Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reflections on winter - Emotional Grasshoppers

One of the wonderful things about life is that each day when we awake we have the opportunity to decide whether we want to do things differently or continue on the same course.  The gift of freedom and choice are never to be taken for granted or ignored. 

Typically the New Year is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  In some ways the date is arbitrary but in another it is a reminder of the fresh start we have been given.  The middle of winter has not always been my favorite time of year.  The cold days and the short amount of daylight are something that at best I try to tolerate but not embrace. 

A friend of mine changed my perspective.  When I would moan and complain about yet another winter she was excited and ready.  What was the difference?  She was a quilter. Her family spent the fall stacking the wood, canning the food, and preparing for the winter.  If snow were to come she would be happy to be not leaving the home for weeks at a time.  And while she was home she was working on what she loved - quilting.

I, on the other hand, loved to be outside.  Digging, mowing, planting, and trimming - this was my idea of a good time.  I would practically press my face against the glass waiting for a break in the weather so I could get outside.  When the winter was finally over and the flowers started popping up I would be so relieved and feeling thankful that "I would never have to do THAT again"  only to be shocked and dismayed when winter would come the following year.  It took me many years to realize that this was inevitable and I chose the option of those in the sky and twenty years later flew south.

So what was the difference between my friend and I?  It would be easy to point to the obvious but what I learned was that it was the classic story of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  The fact was that we were both going to experience winter every year and she had done a better job planning for it.  I was not a complete Grasshopper as I also had my wood stacked, food in the pantry, and had prepared for the physical needs of my family.  But what I had not planned for was the emotional impact that the winter season would have on me and in not doing so had contributed to my own misery. 

I decided to PLAN.  I loved to plan.  That is what I had done in much of my previous career and I could spend hours with my pen and tablet making lists, prioritizing, making phone calls, brainstorming, and studying.  One year I planned my house renovations, another a horse training program, on and on it went.  I would make lists of things I could do in the house when I thought I would go nuts.  I collected books of interest to be read.  When winter came the next year I was ready.  My main winter project became making plans for my projects throughout the year.  And when winter came I was ready.  Amazingly enough I look back many years and can say I actually enjoyed myself. I even made a couple quilt tops.

Many people who are In The Trenches financially approach it the same way that I approached winter.  "oh, no" "This is horrible".  "It will never end".  The fact is that most of us in the course of life will go through financial seasons just as we go through annual seasons.  There will be ups, downs, and in betweens.  Many are waiting for their financial spring like getting a new job just like I waited for the flowers to bloom.  When spring comes the smiles reappear and it is easy to forget that a financial winter will come again.  This may be in the form of a decline in income or and increase in expenses.

The most important thing I learned was also the simplest.  Life has it's seasons.  We can have our favorites all we want but that does not prevent the other seasons from occurring.  Acknowledging this and PLANNING for it not only financially but emotionally can make the difference between our joy and misery. 

Which of the four seasons are you in today? 

The Ant and the Grasshopper


Practical Parsimony said...

I don't know what season I am in at this stage in my life. But, I have always found that I can be happily occupied no matter the temperature or precipitation. Switching from outdoor activity to indoor activity is easy. I like to read, sew, and cook. While I never had to stock up on wood and have never relied completely on canned goods, I find that I do a bit of that, too, year-round.

Freezing, reveling in spring glories, sweltering, and cooling down to horrible cold just seem the way it is. Not having the changes in seasons defined sharply, yet being subtle in the change would be disheartening.

Lists! Love them!

Carol Schultz said...

I have also learned to deal. I'm one of those strange people that has SAD so I'm sure that is a contributor but maybe it is one of those which comes first - chicken or eggs. Once we had less daylight my mood immediately changed. Working swing shift helped me a lot so I could let the sun rays smile on my face.

Practical Parsimony said...

I also have SAD. So did my best friend in hs. I learned she committed suicide about 30 years after graduation. Obviously, I don't have it as bad as she did or have better coping mechanisms, which I suppose is the same thing.

It's funny because I always knew that the light was the thing missing, even as a child. So, I sought the sun or incandescant lighting in the winter.

In the midst of winter with the dark bearing down, sewing saved me. After a session at the sewing machine, I was relieved of any troubles. Sewing relaxed me. Reading distracted me. Lucky me.