Still Breathing but Barely

The Winter Blues Edition

If anyone has Winnipeg in winter figured out, it’s the middle aged man who was reading a John Grisham novel on a bench in the Assiniboine Park Conservatory a couple Sundays ago. I’d gone there with a friend, both of us armed with strong coffee and the desire to squash the winter blues with an iron fist of plants and humid air.

 This winter hasn’t been too bad, weather-wise. But as always, the winters in this city are long and mean and can cause even the most Ned Flandersly among us to weep for no reason and/or drink wine straight out of the box.

We’ve crafted our city to be as fun as possible in the most miserable time of year. Festival du Voyageur offers everything Winnipeggers love: lots of food, lots of booze and lots of music. Or you can go to The Forks and skate your way down the river. You can cross-country ski or sled or snowshoe through the park.

 But what about the days when exertion isn’t fathomable? The days when you wake up and it’s 30 below and you remember there’s still at least two months of winter? Do you buck up and embrace the chill? Some of us do. And those of us who don’t may roll over and turn to our phones, and spend the better part of the day scrolling through pictures of friends eating maple syrup on a stick or posing in a warming hut with cheerful red cheeks. Stuff like this makes me feel like a failure. I can barely get out of bed on a cold day, never mind put on a smile and traipse about in the great outdoors.

 But there are other ways to fight off the winter blues in Winnipeg.

 The dourness of the season necessitates little rituals; nice things we do for ourselves to bring comfort when the cold and dark get us down. Morning trips to the coffee shop for the doughnut of the day. Knitting or crafting or playing music. Or bringing a book to a public place and quietly reading on the weekend – something that may be a summertime activity you’d enjoy in your backyard, but you can’t when the weather is how it’s been.

 After my trip to the conservatory, I went to the casino for the first time ever. And while I wouldn’t recommend regular visits as a healthy way to fend off depression, it was new and weird and fun. I didn’t win any money but I experienced a new culture and side of the city I hadn’t yet seen.

 Winter is a time to turn inwards and self-reflect, and it’s also a time to find your own little customs to keep you sane. Spend time with others but also with yourself, and do things to make yourself happy. And take comfort in the fact that, in this city at this time of year, so many others are doing the same.

Laina Hughes is a writer from Winnipeg. Pick up a copy of her book Wolseley Stories at McNally Robinson.

Published in Volume 69, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 4, 2015)

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