Cabin Fever and the Struggle for Awesomeness

emptyviseWe’re in the midst of an extended cold snap here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. For the second straight week (without much of a break in-between) our highs have been in the single digits and lows have been below zero, with wind chills in the double-digit negatives. Our kids have been out of school more days in January than they’ve been in.

If you’re from Minnesota or North Dakota you’re probably having a good laugh at my expense right now. My Russian friends would call this a mild winter. But for us here in West Virginia, it’s unusual. Not that we don’t have our share of cold weather, but for it to be this cold for this long is out of the ordinary.

Usually I can distract myself during a cold spell by doing something to prepare for warmer weather. Tying flies, cleaning and organizing fishing and camping gear, re-arranging fly boxes, working on articles for the various websites I write for, even watching Montana fishing videos on YouTube can generally provide a little respite.

But for some reason this time I have about as bad a case of cabin fever as I can ever remember. Nothing seems to help. I can’t get motivated to sit down at the tying desk, even though I know I need to stock up for spring. My gear stares at me from its appointed corner of the basement, pleading with me to sort through and replenish supplies of various accessories. Ideas for writing assignments can’t seem to settle in my brain long enough to develop.

I used to be able to tolerate cold weather better, too. In my younger days, I could suit up and find something productive to do outside…even if it was just a walk in the woods…no matter how low the mercury dipped on the thermometer. A little fresh air and exercise is an amazing antidote to mental lethargy.

All I’ve managed during the past couple of weeks, though, has been to spend some time cleaning snow off the neighborhood sidewalks as a succession of clippers left us a couple of fresh inches about every other day.

Even working from home, usually a blessing I wouldn’t trade for anything, becomes a bit of a burden when the claustrophobia of the winter willies sets in. Dozens of little jobs need done around the house, any of which would provide at least a momentary diversion. But somehow I lack both the mental and physical energy to engage in any of them.

So mostly I find myself kicking around the house, taking care of the few work-related projects which demand my attention, reading some texts for upcoming seminary courses, checking my Facebook and Twitter feeds every few minutes, staring out my back door at the snowy hillside and frozen creek, and feeling decidedly apathetic about nearly everything.

If this cold snap would have hit us in February, it might have been easier. The days are a little bit longer and spring is a little bit closer. Cold February days are made for dreaming of March & April in the mountains.

Cold January days are just cold. All we have to look forward to in January is … February.

Hopefully, this weather pattern will break soon and with it the boredom and restlessness of this year’s bout of cabin fever. Like everything, it is temporary.

Meanwhile, I’ll brew a little extra coffee, coerce myself into a few minutes a day on the elliptical, and look for bits of inspiration wherever I can find them.

And I’ll take heart in the knowledge that, some days, you just have to work a little harder to be awesome.

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