Winter is always a strange season for me. When reflecting upon the winter season, the adjective that most readily comes to mind is ‘extreme’ (kind of like your jacket, Mickey Spades). The winter months for me seem to fall on both sides of the spectrum: I am either extremely busy or extremely slow.
With the holidays, I find myself extremely busy throughout the beginning of winter. It should come as no surprise that working a retail job througout the holiday season is both time consuming and fatiguing. When not busy with work, it seems that the holidays bring with them obligations to family and friends. Holiday parties and family gatherings seem to be as important to the holiday as opening presents. As I have moved up the food chain and into bigger and busier stores, my time has become even more precious, as I am frequently crunched with the demands of the job. The last few holiday seasons I have written off as a time for work and family, and any outside time I get is purely a bonus.
Under normal circustances I would not object to taking some time away from my normal play time but the beginning of the holiday season also coincides with the begining of the wintersports. As we get to be our busiest at the store, outside the ice begins to form and the ski resorts begin to open. With the opening of these new activities, my friends’ enthusiasm level rises and they begin their winter sport seasons as I watch on. The parellel of my friends getting their first turns as I make my first holiday returns is always a little unsettling to someone who is passionate about being outside. Furthermore, I always feel like I am chasing my friends trying to make up ground the rest of the winter, like I am trying to make up for some activity or fun deficit.
The holidays’ hectic-ness is quickly contrasted after the new year by a very quiet time in the store. Most people have done the majority of the year’s shopping over the previous four weeks and are taking a break; those who are coming into the store are often there for a necessity or to replace something. As the store slows down, we return to normal shopping hours and reduced staffing which makes my schedule more flexible and allows more time for outside persuits.
In addition to the store slowing down, it seems that once you get past New Years the family obligations fall away, having caught up and seen the majority of your family somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years. The other friendly obligations seem to slow down as well, as people find themselves exhausted from the marathon that is the holiday season. You have recently seen many of your friends, much like your family, somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, and the idea of catching up seems like it can be put on hold.
I now find myself in this slow part of winter, chasing the days I missed out on during the beginning of the season. I am gleeful for every powder day I get as my friends have returned to their normal work schedules and obligations. As we ebb towards February I begin to feel as I have made up for lost time and have begun catching my friends. My schedule at this time of year has lightened significantly and I am able to spend more time out and less time filling the responsibilities associated with work and family.
The problem is that I can be more than a little compulsive and find myself not always chasing the days, but afraid to miss a day. It seems like that has been a common occurrence for me during the last few weeks. Because I miss those precious early season days, I am afraid to miss any days in the middle of the season. This fear drives me to get out on days that I am not exactly feeling it, or when it’s too cold, not great conditions, I am tired, etc. It is a funny place to be, chasing days, because sometimes you are chasing the day but missing the point. Getting outside is supposed to be fun (sure it is great exercise as well), and if it is not fun then maybe it is time for a rest.
I had been going pretty hard the last few weeks, chasing days after the holiday and took my first real rest day this past Saturday. It was great to hold the couch down and relax for a day but, in all honesty, I had trouble relaxing knowing that I was a thirty minute drive from good snow and a fifteen minute drive to some decent ice climbing. I would like to thank my girlfriend for talking me down both times I attempted to escape the house and do something. I am psyched to have gotten a little rest, recharged my psyche, and put the chase on hold for day at least.