Winter Doldrums

For me, this is the dreariest time of year. Freezing temperatures and frequently bleak skies cast a pall over everyday life. Any sense of optimism suffers. I just do not feel upbeat, which, perhaps, is understated. I long have felt that attitude is not money in the bank. It turns on a dime and can lose legs with deliberate speed. In my day-to-day, even hour-to-hour existence, freezing rain is an emotional ambush. Such is the fragility of positive thinking.
If this sounds a little goofy, it speaks to what a mind game I (we?) play, coping with serious sickness and keeping our heads above the icy water. I feel as if I make it up as I go forth. Life is only improve theater. No script. No control. For all of us, the stakes are high. State of mind is a player in our lives. I do not suggest that a positive outlook enhances neurotransmission. Only God can make a tree. Supposedly. But openness to the possibility of improved health can bring warmth at night.
“Winter lies too long…” Willa Cather wrote near the turn of the 20th century, “and hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.” Yup. That about sums it up. Spring will come soon enough. Skies will grow bright and light will stream into my psyche. I am a guarded optimist by nature, though some may not believe that. No force in the universe is out to get me, and I am competitive enough to want to win.

31 Responses to Winter Doldrums

  1. Joan L February 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    I feel trapped like a rat with this weather. Not being able to get to swim for nine days has thrown me into a psuedo re lapse. My muscles match my attitude: tight, spastic, uncooperative, in pain, despondent. Not being able to even roll out of the house one inch gives me claustrophobic fits, which doesn’t help either. I agree with Willa. Enough already winter.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 24, 2015 at 12:17 pm #


      You are worse than I. Keep the faith. Faith? OK. Keep on truckin’.


    • Ayanna February 28, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

      Hi Joan,

      I hear you. I was diagnosed in 2007. Last August my family and I moved to South Florida from Brooklyn NY. I could not take the winters anymore. It was emotionally draining and impractical. Its true that it is really hard to stay positive when it is so bleak and cold. Florida has its challenges, weather not being one of them. Ever consider relocating to a warmer place?

      • Joan L March 1, 2015 at 12:42 am #

        Ayanna, unfortunately, heat and humidity are far worse for me. I spent 2 months in Bend, OR and though it was warm, the low humidity was great. I felt great. Also have lived in Hawaii, California, but have been where I am since ’84 and have so many amazing friends I just couldn’t leave. So I’ll complain sometimes and carry on. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Nik February 24, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    I see a lot of people starting to crack. On Facebook, in conversations and now here. It’s funny, this year I am refusing to complain about the weather. It was cold as hell as I went out to my car to go to work and my car wouldn’t start. Oh, and my basement flooded last Friday because of a furnace malfunction on one of our coldest days. But I’m UP at the moment and gosh darn it, I’m staying UP! Even as my right eye can’t stop twitching ( anyone ever experience that?) I’m just thankful to be going to work and getting out to live life at the moment. That could change tomorrow, but I’m thinking my perspective on things is very clear at the moment. The warm weather will return again and for those of you finished with this deep freeze, I’m hoping for you all it comes very soon!

    • Richard M. Cohen February 25, 2015 at 7:09 am #



    • Richard M. Cohen February 25, 2015 at 7:10 am #

      Amen to that.


    • Ayanna February 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

      I remember having the eye twitching and it was very annoying. Good thing my acupuncturist was able to help me stop the problem. At least I was able to find a way to control one of my many symptoms. I would strongly recommend keeping your options open.

  3. Elizabeth February 25, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    I have come to realize that though we are all different, the same things seem to intrude or impede us. I woke up with the “how much longer can I handle this dark cloud” and saw your post, like you’re reading my mind. It’s not all weather related but certainly being stuck in the house does not help. I am certainly feeling grateful when I see the firefighters and utility workers fighting fires or trying to get electricity back into peoples homes, working out in this freezing weather. I am warm and safe, just have cabin fever.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 26, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Apply for a job as a utility worker. That should dampen the fever.


  4. David February 25, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    The days are getting longer and soon maybe warmer.I want to believe that someone will solve this huge MS problem.Then we can see again and walk again and help the world cure another disease,that’s what I hope for.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 26, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      Keep that hope going.


  5. Jan February 25, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    Ah, per Google: “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” And, “The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing — desire.” ― Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

    Although I prefer to shower and prep early, with my husband out-of-town on business and snow outside this morning, I rather gleefully worked and fetched my morning newspapers “Oscar Madison-style” in my jammies and robe, ever so carefully with my land line phone in one pocket, cell in another, cane for needed balance, bare feet inside hiking boots, and a sprinkle of determination before it melts. (Not exactly a sight for sore eyes; plus, hiking is only a memory).

    But I also finished the last two chapters of “Blindsided.” And then the sun came out, in my heart and in my outlook. (Good, applicable reads for the winter doldrums).

    Richard, is it time for another printing of that book, maybe with an updated chapter of the ten years since? (If not, what’s there is still mighty valuable, I think).

    • Richard M. Cohen February 26, 2015 at 10:31 am #


      I am working on my fourth (last) book, this one on hope. The first chapter is titled, Blindsided, Again.

      Here’s hoping,

      • Jan February 26, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

        Wonderful, Richard. Great chapter name and flow connection (also one that totally addresses my question, thanks). Will look forward to reading it and knowing about the direction in which you will take your book. Lots of possibilities — enjoy the creative process and productive outlet as you determine the book’s path. I imagine that we readers will read about challenge, inspiration, heartfelt and “real” anecdotes, thoughts to consider… sprinkled with your fun humor 🙂

  6. Betty February 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    Perfect timing for this discussion. We call it cabin fever here in the mountains. EVERYONE is grouchy. People whom I have learned to trust for patience and support (myself included) are short-fused. Bad attitudes bring me down. I’m down; and my right eye and right side of my face HAS been twitching nightly. This is a new symptom. Really? Mobility gains I was feeling a few months have slipped back to base, with increased spasticity and ataxia. I’m falling, and swearing, and my cup, usually running over, or at least 1/2 full is flat-empty and cracking up. You might remember me, “Pollyanna” from last spring? Well, lately I’m loathe to change TV channels, or even answer the phone. My hope is less, and I’m looking for sad books to read. It’s not me, and it’s not you. It’s a dreadfully cold, dark, snowy winter that has gone on way too long. Today though, I smile at elongating icicles, I see more daylight, and feel sun on my face and I am thankful for +25 degrees F Vs -25 yesterday morning. Let’s beat this subject up, and have some fun with it KNOWING spring will come and we will all feel better soon.

    • Hannah February 26, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      I would try reading the book “Feeling Good” because it is a great book.

      Now let me be silly and slightly unhelpful for a moment. My eyelid twitches when I drink too much coffee, and it feels like everyone in the world can see it. Thank god I’m not on HD television when that is happening (or ever!). Do you drink caffeine? Maybe cut it to half-caff if you can stand it.

      Also, here’s a joke –

      What’s the difference between Los Angeles and yogurt?
      Yogurt has more culture.

      Hope you don’t live in LA. There’s not much water there, either.
      Good day to you, Betty 🙂

    • Richard M. Cohen February 26, 2015 at 10:35 am #

      We will. Until then, ride the wave. Of course it is frozen.


  7. Yvonne February 25, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Well, this is filed under “things I can be thankful for this week”. It’s 80 degrees here today in Fl. 🙂

    • Richard M. Cohen February 26, 2015 at 10:55 am #

      Well, it is 88 degrees in NY. Actually, 28 or something.

  8. MB February 26, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, University of Chicago, MIT, etc. all in the North. If these schools were in the southern states, the student body would have much better things to than study. I’d hazard a guess and say that getting high on the beach and spearing fish in a loincloth would take precedence over, let’s say, researching things like curing chronic illnesses.

    How’s that for justifying my insane decision to live in Illinois?

    • Jan February 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

      Hey, MB… Not sure which is more insane, health or IL politics. (I’ll leave that one alone). I’m from Illinois and lived there most of my life until a few years ago. I certainly do think of all of you in more northern states, especially this winter. Of how extremely difficult it must be to get out in the snow and ice (or be holed up inside). I have many years of snow shoveling experience, including a personal duty to keep the bus stop clear on our corner lot (no snow blower). And sledding with my kids when they were young… Richard’s post about memories is bringing a smile to my face right now.

      And of how Richard says he’s cold a lot. Me? I actually “get that” now, with some changed neurological issues and in spite of being acclimated. I likely deserved my dose of comeuppance after feeling a bit haughty after the move and wondering why on earth people here could feel cold!

    • Richard February 27, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      Interesting theory. And what are you smoking?


      • Jan February 27, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

        Verrrry funny… truth be known, I’ve never tried even so much as a puff on a cigarette (or anything else), thanks to my late dad who died in 2012 from COPD after a long battle. It included two visits in 2011 here via Amtrak, the first with him dragging an oxygen concentrator before I realized I could order oxygen tanks locally for the second visit. Could never stand the smell of cigarettes in our house growing up.

        Like many of us here on your site, he kept up being as resilient as he could be. But he figured out his limitations too late. It’s a reminder to me to be both resilient and also logical.

    • Richard February 27, 2015 at 7:35 am #

      Interesting. And what are you smoking?


  9. Henriette February 26, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    I know I am probably the Lone Ranger here but my symptoms of this darling MS we all speak of, go down at least 80% in the cold weather. I am awake, my right side feels like some miracle hit me. I sit on the top deck of the ferry boat across the Hudson by myself and dream about moving to the North Pole this coming summer. I love the cold because it wakes me up and I move better. And yes I get cold eventually but until then I am one happy camper. But summer will come and my cold vest will be revived in all its glory and I will move forward dreaming of next January. Years ago I bonded with another MSer who moved home to Maine because of the symptoms we share. The other day she said ” I’m so happy that I can be so mobile in the winter vs sleeping through the entire summer with my legs detached”. Keep writing Richard. You cheer me up no matter what season it is!

    • Richard February 27, 2015 at 8:02 am #

      Oneopf the goofier things about this blog is that when I respond to somebody, it appears in the wrong place and reads like a nonsequitor. How do you spell that? I try to getalong with people but computers? No.


  10. Jan February 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    Oh, maybe your “smoking” comment was for someone else, and you all instead got an anecdote about my dad. If so, sorry!

    (And the location of the “reply” button we hit matters).

  11. MB February 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    The Stockdale Paradox merits a mention in our discussions on hope. I just finished re-reading Jim Collins’ “Good to Great,” and this line made me pause, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

    I’ve always had some type of hope that this disease would stop its assault on my body, but at the same time I know MS has already taken away my ability to walk, write, and drive, which is my brutal reality.

    I think for me at least, my hope lies in not getting worse. I don’t hang on to the hope that I’ll ever regain what I’ve lost. Maybe that’s how to move forward. I’m just not sure.

  12. Elizabeth February 28, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    I stumbled upon this blog after watching When I Walk but also woke up with a serious case of winter blues. I admire your vulnerability and the way you express yourself. The comments made me realize that others are struggling with worse situations during freezecopolypse and that I need to get over myself (at least for today). Thank you all for the motivation to get out of bed- I’m off to walk my dog – he thanks you too 🙂

  13. Sue March 7, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

    Years ago, I bought cocktail napkins for a birthday party with the quote “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most” ….. Ozzy Osbourne Appropriate for this blog!