As we head into what looks to be a cold, hard winter exacerbated by the coronovirus pandemic, British writer Katherine May offers some warming advice: Embrace your winter!
By winter, she means not just the cold season, but "a fallow period in life when you're cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider."
In Wintering, May writes beautifully of her own recent bout with a personal winter, a period when she felt low and overwhelmed, out of sorts and "out of sync with everyday life." She hit a storm of woes around the time of her 40th birthday. First, her husband's infected appendix burst while awaiting surgery. When her own stomach pains escalated, she initially attributed it to a sympathetic reaction, or a case of nerves after giving notice as a university lecturer in order to write full time. But after months of waiting for tests with the National Health Service, she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Then her 6-year-old refused to go to school, and, well-acquainted with the misery he was experiencing, she chose not to force him.
It wasn't May's first winter. "As one of the many girls of my age whose autism went undiagnosed, I spent a childhood permanently out in the cold," she writes. She suffered a major depression at 17, but, finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, "I saw the chance to make myself new again."
Because she'd been through it before, May knew what to do. She now says it's her duty to share some strategies. Wintering, she says, is a way to get through tough times by chilling, hibernating, healing, re-grouping. "Doing these deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential," she writes.