I’ve never enjoyed Winter. The long dark nights, days without sunshine, frozen fingers. Weeks of rain, rows of barren trees, and squelchy, dirty mud everywhere. When I developed Pulmonary Hypertension, my dislike of it intensified. The cold stole my breath and left me gasping whenever I left the house. Even donning thermals, with the heating on, and snuggled under blankets, my inactive lifestyle and poorly heart left me constantly frozen. And the lack of sunlight made my emotions a mess, and my head desperate to snooze. Every winter, my body would slowly wind down and slow down, as if it was preparing to hibernate. And I hated it. I longed for the same activity levels as my summer peak, longed for evenings of entertainment, longed to be outside.
So every Winter, I’d face the same internal battle. Body versus Heart. My body longed for late mornings and early nights, and lots of snoozes in between. It wanted film days and piles of books and maybe a jigsaw or two. It loved snuggling under blankets, staring at twinkly lights, watching the world go by. And lots of comfort food. But my heart did not. My heart yearned to live all the months of the year, as I do during my summer peak. It was desperate for adventures and exploring and long days in the great outdoors. It wanted gardening and after-hours dog walks and picnics and catch-ups with friends. A full diary, a full camera roll, a full day every day. In truth I didn’t want to miss a minute. Having already outlived my prognosis, I never take a year or a season or a day for granted. So, my heart longs to fill the remainder of my time with activity and fun and memories and moments. In case it all ends.
As the days start to lengthen, and the rain set up home; the internal fight would always begin. If I pushed myself, and took a day trip in the cold, then my heart would smile and beam. I’d achieved something, made a memory, not wasted the moment. But my poor body would be a-shivering and a-freezing and so so very sleepy. Days of recovery on the sofa would follow. However, spending a Saturday in-front of a film, left my chest and lungs and toes warm and relaxed; but my internal voice waggling its fingers and telling me off. Don’t be lazy, don’t waste your days, don’t take your bonus time for granted. Frustration. Body versus Heart- I couldn’t win.
But then last January, Phil bought me a book- ‘Wintering’ by Katherine May. As I turned the pages, and read her tale of the power of rest and retreat, I could feel my heart slowly siding with my body. Understanding, agreeing. Slowing down, sleeping more, longing for warmth and comfort and cosyness was normal during winter months or difficult times. It had been the normal way of life for thousands of years. In the days of old, before electric lights and computer screens and central heating; as the seasons changed, and snow and frost arrived; folks would indeed hunker down. For weeks, months. Going to bed with the sunlight, snuggling inside during the coldest days, allowing their body to rest and recuperate. Only in our modern world, do we battle against nature and our ancestors rituals, and try to live the same way all year round. Only in the last century or so, have folks used modern inventions to resist and defeat these natural urges.
As I finished the last page, I felt different about my hibernation. My body needs these slower months to recover, and store its energy and reserves for the busy seasons ahead. So I spent last Winter allowing my body just that. Cosy cuddles and film sessions and cups of tea galore. Weekends of nothing, evenings of books, and long, lazy lie-ins. And I started to feel the pleasure of giving my body what it needed. It wasn’t always easy. There were still some bouts of guilt, moments of internal pressure to live more, the odd desperate desire to not miss a moment. And I didn’t became a complete hermit; there were still adventures for my heart- just not every free day. Finding the balance, freeing the guilt, learning to feel joy from doing nothing, will take time to hon. And once again, this past January and February and March, I’ve been once again trying to slow down. To hibernate. To rest.
Winter is for Wintering.