Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Grumbles

I was thinking this evening about running away with my family. It's been a month of hard days at work with long long days, sick patients and critical colleagues. January and February are often like this in mental health. It's been a month of hard days at home too, with sickness and loss and pain pressing down on us and those we love over and over again. It all tends to build up as time goes along, as I get worn down and my daughter gets anxious and clingy over the amount of time I'm away and my husband gets tired of coping with the two crazy women in his life. We both become less flexible and less creative as parents and the result is more temper tantrums and struggles.

Honestly, part of the problem is just winter. I really don't like winter much. In my opinion winter should start right after Thanksgiving and end after Martin Luther King Jr day. That's enough cold weather for me. I can't stand being cold, the dark is discouraging and draining, and snow and ice just really don't appeal to me at all. This winter has been particularly cold and snowy where I live and I'm not thrilled. I'm trying to be a good sport for my daughter, since she likes sledding and snowmen, but I'm starting to feel like it's time to hibernate. Or, better yet, run away.

When I feel like running away I want to head for a nice, cozy little cottage on a beach somewhere. Somewhere perpetually warm and sunny, with minimal hurricane risk. In my mind the cottage has a wrap around porch with a hammock, a view of the ocean, and some nice palm trees providing a bit of shade. Inside there are two tiny bedrooms, a bathroom, a teensy kitchen and a handkerchief sized living room; just enough space for my husband and daughter and I. Plenty of windows and light with easy to clean floors (the sand, you know) and comfortably shabby furniture. And of course, wherever it is, it's cheap to live there so that no one has to work. We can just goof off all day, eat our meals when we're hungry, go to bed when we're tired and wake up to do it again. No schedule, no clocks, no demands.

I've noticed this is a common fantasy for my healthier patients when they get overwhelmed. Not the exact details, of course. Those are mine. But the general gist of things is the same. Getting away from stress, being on a permanent vacation somewhere, kind of checking out of life. I've heard it from colleagues too. Someone mentioned the idea just this evening as we were chatting towards the end of another long day.

Realistically, I know this is not something I'm ever going to do. For one thing, it's not financially feasible. For another thing, I'm pretty sure I'd get bored in short order. I tend to keep myself busy and when I'm being really, really honest I acknowledge that much of my stress is self-generated. I am sure I need to learn to moderate better, but I don't think I'm cut out to laze around for the rest of my life. Lastly, I agree with George Bernard Shaw: "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." I don't think that living a life on the beach, with no purpose but my own enjoyment, would really lead to joy or peace in my heart.

Still, when I'm sitting inside with yet again freezing temperatures keeping the snow from melting, it's a nice fantasy...