In early 2013, I attended a yoga workshop in New York City designed specifically for the creative types. We were expected to connect with our inner selves through meditation, breathing, and stretching.
At this workshop, I learned that winter is, amongst other things, the time for spiritual growth. The weather conditions force us to pause, listen to our voice, and reflect on our experiences. It’s the time for spiritual evolution and the best season to shut down and write.
I was ecstatic about this new romance—winter and words.
Did I mention that I am a writer and a poet, so I have the license and authority (I repeat this to myself in a strong British accent) to be eccentric at all times. Not really. But I figured since the world often assumes that we (I speak for the fraternity of writers) are depressed alcoholics who like to hide behind solitude, I would spend January in hibernation.
2014 started with a bang. I wrote nonstop. By the fourth week into the New Year, I had a bunch of personal essays and poems that were accepted in cool magazines and journals. I would kiss the snow, write, workout, and drink lots of chai…and then write some more. I barely hung out with friends and family over the weekend. With my husband being overseas the first two weeks of January, it was easy to temporarily abandon the world without feeling guilty.
I believed there was nothing called too much winter just as there was nothing called too much love.
The universe heard the ode I had subliminally written for the first month of the year and whispered, “Let it snow.”
Soon, the honeymoon phase between my writing and winter saw a sharp decline. We didn’t even make it to the world’s largest corporate holiday: Valentine’s Day. Between record low temperatures and snow on the frozen streets, two pairs of my snowshoes got battered. With three layers of clothing, two pairs of gloves, and UGGs mothering my feet, I looked like the Indian version of a polar bear auditioning for a circus.
My meetings got canceled, weekend plans were rescheduled, public readings got postponed, and life became inconvenient in general. The snow didn’t care that it was awful carrying grocery in this weather. To tumble, fall, and hurt—it’s more than a rhythmic sequence of events.
With the storms wreaking havoc, so many people were without heat and water. I worried for the homeless and wondered how they would survive.
What I’d considered pristine started to feel like sweet poison. Snow was cold on the inside too.
Slowly, I realized that E.E. Cummings ironic impressions, “The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches,” started to replace my preppy posts about snow inspired by Robert Frost. Cummings was right; snow is selfish. Like a player’s heart, snow is callous. It looks inviting on the outside but on the inside it hides layers of black ice.
It wasn’t just me. Everyone I spoke with on the east coast of the United States sounded low. They questioned their confidence and place in this world. Yes, it could have been a phase or mid-life crisis, but I believed winter and its bratty buddy, snow, were the culprit.
Winter is an infidel, I decided.
When I saw my friends dissolve into tears over nothing, I knew the epidemic of “feeling-like-shit” was real. Perhaps, my increased chai-drinking had enhanced my intuitive-prowess. I was like M. For those of you wondering about this sudden alphabet interjection, M is a fictional character in Ian Fleming’s James Bond book and film series. She, the character, is the Head of Secret Intelligence Service—also known as MI6—and is known for her astuteness.
Anyway, when people in tropical places sent me pictures in summer dresses, I had to fight the urge to write them bad poems. By the time Valentine’s Day arrived, I had decided that in my third novel I would name the villain Polar Vortex. I started to blame the inhumane temperatures on my characters. I even gave two of them herpes.
I said to myself in a heavy British accent (because that’s what M would do) sane people don’t do such rubbish things.
I was convinced; it was time to take an online test to evaluate my abilities, sanity, sensitivities, and sensibilities.
A visual artist friend of mine once took the test on behalf of her boyfriend and the results revealed that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Two years later, the doctors diagnosed her man with the same developmental disorder that we had once diagnosed.
Bam! It was time for doctors without degrees to make reappearance.
My husband was quite amused with my 11p.m.-decision on a weeknight. “Babe, are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.
“I must find out the truth.” I was relentless.
I found a “legitimate” test and diligently answered all the questions. The conclusion: NO. I wasn’t depressed. What the hell?
The snow continued to provoke me ruthlessly.
I decided to look for the comprehensive guide to evaluating mental health online aka determining the status of my mental health. I realize the irony in my words as I type them today but it sounded like a great idea at the time.
Hello, thank you for taking the tests. You aren’t bipolar, sociopathic, or psychopathic. Congratulations, Ms. Vikram! Yes, should not have used my real name. Another afterthought.
Snow fell mercilessly taunting my dependency on it.
That was the moment I realized it was time to break up. Snow had fallen in my eyes.
I made plans to meet a dear friend for coffee next morning.
Sweta Vikram is a contributing editor of LitChat. Read her complete bio here.