When I leave for work in the morning it’s dark and when I come home in the evening it’s dark. Basically, from Monday to Thursday I don’t see my house in the daylight.
I’m not complaining. I love seasons. When I lived in LA, I used to get depressed by the sun. Every single day it felt the same…relentless sun.
“You are depressed by sunlight?” An LA co-worker once asked in disbelief (and I believe I detected a little bit of disdain in his voice as well. It’s the same disdain I get when I tell people I don’t like chocolate or strawberries. Not liking chocolate, strawberries and sun makes other people contemptuous).
My mother understood. She knew how much I loved thunderstorms and how much I missed them in LA. I wrote for the New Mickey Mouse Club years ago and my office bungalow was right smack in the middle of the Disney MGM lot in Orlando. Every single afternoon there was a thunderstorm at around 3 or 4 o’clock. I could be in the worst mood, and then there would be this violent thunderstorm for about fifteen minutes. Then it and my bad mood would be suddenly gone. I loved it every time.
Every five years or so there would be a thunderstorm in LA, but it was hard to enjoy since it usually set the city on fire. When I would visit Ohio, my mom would pray to a god she didn’t believe in to give me a thunderstorm while I was there. It was her way of showing me a good time, and I loved how much she understood me. (She also always gave me a white chocolate lamb in my Easter basket when I was a child instead of those dreaded and awful tasting dark chocolate bunnies.)
When I was trying to decide if I should move back to New York after my mom died, I asked her for a sign. A few minutes later, I put on my headphones and pressed shuffle the first thing I heard was Stevie Nicks singing that thunder only happens when it’s raining. That felt like as sure a sign from my mother as I could ever imagine.
My mother hated winter. She loathed February. Yesterday was the anniversary of her death. Do you know why? Because she hated February so much she died on January 31st. She was determined not to experience another stupid February. Her death was a final F-U to February. This determined stubbornness was one of the many reasons I loved her, but it did make that February a little drearier for the rest of us.
My husband Saul is also not a fan of February. I don’t think it helps that his birthday is on February 1st. (Yes, there is something symbolic that his birthday is the day after my mother’s death day, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.) Saul is younger than me. Not as young as I hoped. I thought I would be marrying a twenty-five-year-old at my age, but my midlife crisis didn’t work out as planned. Saul is only nine years younger than me, and he is at the age where you start to realize you don’t turns heads the way you used to when you were younger. Saul still turns heads though. I’m at the age where I can only turn heads if I yell something alarming as I enter a room like FIRE! or BUFFALO STAMPEDE! or BOYS IN MAGA HATS!
But even though I love seasons, I still can get a little down this time of year. I’m sad we haven’t gotten any big snow, and am aware that we get so much less snow than we did when I was a kid. I’m also angry and sad our President doesn’t care about global warming because there is nothing in it for him.
I’m also a bit sad I finished writing my book. Do I start another book or just never write again? I had always planned on being like Harper Lee and writing one great book and being done. But now, if I really want to be like Harper Lee, I have to write a prequel to my memoir and make myself racist.
So, February if gets you down, I’m here to help.
How do you get through it if you don’t have money or time to go to a warm climate for vacation (which if you do—go! Don’t even read the rest of this. Read it on vacation on a beach and laugh at the poor suckers who need it.)
Here are my suggestions for beating that I-Wish-I Were-Dead February Feeling
BUY A ZEBRA—Please don’t buy a live zebra unless you live in some sort of wildlife reserve or a zoo, but I don’t really believe animals should be in zoos, so what I’m trying to say is buy a fake zebra. And it doesn’t have to be a zebra. That is what Saul and I bought earlier this week for our backyard to go along with the hippo we bought last year. I think the secret to Saul’s and my marriage is that we buy hippos and zebras for our backyard. We never argue over important things like that. But buy your own version of a zebra. Something unusual that you love even if not one other single person loves it. It will lift your spirits. (Unfortunately, I can’t see my zebra in my pitch dark backyard from Monday to Thursday, but it gives me something to look forward to in the weekend daylight).
THROW A PARTY—Saul and I are throwing a Writers/Artist Salon this weekend where people who like to paint or draw hang with Saul on one floor and people who like to write hang on another floor of the house with me. Saul is going to make chili and pie. That’s another perk of February. It is the middle of winter, and no one is going to see you in a bathing suit for another few months (if you do take that beach vacation, I suggest wearing a caftan since you will never see anyone on that vacation beach ever again. If you are single and want to hook up during this vacation, then I recommend making February the month you dabble in chubby chasers.) Throwing a party gives you something to look forward to and checks off several “Oh we should get together” dinners with friends that you would have to endure in the miserable weather.
PICK-FROM-THE-HAT MOVIES—Saul and I started this tradition over the holidays. We put the names of movies we want to see, or have talked about seeing, or want to see again on scraps of papers and then we pick a piece of paper from the hat on cold evenings at home. You can of course also play this by yourself. It takes the guess work out of what you should watch and avoids overwhelm. One caveat: You HAVE to watch the movie you pick. No do overs. You’ll be surprised how much you can enjoy something, once you get past your initial resistance. In these last few weeks, we’ve watched Fearless with Jeff bridges, La Grande Illusion (some hoity toity movie Saul wanted to watch), After Hours, A Star is Born (the new one with Lady Gaga), Flashdance, A Walk on the Moon and Black Panther. It’s been fun, but I prefer Judy Garland over Lady Gaga any day. And how did we collectively NOT know that Jennifer Beales had a dance double in all those scenes? It’s so obvious now. The other thing I learned from this exercise is that the musical phrase What A Feeling stays in your head for a long, long, long time.
VOLUNTEER—Helping animals or people is always good. I’ve been really bad at volunteering lately so I won’t go on too much about this. But I will remind others and myself. If you can’t volunteer, at least flirt with a very old person.
My friend Lisa loves February. She loves the light of February–the muted blues and grays and how they cast a less harsh light over everything. The way the sky feels so full when it is about to snow (pre-global warming). She always reminds me that February is the time to do those inside projects or make those long-delayed phone calls. You don’t have to feel guilty you are not outside like you do in the summer. You can stay inside in your sweats.
I love winter because I look at the woods when I walk my dog. They were so lush and thick in the summer and now look so barren. I look at our backyard that was filed to the brim with milkweed plants and bees and butterflies this summer and now looks so dead. It’s hard for me to believe that that garden could be full again next summer. I tell myself nothing will come back to life. But I’m sure the woods will be full again, so I’m sure my back yard will be too.
Winter reminds me that everything is cyclical. When I can’t write one day, I’m pretty certain I will be able to write the next day or the next week.
When work or love or money or any number of things don’t go our way and some part of our lives feels so barren, winter reminds us that everything always seems to come around again. The winter makes the spring that much sweeter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR—Keith Hoffman plans to die on January 19th, 2022 if Trump is reelected.