versed in myths, I found the books highly enjoyable and am now currently caught up on everything he has ever written. Our family has binge watched shows that we will not always have time for during the Summer. We are almost done "Crash Course World History." Our discussions after have been insightful and fun. I recently learned "Snitch" and I love winning at our regular lunchtime routine.

"Deep in December, it's nice to remember, although you know, the snow will follow. Deep in December it's nice to remember, without a hurt, the heart is hollow. Deep in December it's nice to remember, the fire of September that made you mellow. Deep in December, our hearts SHOULD remember, then follow."-(*9)

Sometimes, a girl has to wistfully dream. I lurk on Spring Pinterest or Flower boards. I disappear into images that are opposite of where I live on occasion. Because imagination can comfort. "Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain so yellow... Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow. Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow. Try to remember when life was so tender that love was an ember about to billow. Try to remember and if you remember then follow..."- Josh Groban/ Fantasticks.(*9)

A friend in the States commentated to me recently, "Your house is like a conservatory on the inside, lush and full of colour, plant life and almost like an indoor garden. My home is lush on the outside with greenery all year long and infusions of colours but indoors I have stark walls and minimal decor. We are opposite." In short, that is the biggest way I cope. My home is currently growing oranges, limes, aloe vera, and flowering plants. My other plant life thrives because of our general copious amounts of sun, even on  -45 Celcius days. Thank goodness that seems to have ended! The number one reason I thrive inside, is because I have tried to make our inner home reflect the outdoors in all four seasons, as much as I can while being comfortable. We have bare, white winter trees to hang jewellery, Autumn palette colours, Spring buds, and numerous summer plants (97 was our last count.) Our home was like this before the trendy plant movement, and will be if plants ever (gardens forbid) go out. The furnace or fires are always running, so the fresh oxygen every few feet serves our well being.

 "Release your inhabitations... No one else can do it for you, only you can let it in..."(*7)

When I am desperately clinging to my sanity, I commit (another) social norm "no no." Yes, I release my inhibitions and play...dun dun dun... Christmas music. This is saved only for desperation because otherwise it's effectiveness would be rendered neutral, but I have, in my lifetime, probably listened to Christmas during each month of the year. Christmas songs are my childhood candy. They are like worship songs to believers. I know that many of the lyrics I probably disagree with in theory, but I still love them. Just like I still love me some Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith occasionally. I can re interpret most lyrics, but the ones I can not, still are played at Christmas. I am traditional like that. The songs bring me back to when I truly believed in magic. I DID believe there was a Santa and I loved the concept of Jack Frost tickling my nose because it often seemed he just took a chunk off my skin and left me frostbite. I liked the cute baby in a manger and sparkly stars. Jolly St. Nick and happy christmas trees shimmering beget some of my calmest memories. Beyond joy, goodwill or gifts, Christmas music calms me down. I had a childhood that was full of unknown sensory overload. Christmas was the only time that some of the sensory suited me. Thus, when I am at my darkest, I turn on Nat King Cole's "Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire/ The Christmas Song." (*10 and home video clip below) Last week, I had to blast it on the record player while watching my kids frolick in the snow...and I was able to breathe again.

Today IS where your book begins. Again and Again. On this first day of Spring, what are you going to write in your story? How do you cope with the Seasons of life?

(*1)Canadian Man- Paul Brandt

(*2) Do You Want to Build a Snowman- Frozen

(*3)May as Well be Spring- State Fair/ Rogers and Hammerstein.

(*4) Trolls Netflix Theme Song

(*5) We are Young- Glee ( I think this is better then the original...Sorry Fun)

(*6) Coffee Time- Natalie Cole

(*7) Unwritten- Natasha Beddingfield

(*8) Northern Girl- Terri Clark

(*9) Try to Remember- Josh Groban/ Fantasticks

 (*10) The Christmas Song- Nat King Cole


C2Q CalledtoQuestion said...

Very nice, and happy time of the arising(spring). :) I too enjoy playing snitch with you and the kids especially when you get frustrated.;) Great perspectives and insights. Looking forward to spending the upcoming seasons with you,

Ashe Skyler said...

Normally I'd offer to exchange our warmer weather for some of your snow, but we got tornadoes last night, so I'll make the offer next week. Y'all got enough ice without me sending some hail up there. =P

Nothing like a hot drink when it's a bit nippy! I have to do decaf since I mix very badly with caffeine, but I enjoy sipping on hot chocolate, coffee, and various instant stuff.

Do you happen to have a semi-exhaustive list anywhere of what all kind of plants you have in the house? And are they able to live without putting up any kind of fake sun bulbs, or do you have those strategically scattered throughout as well? I figure ample sunlight is as much of an issue as having too many months of snow.

Kmarie A. said...

C2Q- Thank you. Persephone is making her way back from the She probably feels like we do sometimes. LOL What? Me?? Frustrated? It's ok, I usually win. ha ha. I am looking forward to any season with you in it too. Makes life better:)

Ashe: We have a few minor tornadoes...but I could never have texas size ones! Ill just keep my cold weather but I hope you stay safe!
I usually mix badly with caffeine too and there are actually days of the month coinciding with my cycle that I can not tolerate coffee at all and know to stay away but I can have one cup for most mornings now IF I eat before some yogort and drink water...if I dont do that I am screwed.

I can do you one better! Buy the book " How not to kill your houseplant" by Veronica Peerless. It tells you all the plants you would find to buy in most stores and easy pictures show you how to care for them or trouble shooting. Excellent source for beginners. I still use mine all the time. It is better than searching on the net. I dont need fake sun because we probably get more sun than you, and certain breeds like that more. Our southern facing windows make it plus 30 celcius in our upstairs even if outside is minus 30! It makes for interesting temperature regulation. Anyway, the plants that do not suffer right in a hot year round window are cactus, aloe and fruit trees...they thrive. All the rest of my plants I place further back from the windows. Honestly, that book will tell you quickly and efficiently what to buy, where to place it and how to water it... Some plants prefer northern light but the list is small. If you dont have any light much the book will also tell you what to buy ( spider plants adjust to any light usually...) hope that helps!

Ashe Skyler said...

That one is going to the top of the book shopping list! Thank you! :D

Yogurt before coffee sounds delicious. I've heard some people making a kind of coffee smoothie by mixing yogurt into it, but I am not yet brave enough to try it. I'm just now experimenting with Greek yogurt and berries.

Kmarie A. said...

No problemo:) Yea I LOVE my greek yugort! It's a great way to start the day!