Southeastern Minnesotans – and those in nearby environs – are grumbling. And murmuring. I am a tad bit out of sorts myself, truth be told. That picture above is not frosting on a cake. It’s the snow beside the walkway leading to the front door of my apartment building. Just the snows of February which have dropped inconvenient totals of 3-6 inches every 2-3 days. Another 5-7 is on the way late tonight, and Sunday already is predicted to drop about that much again.
This is one of those times when intergenerational intersectionality (did I get that right??) makes sense to me. We elders are supposed to benefit by spending time with youngers (and they, with us…), and this is a guaranteed, built-in opportunity to do just that. Commiserate. And overcome. Together.
A prediction came floating up on Facebook yesterday: we might be looking at another 35″ in 5 more “snow events” between now and March 16th, the way things are stacking up over in the weather room. I checked and rechecked the visuals. Yup.
My husband used to love to say that “Weather people are the only ones who can be wrong 50% of the time and still keep their jobs!” Well, they’ve been right this month. Maybe they’ve used up their 50% and we can be spared that other 35″? I’m not holding my breath.
I give you all this detail because it is taunting me now as a blogger who has sung the praises not only of Minnesota winters, but also of us Minnesotans who pride ourselves in overcoming all the odds against us in the winters that face us every year. (See my blog from December 5, “The First Real Snow.”) And that includes those of us who have seen many decades of the stuff of winter in the north.
With some exceptions, most of us made it through the dreaded Polar Vortex, which was just as threatening as it had been promised. There have been just as many spin-outs and in-the-ditch slides as usual since then, which means another kind of overcoming.
But most of us genuinely try to turn a brave face to the outdoors and make the best of it as we dress and drive and play and sport our way through these months as best we can, satisfied that we’re on top of it all in the end.
Even those who stick around for most of it still get out of town a bit in the middle of winter to warmer playgrounds, but then bravely return to wait out the slog until spring shows up. And keep our spirits up because that’s what we do.
You overcome, and you do your best, and you face winter for the challenge that it is because, in part, it feels good to be heroic; kin to the tough Viking spirit of the North. Undefeated in the end.
But I’m here to say that there comes a point when no matter how brave or tough we are, how young or how old, this much overcoming gets to be exhausting! And that’s when the grumbling and murmuring begins.
Overcoming is supposed to be a virtue, is it not? So failing at it is tantamount to being a loser, a wimp, a wuss, a weakling, an object of ridicule and shame. I only slightly exaggerate here. To our credit, most of us seem to reach the wimpy, whiny point around the same time, so together, we hold each other up and avoid being critical of ourselves and others because we’re all just walking each other home…and that includes in the long, very tiring practice of one more day of overcoming after another.
My wonderful, funny, hugely talented mentor lives in mostly-sunny Southern California. He is also immensely kind. I have unabashedly bragged to him for months about the sturdy Minnesotan winter virtues and he has never called me crazy. But I think I need to humble myself just a bit and say that all this brave talk turns out to be less sturdy than it appears. Quite a bit less sturdy, in fact. So: my apologies to you, Bill! I know you won’t hold it against me.
We’re all overcoming something, much of the time, aren’t we? Right now for us Northerners up to our waists and higher in snow and snow drifts, it’s quickly wearing thin. No more bragging. This overcoming does end, though, and for that, there is a gratitude that was made just for the weary. Winter is but a season. This overcoming is not forever.
For so many, overcoming is a way of life, every day, without end. For them, overcoming is truly heroic because it lasts a lifetime. Here I sit, wimpy and complaining and trying to justify myself so that I can remain the hero of my life. This relatively brief season of inconvenience and challenge is nothing. I stand in awe of all those for whom overcoming is their every day. I see how exhausting it can be.
Winter weariness is but for a time. “It isn’t what happens to you in life that matters, it’s the attitude you take toward it that counts.” (I paraphrase) Time for an attitude check. And a reckoning with my snowflake self. I think I’ll go bake some cookies to take to my meeting tonight. The snow isn’t supposed to start until after I get home.