I'm guessing winter will be over in another five to six weeks. It could happen sooner, but let's be realistic, this corner of North America was slammed with winter this year and most of us are still under a lot of snow. I'm no meteorologist but I think it will take a while still for the snow to melt and winter to release her grip.
This winter was defined by a few things for me, the momentous and mundane: a season's ski pass which enabled us to ski every weekend, Damien's business trip to Alberta in February, Laurent's 14th birthday, Céline's C2E2 plans driving her curriculum (my next post in the homeschooling through high school series will explain this), cross country skiing out our door, participating in Heather's Hibernate workshop, a knitting project I'm so close to completing, watching Netflix on the big screen with my big kids (Downton Abbey's 5th season, and all of Merlin), weekly choir practice (our spectacle is on Friday!), and lots of reading.
The important thing, and the point of this post, is what did not define my winter: seasonal affective disorder.
I'm safely through the most dangerous winter territory, late February and into March, and I haven't experienced anything even close to the emotional lows of winter 2012 and 2013.
(Last winter we were too busy getting ready for our hike for me to feel depressed but I was quite stressed during that time. There was so much to do and a lot of deadlines. I hate deadlines. I repeatedly thought and expressed, "I don't want to live like this", but didn't see any way out except to just get through it.)
I met my SAD this year head-on with a personal wellness strategy of supplements, happy light, daily outdoor exercise, and self-acceptance.
We also changed our lives in significant ways to support a season of healing and restoration for me. The magnitude of those changes hasn't shown up on the blog much, yet. I have too many other things to write about.
Part of my "enjoy winter plan" was to get outside every day. I did a lot of cross country skiing but March required a change in my physical activity. The routine and route that brought me so much joy and beauty in January and February was just, meh, come March. I was bored.
So I started doing yoga.
I've done bits and pieces of yoga over the years, but never anything regular. I'm not sure if this month's foray into yoga will result in a regular yoga practice but it's getting me through March and that's fairly significant.
I'm using an iPad app called Yoga Studio. Damien got it for his own needs and introduced me to it. (I'm also borrowing Damien's yoga mat right now till I buy my own.)
I really like this format - the verbal instructions along with the video demonstrations are very easy to understand. I can choose different "classes", according to my needs and abilities. Right now I'm doing 30 minute beginner combo classes, strength focus classes and sun salutations.
A few other things are keeping me going through this last, long month of winter.
Dreams and plans
When we came home from the trail I was dreamed out. I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn't want to think about the future. All I wanted to do was rest and to hunker down for the winter. A season of rest, along with making the changes we did in December and January have given me the security I need to start dreaming again.
March is a great month to make plans for the summer.
I'm starting to get the backpacking itch, the first stirrings since leaving the trail physically injured and heart weary. We've been tossing around summer hiking, camping, and travel ideas. One of my many cousins is getting married in October on the other side of the country, and I'm going. (I can't wait to be with the Toews clan again.)
Much sooner on the horizon, my parents are coming to visit for Easter.
In July, we're moving to Montreal. I guess this is my blog "announcement". I'll be blogging more about this move in probably April or May. I'll be answering, Why Montreal? Why now? that kind of thing.
We decided this move before Christmas but with spring fever in our blood we're starting to talk about what this will look like. All the places we'll be close to and all the adventures awaiting us living close to an airport, close to Vermont, New Hampshire, and the White Mountains.
A good homeschool groove
In February the kids and I took a
two and a half three week break from our usual routine. I wanted some time for a sewing project. There was Laurent's birthday and, I don't remember... something else in there that necessitated a break.
"Spring" break for the school kids in our community was the first week of March this year. But when I flipped the calendar into March I was recharged and ready to roll.
I truly enjoy my kids at this stage, so very much. Our discussions are challenging. I like being able to watch non-PG tv together. I love collaborating with them as they do really cool things. I love that they cook and contribute significantly around the house. I love that we have distinct interests and loves but share affection for each other. I love that we can race down mountainsides together.
Sharing these years with my kids, anticipating the future together, watching them come into their own is my greatest joy right now. My relationship with them fills my well.
And homeschooling them, when I take the breaks I need to recharge, is not a burden but a joy also.
That's what homeschooling this month feels like to me. It feels like daily disciplines that yield good fruit in their season.
It feels like anticipation. All of us will be traveling next month, going separate ways, to meet goals we have. (I believe lots of plans, hope, anticipation and activity are key elements of a happy home in the teen years. Teens want to do stuff.)
There was no homeschool burnout this winter and with exciting plans on the horizon I'm motivated to finish March strong.
Affection and friendship with Damien
Our marriage took a bit of a beating on the trail. Someday I'll tell the whole story, why that happened, etc.
Damien and I were committed to each other, completely, through the whole thing but the bonds of our friendship were strained. Commitment is one thing (and it's one of the bedrocks of our relationship), but friendship is just as important. And we've been working, since coming back, on renewing our friendship and delight in each other's company.
Ironically, this necessitated that we stop working together and invest in ourselves individually, so that we come to our marriage and our "togetherness" as unique, vibrant, distinct and interesting people, not simply extensions of each other (which doesn't work so well).
This month, I've been reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I find all the questionnaires and scoring exercises tedious, I skip those parts but I'm gleaning a lot of insight from the rest.
I just finished the chapter on Principle 2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration and I recognized in this chapter something that we've been working on recently - reviving the fun in our marriage.
The sun setting as we drive along Route 132
on our way to Friday night young group
Switching to Alpine Touring, which I talked about in my first Kitchen Table essay, was one way to reclaim the fun in our marriage. (Damien is no longer my telemark tutor and I have the confidence to ski almost any run with him.) We've been dating while our kids go to youth group, and we went dancing in February.
Damien and I are very different people, when we remember that is what drew us to each other in the first place we are able to respect those differences and also encourage them to keep our friendship interesting.
Re-discovering friendship and enjoying the fun of being lovers is something that's definitely working for me this winter.
Historically, winter has been a hard season for me. February used to be the toughest month when we lived in Maine. After moving to Quebec, further north and deeper into winter (with no hope of spring till late April/early May), my most difficult month became March.
Knowing my personal history, I had some trepidation facing this winter but I feel like I rewrote the script.
This winter proved to me that "I struggle through winter" does not need to be the only reality or option for me moving forward, into the many more winters I plan to live. Maybe my new reality can be this: winter can be hard, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve - routines, beliefs, disciplines, thought patterns, activities, and relationships - to help me get through and even enjoy the season.