The S.A.D. side of winter


By Dan Forward


y mother once told me about all the superpowers that my friends and I possessed. Well, not really superpowers, but defining qualities. I can’t reveal our superpowers. One of my friends was the genius, another the funny one, and then there was “the rocker.” Pretty cool, huh? What was I, I asked my mother, who has always refused to give me anything less than unqualified praise, especially in comparison to other human beings. “You,” she said thoughtfully and after an intentionally dramatic pause, “are the sensitive one.” Damn.

While I did and still do strongly reject this characterization as ever having had a shred of accuracy, it nevertheless made a lot of passion and emotions and poems and tears well up inside me at the time. Since then, I have disciplined myself to feel nothing, with great success. Many people today tell me that it is impossible to relate to me, and that maybe if I’d just open up a little bit I could be happy and sad and a real person again. Thanks, guys, but no thanks. Still, there are others out there, maybe you reading this, who aren’t as lucky as I am to be totally dead inside. You still strive for something more than nothing. You want real happiness. Good for you, champ. Beware, though: The winter months in New England can have an especially detrimental effect on you because of the darkness and cold, leading to a perennial depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, which, through a major come-on, seriously, you-must-have-planned-that coincidence, is abbreviated “S.A.D.”

You always have to be on your guard against S.A.D., because it’s lurking around every mound of dirty snow you will have to scale and inside every damp boot you have to pull on this winter. But it can also be triggered by a number of other unexpected things, which, while annoying year round, are extra terrible right now. They include, but are not limited to, the following: using one form of electronic communication to verify the delivery of a message via another, e.g., a text that says, “Did u get my fb msg”; so-called “educational” television; the serious expression of actual opinions; contemporary poetry; the Lottery; use of the words “ironic,” “methinks,” and “deceptively”; starting a sentence with, “Is it a bad thing that . . .”; the phrase, “I’m such a nerd”; using Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, or really even just knowing about them; jeans that are tight after going through the dryer; Grantland; salad; pet stores; tow-truck companies; when people say, “I like music”; when people try to talk to you on the T; referring to the sport with sticks with nets on them as “lax”; the sound of someone drinking from a Klean Kanteen; not being able to enjoy a warm day in winter because it’s probably just global warming; global warming itself, now that I think about it; the Words with Friends board game, because isn’t that just Scrabble?

Ooph, that was bad. Even I felt a little twinge of horror there. But you shouldn’t despair totally, unless that’s your thing. While there is no single gleaming harpoon of joy to completely destroy the many-limbed octopus of S.A.D.-ness, there are many smaller weapons that can give you peace of mind by helping you chop off one slimy limb at a time. Like, for starters, how about don’t swim in water with octopodes in it? Sorry, that one got away from me. Got away from me like octopodes through a fisherman’s overly porous fishing net. Anyway, wrap your eye tentacles around these happiness crabs.

Trampoline dodgeball. The sense of superiority you get when you look at someone else’s Facebook page. Dogs with winter booties. Cats in boxes. The Doctor Who Christmas special. When the T ticket machine accepts your debit card as a credit card so you don’t have to key in your PIN. That one Taylor Swift song (but not the other ones). How smart octopodes are. How smart you are for knowing that plural. That 2015 is—scientifically and officially speaking—the future. When bed-head works in your favor. When the band playing on the Park Street Red Line platform isn’t awful. When you nail the Final Jeopardy question. Seeing a wild turkey sitting in a tree. Winning a Settlers of Catan game through concealed-victory-point cards. An unexpected wifi connection.

Of course, I’m not a doctor. I was never even very good at playing Operation. Maybe the real secret to happiness is finding that special thing that’s all your own, the thought of which will keep you warm all winter. On the other hand, sentiment like that will probably go on my next “Things I Hate” list. Oh, and, crabs are the principal food of the octopus, in case that was unclear.

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