50 Words for Snow

Saturday, February 9, 2013

They were predicting all week that this would be a monster storm, and they were right.

There were 26 inches total before it finally ended early this afternoon.

I spent over five hours shoveling, no easy task with an ankle and wrist determined not to cooperate. But they did, thankfully.

And nearly 15 months of HRT have clearly reduced what little upper body strength I had pre-transition to near microscopic levels.

But in spite of the bitter cold, the wind gusts that threatened to toss me into the nearest snowbank from time to time, and the bone-deep tiredness that set in after the fourth hour or so, I was in a good frame of mind overall.

That was not always the case during past winters.

Not by a long shot.

I used to despise snow, and winter in general. My GD would often be at its worst during those long, dark months. I felt as if I had no chance to ever become who I was supposed to be; what I perceived as the bleakness outside mirrored my thoughts, even if I fought to hide them from myself.

There were several winters that seemed particularly relentless, during which I suffered what were, in retrospect, crippling episodes of depression.

In each instance the pattern was the same.

I would get sick every afternoon at the same time.

I would lose 20 pounds I could not afford to lose.

I would go home after working a long day and exercising at the gym, shut off all of the lights, and simply sit in the dark for hours and hours, alone with my thoughts. Dark, dark thoughts, about futility, and self-loathing, and other subjects we normally strive to keep hidden away as best as possible.

I would feel as if I were underwater, watching life move on all around me, but unable to move - or feel - quickly enough to take part.

It never occurred to me that something was desperately wrong with all of this; I honestly never once thought that I could be suffering from depression.

When I finally went to see a therapist after my friend R convinced me to do so on that memorable June day, I was stunned when she told me at the end of our first session that I had suffered repeated instances of what she termed "severe, severe depression."

"I don't want to frighten you, but you were very lucky you were able to pull out of those episodes," she told me gently. "Didn't you think there was something unusual in sitting alone in the dark for hours and hours, or to wind up weighing less than 120 lbs?"

I told her the truth: "I just assumed everyone felt like this."

I still remember the expression of profound sympathy on her face as she suddenly understood.

"Of course you did," she said. "You've never experienced anything else, so to you it *was* normal."

With her help, I made significant strides in beginning to deal with my depression, although I never dared tell her the truth about myself. During our sessions, she was the first therapist who told me what every other therapist I saw pre-transition said: "It's as if you're talking about another person." They all sensed the truth on some level, of knowing without knowing. I was only fooling myself in the end.

While I made some progress, I still dreaded winters. The cold and dark still felt claustrophobic, endless... hopeless.

As it so often was, and still is, it was my best friend F who helped me begin to see things in a new way.

He was living in a rural area at the time, deep in the woods he loved, and still loves. I was visiting him about a week before Christmas. It had snowed several days before, and was due to snow again several days later.

We went for one of our favorite lengthy walks. Sometimes we would chit-chat about baseball (my favorite) or basketball (his favorite), sometimes we would joke and banter, and sometimes we would simply... be. Just walking in companionable silence, each alone with our thoughts.

This was one of those times.

We came upon a beaver, working industriously to build his dam. We stopped for a while and quietly watched as he went about his rounds.

"See?" I said to F. "Even he knows it's going to be an awful winter. Again."

F waited a moment to speak, as he often does.

"I don't see it that way, actually," he finally said.

"What I see when I look at our friend over there," gesturing towards the beaver, "Is an understanding of  what this time of year is about.

"He's getting ready for snow, sure... but what he's really doing is preparing to slow down after an extended busy period, to rest."

He gestured to the bare trees surrounding us.

"Just like they are," he said. "They aren't dead; they're getting ready for next spring, when they start over again.

"I don't find this time of year depressing at all; I find it very peaceful. And in its own way, holy."

I haven't looked at winters the same since.

So today, when I was finally winding down after an exhausting, all-out effort, I could turn around and see a brilliant sunset, and take a moment to appreciate it, and to appreciate the beauty of the pristine landscape.

Everything has its time, everything has its rightful moment. And sometimes it's best to simply appreciate  the moment you're in right now for what it is.

And to know that other moments, each with their own unique beauty, are coming soon as well.


Shortly before Christmas 2011, Kate Bush released a gorgeous, meditative winter-themed album called 50 Words for Snow. Here's the title track.


Becca on February 10, 2013 at 2:41 AM said...

Everything has its time, everything has its rightful moment. And sometimes it's best to simply appreciate the moment you're in right now for what it is.

Lovely words .....and oh so right

Stace on February 10, 2013 at 6:16 AM said...

I adore winter, and quite like snow.

Until it stops me running, then I hate it :)


Cassidy on February 10, 2013 at 2:45 PM said...

@ Becca: Thank you. I'm grateful I have wise friends like F to help me put things in the proper perspective.

@ Stace: I won't go so far to say I *adore* winter, but I can appreciate its beauty. (It's hard to top fall in New England when it comes to a favorite season.) As far as snow, I can tolerate it. Although when it stops me from walking, well, then I am in a hellcat fury. :c)

== Cass

Calie on February 12, 2013 at 12:40 AM said...

OK, Cass, now I have even more respect for you. A Kate Bush fan!!!! The Candy Floss Girl, a well known former (sad) blogger introduced me to her.

Calie xxx

Leslie Ann on February 12, 2013 at 4:13 AM said...

You sure know how to tell a story, Cass. Fall and winter are a close 1 and 2 for me, even though I think I get a little seasonal affective in darkest December.

What a waste hiding the truth from a therapist. I did it, too, for years. Coulda figured things out much earlier. Now that's something to sit in the dark and ruminate about!

Cassidy on February 12, 2013 at 4:46 PM said...

@ Calie: Kate Bush is *awesome.* I always think of her and the amazing PJ Harvey, whom I also adore, as kindred spirits. Even though their music couldn't be more different, both are consummate artists.

@ Leslie Ann: Thank you very much. I wish could take credit, but all I really do is try to stay out of the way and let the story tell itself.

I found out I have SAD after I moved to Seattle. One of my best friends took part in the studies at the University of Washington, where they came up with SAD as an actual condition. My trusty dawn simulator has taken the edge off it, thankfully.

I try not to kick myself too much over things like not opening up to my earlier therapists any longer. As I mentioned, they all sensed SOMETHING was up, given how they all said I was seemingly describing another person. I was too terrified to admit the truth to myself, let alone anyone else. But I wouldn't be where I am now if not for their help. So I'll always be grateful to them.


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