Hibernation: The Unnatural Lifestyle

As a child I hated the cold but loved winter activities. A child with arthritis has only two options, hibernate and protect oneself from pain or do the best you can to bundle up and hide from others the pain you feel to participate in outdoor activities. I choose the second option.

 winter bear

As a teenager, I was very active in outdoor activities. I hiked, canoed, swam, camped for weeks at a time – even during the winter months. In the winter I built my fair share of snowmen, sledded down the largest hills we could find, and relished every opportunity to ride snowmobiles. I had great friends who were always there to help drag me back up the hill to ride down it again.

After an evening of sledding I wouldn’t be able to feel anything but shooting pain in my feet or hands,  I had no control over my fingers after an outdoor adventure, yet I continued to stay connected to the outdoors despite the hardships. Instinctively, I knew I needed to be outdoors.  To compensate for the pain I mastered alternative ways of working around the arthritis, one skill was the art of using the heel of my palms to force the keys into the ignition and turn the key to start the car – you can only have heat in a car if you can start it.  I mastered this skill, and many others,  in order to live the active lifestyle ingrained in my nature.

Those days are over. While I am fortunate that the arthritis didn’t progress the way it was expected to, I no longer have the desire to fight through the pain. In my youth the pain and cold would stay with me a short while, now it stays with me the rest of the day.

With the first snowfall I realize my hibernation period has begun. I hope it is sporadic and we will have breaks in the cold enough to be able to get some fresh air from time to time but for the most part I have been pushed back indoors for the next few months to live what is an unnatural lifestyle.

We are animals, just like the bears who hibernate during the winter months.  I used to crack jokes about how bears had the right idea, sleep through winter to avoid the unbearable months.  As I’ve gotten older and faced the fact that I have entered the second half of my life, which year was my tipping point I won’t know until the end, I have no desire to miss even one day of life even if it means living a fourth of my days disconnected from the earth.

Now that I’ve given up on being brave about the pain choosing to hibernate, awake I should add,  throughout the winter months I must make plans to keep my sanity. The proof that being disconnected from nature is unnatural is the high levels of depression experienced by those who are stuck indoors whether for work or just an avoidance of nature.  This is where humans, who hate the cold, and bears are different. Bears don’t have the cognitive ability (as far as I know) to experience boredom or depression. 

Children know, even if they don’t have the words to express, that a life lived separate from nature is a boring one.  Never do I hear a child complain that they are bored when allowed outside no matter what the weather, but bring them indoors and boredom will soon set in.  Think about it for a minute. Do your children fight more amongst themselves indoors or out? My boys spent almost every waking minute outside and never fought but stuck inside for a day due to inclement weather they were soon bickering over a toy or some slight by the other.

While many of us have known and understood the need to be connected to nature, to feel the earth beneath our feet it is only recently that we have begun to talk about the problems associated with this disconnect.  In recent years books have been written on the symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder, doctors are talking to parents encouraging them to get outside with their children instead of immediately prescribing anti-depression medications.  Teachers are opening classroom windows, yes even in winter, to keep illnesses at bay.

We are slowly waking up to the dangers of living an unnatural lifestyle but we have a long ways to go before society as a whole realizes and embraces the natural solution of being connected to the earth.

 

 

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39 thoughts on “Hibernation: The Unnatural Lifestyle

  1. Oh Lois, I’m so sorry that you’re stuck inside for the winter, and I can totally, TOTALLY relate. We’ve reached the point of the earliest sunsets here in Denver, right around 4:30, and I’m counting the hours until the days start to grow longer again.

    I don’t have the medical issues that you have to deal with, but my hands and feet are extremely sensitive to the cold. Seriously, I’m sitting inside wearing a fleece jacket and thick wool socks (I mean… I’m wearing other clothes too, just pointing out that I’m not sitting here in shorts or something!) Anyhow, my toes are practically numb and I’m just about to go soak them in some hot water.

    But since the depression seems to be setting in early this year (thank you Mr. Trump) I’ve decided that I really need to make a concerted effort to find a way to get outside this winter. To that end, CatMan and I went for a ride on Tuesday – it was 40 degrees when we left and 32 when we got home. I was fine for the first half of the ride, but as the temperature went down my toes lost all feeling and my fingers started to hurt something fierce. But I’m determined to find a way, even if it means spending a little money on better winter gear. So I ponied up and ordered a pair of Bar Mitts – they’re basically neoprene sleeves that attach to your handlebars that allow you to keep your hands out of the elements but still work the breaks and shifters. They look ridiculous, but if they work it will be totally worth it. I’m also trying neoprene socks and chemical toe warmers – I’m not wild about the toe warmers since they’re disposable, but the ingredients aren’t terribly toxic, so we’ll see.

    In the meantime, I’ve been working on holiday greetings for my website – it’s helping me a bit, you know, trying to get into the spirit of the season and all. So here’s a little animated cheer for you:

    Big Hugs…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really need to be outside in nature also, but I have a really hard time getting out when it’s cold. I hate being cold. That’s part of the reason that I loved the old house so much. When it was miserable outside, I could just look out the window and get a great show with trees and critters. I think some hibernation is natural. If we didn’t have all of the artificial light we have, I think we would naturally sleep more in the winter to coincide with the darkness. That’s what my body tells me anyway. However, I do agree that it is not natural to be cut off from the outside with all of our electronics and that can’t be healthy.

      Good luck Lois as you maneuver through things this winter. You are one determined person (sounds like you always have been) and you will find a way to do what’s right for you.

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      1. Nice to have a kindred spirit here!

        Will you have windows you can still enjoy the view from in your new home? I have a couple of windows that let in the sun and enjoy them to a point. Those windows look out into the neighbors property and while I wish my windows looked out into my gardens I appreciate that the builder of this home choose to not have windows on the north or east for energy conservation.

        I agree on your assessment of artificial light and electronics. When I use candle light instead and avoid the computer (don’t have TV and such) I tend to retire earlier and wake more refreshed.

        Determined, yes I was always determined but the labels I inherited from family was that I was stubborn or bull-headed, not quite as nice sounding as how you put it. 🙂

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    2. Thanks for the chuckle and good to know you aren’t just wearing your socks and a jacket. 🙂 Hands and feet are a big issue for me in trying to stay warm but if my nose is cold no amount of layers will warm me up. I sound like a baby but I have never found a way to be comfortable in the cold. It’s why I never complain no matter what summer throws at me.

      You are smart to invest in the equipment that will allow you to get out on your bike in the winter I’m sure it will help to keep your spirits up. There are days I bundle up and throw a blanket over my lap then just sit on the deck and inhale the fresh air simply because I need it.

      I’ve been struggling since the primaries but it’s been more with a deep anxiety than depression. There have been days when I felt every muscle in my body tensed up and had to focus to relax. But for me it’s been more than Trump, DAPL and the way the water protectors were being treated, the rise of racism (well that I guess was and is tied to Trump). It just seems like we’ve gone backwards into history and not to a good period of history.

      Love your gif, thank you. I wish I had focused on programming early on so I could add that skill to add to my home based work. I have a minor in computer science but I earned that before Windows existed, we worked solely in DOS and it wasn’t something I enjoyed. Now I’m so far behind I don’t know if I could ever learn enough to make it worth it.

      Stay warm, Cat.

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      1. Well, true confessions… the gifs don’t require any programming at all. I made that one using several different pieces of free graphics software. If you have any crazy desire to play with that sort of thing, let me know and I’ll send you links so you can download the programs.

        Anyhow, I hear you on the societal backsliding thing. People in my circles are saying that:
        1) They think it’s a pendulum swing sort of a thing – ie: the racist element is freaking out because we finally had a black president and now they’re making one final last stand for white male power.
        or
        2) Things really aren’t any different than they’ve ever been, it’s just that the internet and easy ability to document things via smartphones is both allowing the crazies to embolden each other and allowing the rest of us to reveal the atrocities that have always existed.

        CatMan thinks that things have to get worse before they can get better. He keeps pointing to the Great Depression and the fact that people really, really suffered because of poor government policies – and that the memory of that suffering was enough to push the country to adopt real reforms that stayed fairly well intact until sometime around the 1980’s when the whole deregulation nonsense began anew.

        Personally, I dunno. But the part that is most disturbing to me is that there seems to be so little consensus anymore about what is and isn’t true. Maybe this just what happens when technology removes the barriers and allows all voices to be heard – everything turns into a giant shouting match, and people loose the ability to distinguish factual information from crazy conspiracy theories. Of course the fact that we’re surrounded by SOOO much corruption makes it pretty hard to tell who you should and shouldn’t trust anymore.

        But ultimately, some things are true whether you believe them or not. I fear that’s a lesson that we, as a species, might have to learn the hard way. Sigh.

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        1. Thanks but I doubt I’ll make any of the gifs. I do wish I knew more about the code for writing web programs but I think I’m a bit late to cash in on the trend. It’s still one thing I’m looking to learn and see if I can include that as another income stream.

          I think both what you are hearing about the backlash of having a black president and CatMan’s views are right. As for racism, as one who voted for Obama I was shocked to hear people I knew personally, some I’d considered friends complain that no black man would tell them how they could live. I was just blown away.

          All through the primary I felt as if we were reliving the 68 primaries. when I saw the abuses of the water protectors in South Dakota it reminded me of the violence that took place in the protest actions over Vietnam, etc.

          And yes I truly believe things have to get much worse before they will get better on every issue. We aren’t going to tackle climate change until more people here suffer from the effects, we aren’t going to ban fracking until earthquakes harm the homes of influential people and we aren’t going to fix the banks until they’ve destroyed not just the middle class but start to affect the ultra rich which at that point we will be so much worse off than those who lived through the Great Depression.

          I saw where Facebook is supposed to be cracking down on fake stories but can’t see how they can possibly do that with the amount of postings that happen daily. Who is going to be checking these stories to find the factual ones or is there just going to be a program that censors anything that is controversial or not of the political beliefs of those doing the censoring? We wouldn’t have this big of a problem with fake stories if the Main stream media did its job and provided us with accurate and unbiased news in the first place.

          There have always been things I disagreed with, things I wish could be changed but looking back I was okay accepting that there was no perfect country until the passage of the Patriot Act, since then it’s felt to me that we took a wrong turn that needed to hit rock bottom before we would turn things back to something resembling normal. This year has been the most upsetting to me but I know we have a long way down to go yet so need to get used to it and not let it get to me as much. I second your sighs.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Being cooped up in the winter is the worst when you are an outdoor person. I decided early on that for the sake of sanity I had to take up some winter outdoor activities on Minnesota and invest in proper clothing. As I aged I went from downhill skiing to cross-country skiing to snowshoe hiking … to South Carolina! I thought this would be the perfect solution, outdoor activities year around with no snow and ice to fall on. Well, winter is great but there are four and a half months of the year that it is mostly too miserably HOT and HUMID and BUGGY to be outside doing anything at all.
    I hope you have some nice days so you can get out and enjoy some fresh air for whatever amount of time feels good. Meanwhile, sit in a sunny window and open it a crack and breathe deeply. I’ve found it also helps to dream about and start planning gardens, perusing seed catalogues and the like.

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    1. Cynthia, you amaze me! I stopped trying to participate in winter activities after I reached my mid-30s.

      I know what you mean about the summers in the south. I don’t do well with the humidity of the southern east coast so I decided to try the southwest. I ended up in Phoenix which was a bad choice. I couldn’t do much in that heat and ended up having to go indoors when it got to be too much. I was in and out all day long and never really happy about it although the sunny days we had every day helped me deal with it.

      Thanks for the advice. I do sit by the sunny windows, although rarely with the windows cracked, I’ll have to try that more. Garden planning is always on my list of activities for the winter months.

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  3. I also hibernate through winter because of my fibro, it flares up terribly with the cold. Some winters it affects me psychologically, other winters I find the gentle pace a welcome and don’t suffer at all with it….and I do think that has been all about how I plan to spend my time. I also do spend quite a bit of time watching winter out the window, looking into the flames of the fire, cooking good comforting food – taking the time to appreciate the changing seasons instead of despairing about it. I also find the heat in late summer hard to tolerate outside!

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    1. Me too Wendy. If I can get a break sometime the end of January or early February where I can get around outside for a week or two it’s enough to stave off the depressive symptoms. Those years when winter hits hard the end of October and stays consistently harsh until April is just too much for me to stay sane.

      Must be hard for you to struggle with both summer heat and winter cold. I’m okay in the summer as long as I’m not south in the desert that kind of heat is too much for me.

      One thing I do love about the colder days is the opportunity to have my pots of soup on. I enjoy soup but rarely eat it the rest of the year so it’s a treat to have a reason for it.

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  4. Hi Lois — I can relate to how you love feeling connected to nature and out of sorts penned up inside. Winter sometimes helps me slow down to a different pace so I can draw in to reflect and recharge. It’s welcoming, when I’ve got some good books. But, this year, it was a double whammy with a broken ankle this summer and I was somewhat restrained inside, I want to get antsy and it’s like my timing is all messed up. Luckily, our winter has been pretty mild this year in Colorado so I’m not stuck inside so much, yet.

    I know you’ll find ways to work with it, as I’ve read how creative you are. When it’s too cold and I can’t get out, I find if I open a window and put my nose close to the screen and breathe in the fresh air, it’s a quick fix until I can get out.

    Hang in there, Lois. As fast as this year has gone already, it won’t be long and Spring will be just around the corner. Love and hugs xxoo

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    1. Hi Pat. Yes, I too appreciate being able to slow down…at first. I just can’t appreciate it when it’s months long.

      I completely understand what you are dealing with this year. Last summer my chair quit working mid-August and I wasn’t able to get outside or work on my many projects so I felt cooped up from then until Spring. It took a toll on my body as when spring arrived I realized I’d lost strength and had to fight to build up certain muscle groups to manage properly.

      I’m hoping you are right and time will fly leaving me wondering how winter flew by so quickly.

      I hope your weather stays nice and you can enjoy more time outdoors for a while yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s just what I’m going through now, Lois, building my strength back up. Didn’t realize I’d lose that much in muscle and balance. It’s a work in progress and, at least, I have the slower winter months to do it in. If you can do it, then I can, too!

        Winter has been mild in Colorado, except for recently, where we’re getting some snow and a touch of that polar freeze. Just in time for Christmas — wouldn’t it be nice to have a white Christmas. Love and hugs, my friend, and don’t hibernate too much. Spring will be here before you know it. Love and hugs xxoo ❤ 🙂

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        1. Pat, I’m so sorry. It’s shocking how quickly our bodies deteriorate isn’t it? With my muscles being so much weaker I notice little things I didn’t when I could get around better. For one, no matter how hard I work at maintaining strength during the winter months there is no indoor equivalent to the irregular levels of the ground outside so I always have to work to rebuild certain muscle groups come spring.

          I hope your storm isn’t too nasty. My kids further north are getting hit right now with an expected 15 inches by morning while I sit here one hundred miles south getting no snow. As much as I may complain about winter I do enjoy seeing snow on Christmas. I jokingly told my granddaughter just last weekend that my perfect winter would have snow only on Christmas. 🙂

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          1. You’re right, Lois. It can be shocking how fast your body deteriorates when you’re not using it like you used to. It’s the first time I’ve really felt old and feeble. Not liking it — but, at least I can see where I’m getting it back. But, it’s a slow process.

            I can’t imagine how you work through all of this not only physically but mentally and emotionally. That’s what’s big for me and leaves me despondent. But, I’m learning and it’s all getting better, just not as fast as I would like.

            Problem with winter, for me, is I tend to close up and retreat (maybe, it’s part of my astrological nature being Cancer and a crab — haha). I have to make myself go out and be active normally and I’m having to find new ways to strengthen myself and be healthy.

            The spirit of Christmas feels so good this year. It’s like a shot of energy and love in my heart. I’m soaking it all up and it’s replenishing to my soul.

            Sorry, this is soooo long. But, from where I’m at I say, “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” Have a special, blessed and loving holiday, my friend. God bless xxoo ❤ 🙂

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          2. Pat, I’ve had my entire life to adjust mentally and emotionally to the possibility of losing my ability to walk. I was diagnosed at age 4 and not given a very good prognosis. I have been so fortunate but had 40+ years to prepare which included setting up homes that fit my needs at each stage. It’s not fun but I’ve decided to accept this as a challenge and test of my personality. Some days I want to throw in the towel, other’s I am in fight mode. In the end it all balances out.

            I’m glad Christmas is helping you to feel better. We are celebrating Christmas next weekend here so all this week I’ll be baking and preparing for the big dinner, if that doesn’t put me in the holiday mood nothing will. 🙂

            Take care and enjoy the heck out of Christmas, Pat.

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          3. I can attest in a small way that it’s challenging both mentally and emotionally, Lois. You’re such a trooper and an inspiration in how you handle it. I don’t know that I’ve even come close. But, one thing, is that the challenge has not gone unnoticed and has not been in vain. I have learned, though it’s not been easy.

            Happy to hear your Christmas is getting off the ground with some baking. I love that and the smells must be heavenly. Love and hugs and may your Christmas be truly blessed, my friend. 🙂

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          4. Yes, Pat, I do notice even minor improvements and when I do my mood is lifted. The little things like this do in fact make life better.

            Just took a loaf of sour cream bread out of the oven… heavenly scents are all through the house and I’m loving it.

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          5. Mmm – can almost smell it, too, Lois. Life is good and food and smells, like this, make it heavenly, for sure. I’ll start my baking early next week — cookies. I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment every time this year and I always bring him and his staff cookies. Yum!

            Take care, my friend. These times are special and hope you enjoy the savoring. Love and hugs. xxoo

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          6. Your doctor must check his appointment book each year just to be sure you are scheduled to visit for those cookies. 🙂

            I don’t bake cookies here as my oven is too hard to regulate the temperature but I’ve been able to adjust the timing for breads and a few bars.

            Enjoy your Christmas and I hope your family can make it up to visit you for a bit.

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          7. Yeah, Lois, I think he looks forward to it and it’s a pleasure to do it. He’s my angel and life saver on his diagnosis and cancer treatment 5 years ago. I love the man and truly grateful he came into my life.

            Baking all done and cookies distributed — ahhh, can now enjoy the spirit of Christmas. God bless you and may you have a special Christmas, my friend. ❤

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  5. I’m different. I look forward to the cozy indoor time for a couple of months. A chance to rest my weary body and mind. To cocoon and come out refreshed. I dress in fleece indoors as I still keep the heat low. I don’t like to breathe the heated air and every LED light in my house is on with music rocking me. Right now it’s pouring, tomorrow too then the temps drop when the sun comes out. At 6:30 a.m., I’m on my second cup of coffee and laundry is drying. As soon as I’m done here, heading in to sew on a quilt for Christmas. I don’t have your kind of pain. Never did though, my daughter was in pain when she left here yesterday from sitting at the sewing machine making a gift. Like arthritis, fibro is a pain. I love the sleepy weather and allow it to lull me. A nap will be called for. I hope you find a way to cope. It’s ok to hibernate awhile. Some of the best ideas come when we are resting. 🙂 Giant squishy hugs, Lois.

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    1. Marlene, I do wish there was a way we could combine our tolerances for the seasons and find that perfect balance. Rarely am I ever affected by the heat and would gladly give you a bit of that to help you enjoy summers more. Like you I too sleep more in the winter. At first it’s natural but if winter drags into the end of March or even April the sleeping is more out of a seasonal depression.

      You wore me out just reading that list of chores/activities you had planned and the hour you started. The only time I’m ever up that early is to let my grandchildren in on Saturday mornings when my son drops them off to head to work. 🙂

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      1. I wake early almost every day. I rest on occasion during the day to give the back and neck a break especially from sewing, which I need to get back to. The heat stroke ruined my tolerance for heat. I think we can all get a bit depressed in winter. I work at overcoming it. Maybe that’s why I drive myself so hard. Keep warm.

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        1. My son had a heat stroke overseas while in the military and hasn’t been able to deal with the heat since so I understand a bit about what you are going through. Luckily, it doesn’t get that hot here so he can manage most days okay.

          Don’t drive yourself too hard, Marlene.

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          1. Me, drive myself too hard? I’m sitting here with an empty brandy glass ready to tuck myself in for the night after an hour of journaling and reading. It’s going to be cold tomorrow. Good baking weather. One week till my son gets here to I’m trying to hurry the quilt. Heat stroke is the only time I was so sick, I thought I was dying.

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          2. That sounds good. I had to slow down a bit today as Elsa, the grand dog, came to stay for a couple of days. She misses her kids so much the first day or two that I have to give her lots of attention.

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    1. Hi Elaine. I do enjoy the start of being indoors as it gives me time to catch up on activities I don’t pay as much attention to when I can be outside and like you have hobbies I enjoy. But… when our winter temps last up to six months it’s just too long for me to keep the motivation going to work on these things non stop.

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      1. I really think you’ve got something there with this Nature Deficit Disorder I know that we feel so much better when we get away and I’m fascinated with older vanners who are still out there and laughing albeit hobbling.

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        1. I would love to live in a van or older RV but it’s not something I can do at this point in my life now that I am confined to a wheel chair.

          I hate labels for people but Nature Deficit Disorder is a good one because it doesn’t call for medications to be given to a child being the only prescription is to get outside.

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  6. Sorry you’re stuck inside. I can, thankfully, get outside, and do take a 30-minute walk each morning, but I have to say it’s not pleasant most mornings. It’s rainy season here and will be for many months to come. I have rain gear but still get cold rain blown in my face. Looking forward to better weather!

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