The Febs

The Febs

We have officially slipped into February, the groundhog is a wimp, and I think I am coming down with a case of “The Febs”.  It was in the middle of one of those endless winters a number of years ago that I was sitting around with a very old friend who has a notable knack for “naming the moment”.   He mentioned that he had The Febs, and his title for this annual phenomenon has stuck with me since.  He had also mentioned that it is very difficult to escape them when they hit, and indeed, it has been a challenge.  Sometimes I have come pretty close but I have never totally transcended The Febs.

Around these northeastern parts it’s been this cycle of ongoing snowstorms and sleet with a couple of mega-frozen days (see One Redeeming Feature) interspersed with more  snowstorms and then  a few teaser days where it’s gotten up into the thirties, followed by even more snowstorms.  I have missed a number of days of work due to either not being able to or not wanting to commute, even though my workplace has been mostly open.  I am trying not to feel too paranoid about the vibe I feel that this is a political faux pas, even though I have plenty of time on the books and there is nothing so pressing that requires a nerve-wracking drive.

Although it has its perks, I have to say that my current chariot – the Mighty Subaru – does not handle the road as well as my former, smaller and very basic Wall-Climbing Subaru.  Perhaps it is because I made the switch from manual transmission to automatic (among other car issues, my knee was starting to kill me from clutching in stop and go traffic) and I really think you just don’t have the same control with an automatic.  Maybe it’s the all-season radials that are supposed to go in any weather but really aren’t a fraction as good as a set of snow tires.  Maybe it’s because all-wheel drive vehicles are no better on ice than any other vehicle.  Ice is ice.  You don’t grip ice unless you are wearing ice crampons.  Ever notice all those SUV’s flipped into the ditch on the side of the interstate during a storm?  They blow by you as if they have some magic pass to speed on ice (and walk on water…) where others can’t.   I have taken on the attitude that unless something is crucial, it can wait and I am not going to risk my life and limb or fender for anything besides my family and loved ones.

So you would think, with all these snow days, that the same wonder and magic that you felt when you were a little kid – that wave of giddy relief you get when school is unexpectedly closed – would continue to swell over you as an adult.   Snow Day!  The whole day is yours!  Anything is possible!  Except – it’s February and the weather is not giving us a break.  The novelty of the snow day has long worn off.  The slippery steps.  The black ice. The temps.  It’s getting a little old.   Although the days are becoming longer now, it’s not happening fast enough.  I have resisted and resisted, but I have to admit that The Febs have struck.

I am not sure if they get The Febs in the south.  I know I have experienced The Febs in the northeast and northwest, and even a little in the lower west coast.   I will have to ask my Floridian friends and family to share their opinions regarding The Febs. They don’t deal with snow and cold, but do they struggle with less light?  I know they struggle with tourists and snowbirds.  Maybe it’s a different kind of Febs.  Perhaps some of you could weigh in on that.

For those living the winter who are experiencing The Febs and do not have the luxury of an escape, I have a few strategies that have helped me, which I will share:

The full-spectrum light box.   People use it for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a real diagnosis and I think a terrifically descriptive acronym too.  Winter Sadness.   I start to feel  low-octane around late September  when the days get short, and rebound about April as they lengthen.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  I tend to seriously bum out during those dark, cold months.    The light box was suggested as a natural alternative to anti-depressants, and as I really love the “alternative” road, I thought I would give it a whirl.  My light box is portable.  I take it out in the fall and I pack it away in the spring.  I have found that keeping the box by my computer screen at work and turning it on for about a half hour or forty-five minutes each morning has been a remarkable remedy for me.  I swear by it.

When It first re-emerges at the beginning of each season and the glow is beaming brightly all over my office, I think (OK, I know) some staff have made fun of me behind my back.  At least they used to.  People would get witty and say “What are you doing, getting a suntan?” or “Day at the beach?” and other cute comments.  I think they would look at each other and roll their eyes, at least in the beginning.  It would always get a laugh, and then I would launch into my science spiel and explain how it’s supposed to work.  I guess the word got around, because a funny thing happened.  I started getting these emails – quiet little private emails – from individuals (and some of the laughers) in other departments asking where I got mine.  I think many people might be susceptible to SAD, especially those who work in windowless environments.   Having SAD during The Febs can be a rough road.  There are many different kinds, but I got my light box here.   And no, I don’t work for the company – neither do any of my friends or family. I’ve been using it successfully for at least ten years.  Just sharing in case anyone is interested.  So that is one strategy to use during The Febs.

Flowering plants.  If you go out and get yourself some plants from a garden center or the greenhouse area of your local home improvement store, they will make you feel better.  Even the act of going there and standing in the greenhouse (with its climate control) and absorbing the smells and colors of the plants is uplifting.  I like to walk into a greenhouse and give myself a mini tropical vacation.  You can also get some flower bulbs and try forcing them in pots at home.  The early blooms will give you a perk.   It’s a good thing and it gives you a little bridge into spring (see A Little Piece of Sun).

Walk It.  I could hibernate in the house all winter.  I hate the cold.  My boss likes to be out in it and he is always pushing the staff to go out for a “non-mandatory” group walk, which could end up being in the freezing snow/rain/cold as well as in the good weather.  I am not sure if this is a team-building strategy on his part, or if he just doesn’t want to walk alone, but I always hate how this starts out.  I feel like if I don’t go, I am the inflexible old lady in the crowd, and who wants to stand out and be the pooper?  I always make a face but I end up doing the winter walk because I want to appear to be a cheery, compliant good sport.  Honestly, at first I am usually freezing and miserable, but as I go along, I warm up and start to feel better.  By the time it is over, I realize this has just been an uplifting thing. I am usually glad I did it, especially if the sun is out, which feels delicious when it beams on your body on a very cold day.  Getting some winter sun on you I think is as effective, if not more, than the light box.  This year I got myself a decent coat to walk in, and that really makes a difference, which leads me to –

Having the right attire.   When I see women walking around in winter with their shorty-short stylish jackets  that practically have their midriffs showing, or shivering while wrapped in thin little coats, wearing no hat and prancing like ponies on their high heels in the snow, I feel like telling them that their style is negated by the fact their lips are turning blue and that they appear vain and not-very-bright. I know I am sounding like my mother here, but I will now humbly concede she was right….. If you are warm enough in the winter – if you feel cozy and immune in your winter coat and hat and mittens and scarf and boots that are meant for the weather, you have a serious part of the situation beat.  This year I finally made sure I was totally equipped. I have a coat that covers my butt and has a hood on it.  And I don’t care if they all laugh at my woolen Tibetan hat with the ear coverings and the pom-pom tassel on the top or my wooly beret. I really don’t.  Suddenly I.  don’t.  give.  a. crap. about fashion when it comes to practicality.  Dweebs rule!  Very liberating to have gotten past that! Very!

Do something you don’t like.   Today, home with the weather, I tackled my taxes.  I had to wrench myself from my email, from Facebook (the ultimate time-suck), from the telephone.   It took me a few hours.  I really, really did not want to do this.  I kept stopping and thinking “This is a bummer”.  Now that it is finished, I’m relieved. There are also other avoidance projects like clearing out closets and tackling other cleaning chores, writing a paper, studying for a course.   I think if you do something you really don’t want to do but should and then you finish it, all of a sudden the fact that you accomplished something gives you kind of lightness afterwards.  Any lightness you can get during The Febs is a plus.

Create something.   Sew. Write. Draw. Make music. Paint. Rearrange the furniture. Make a new recipe. Bake.

Find Other Friends With The Febs.   If you know someone else with The Febs, you can complain and commiserate about The Febs together.  You can joke about The Febs.   When you laugh about it, it lifts a little. This is helpful.

Getting Cozy.   Sometimes you just have to shut down, stay in your sweats or jammies, get cozy in your bed with some tea or cocoa and a good book or magazine, or become engrossed in a TV show.  I am not very good at knitting but when I think of the word “cozy”, sometimes I envision someone knitting somewhere (but not me).  Also it is extremely helpful to have some chocolate on hand.

Chocolate.   Dark chocolate.  Never leave home without it.  One in the purse. One in the drawer at work.  A supply of it in the kitchen.  A secret stash for emergencies.  Legal drug.

I will concede I don’t always follow my own advice, but when I use the methods above I have had some success.

We are expecting another snow and an ice storm tomorrow. Will be implementing the above.  *~*~*~*~*~*

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3 Responses to The Febs

  1. annieb says:

    Florida chiming in here. I am only speaking from just over 5 years of experience, but a Feb pattern has developed- albeit differently from the Up-North Febs. We seem to have our SADness more in January. The weather is usually as cold as it gets here (we had frost on the ground a few times in January) and, while the skies are not cloudy all day here, it does feel mostly cold and gloomy. We have to giftwrap our tropical landscaping to keep it from getting killed by the cold, we watch the pool temperature refuse to climb up to bearable, and we root around in our closets looking for our “closed shoes”. We grab at every balmy day we get, because we know that once February starts it will be getting very crowded here.

    Our Febs are filled with Northerners who have gotten fed up with The Febs and have come down here to avoid them. They fill our houses, stores, restaurants and roads. Our Febs are the time when dinner is always at home, travel time to anywhere increases exponentially, the stores are filled with golf clothes – for women it is cotton sleeveless blouses with bright colored flowers, polo shirts, elastic waist shorts in pastels, and for men it is polo shirts in pastels, bermuda style shorts in terrifying plaids, or t-shirts with especially dumb sayings.

    Every weekend there is a craft show or an art show or an antique show or an orchid show or a picnic or a carnival as all the different entities strive to find new ways to separate Snowbirds from their money. And every one of those events ties up traffic and makes parking impossible.

    The bridges are constantly going up and down as the Snowbirds tool up and down the InterCoastal in their huge behemoths, or, worse, in their sailboats. The sailboats are always “under power” – as in sails down and traveling on engine power, which is extremely slow. So when the bridge goes up for a sailboat, you might as well turn off your engine, because it is going to be a long while. Isn’t the point of taking out a sailboat To Sail? Put-putting in that huge boat with silly poles sticking up going 5 miles an hour just isn’t sailing. At least, not to me.

    While up North it was annoying when the person in front of you was ONLY going 5 miles OVER speed limit, here it is a miracle if the person in front of you is only going 5 miles UNDER speed limit. The roads are clogged with drivers who have nowhere to go and all day to get there. Every other car has an out-of-state tag, and it sometimes seems like their sole purpose in life is to make sure the locals never get anywhere on time. My favorite bumper-sticker sighting: “Some of us are NOT on vacation”. Another oldie but goodie: “If snowbirds are in season, why can’t we shoot ’em”.

    So our coping strategies for The Febs are quite different. We eat in. A lot. We build an extra half hour of driving time to get anywhere. We burn new music to listen to in the car so we don’t flip birds at all the out-of-state cars. We get our guest rooms ready. We try not to snicker too loudly when our friends in the snow complain. We get to the beach extra early in the morning – before the tourists wake up. And we save most of our clothing shopping in August.

    Friends and family from New York often ask “don’t you miss the snow?” and we tell them that whenever they get snow, we get it too. Our snow is on the front page of the local paper – and that is just where I want it. But we watch with dread as the papers fill up with snow pictures – because we know that the more snow pictures we see, the more tourists we get.

    So, we feel your Feb pain.

  2. Judy says:

    No ‘Febs’ here in Florida for me; in fact I love it this time of year as I am not melting from heat and humidity. I do not even notice the shorter days.

  3. Karen says:

    I have never been quite sure how i feel about having a birthday in the Febs

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