A few years ago, a buddy of mine spent a winter at his in-laws’ cabin—all winter. In a cabin. We’re talking a wood stove, log walls and a constant all-day long fight to stay warm.
“I mean, I would spend a solid four hours a day, either cutting wood, hauling wood, splitting wood, hauling ashes, or banking fires. And a surprising number of those hours were in the middle of the night trying to keep from freezing to death,” he said.
I asked if the romance had worn off winter and he laughed a deep, long and rich laugh. “Oh no, my friend, no indeed! I can’t tell you how much pleasure I now get in padding across my carpeted living room in my fuzzy slippers and touching a button on the wall…hmmm, let’s see… 74 degrees, 75 maybe?”
I laughed with him. I mean it is pretty silly, isn’t it? Thanks to attached garages, electric blankets, (heated steering wheels for gosh sake!), and of course, wood-free, coal-free, hassle-free heating, how much time to we really spend in winter…what maybe, 20 minutes a day? Yet to hear the weeping and wailing, you’d think we were all Sherpas hiking over a mountain pass barefoot.
The Norwegians have a couple of handy tips that might be of help:
1. They say they love winter. They have a word that means cozy: koselig. They say it’s a great excuse to bundle up and share some coffee or warm beverage next to friends in front of a fireplace.
2. They see winter as a short-lived thing that must be enjoyed while it lasts. So they all learn to ski or slide or snowshoe. The colder they get, the more they look forward to coming inside for more koselig.
3. Since fewer things can be done outside, they use the time to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
4. Let me back up and repeat #1. They say they love winter. I remember back in college I had to get up at 5am to serve breakfast to drowsy, grumpy students. I was just as drowsy and grumpy, but I didn’t want to get fired. So to get a measure of revenge, I pretended to love morning. “GOOOOOOOD MORNING!!!” I would say. I would pretend to be chipper, pretend that a glorious sunrise was the best part of the day and pretend that a bowl of oatmeal was a love pat for the tum-tum!
Oh, how I was hated! Even my boss at the cafeteria hated me, but what could she do? I was a happy-acting employee!
But here’s the punch line. Son of a gun if I didn’t wind up becoming cheerful as each morning progressed! It turns out that if you fake being happy, you actually become happy (this is true—you can check out the science if you want, it’s pretty big research these days).
I even became a morning person and even more upbeat, long after I left that job… weird, huh? So, for that reason, I refuse to bad-mouth the fourth of my life that is winter (all right, maybe a third). I don’t worry over the forecast because there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. I say every day, “It’s a beautiful day!” without looking outside, because as I have learned: A beautiful day does not start outside– it starts inside.