My First Winter in Maine

I think it’s safe to say now that I’ve officially survived my first winter in Maine. For someone who lived the previous 16 years in Southern California (where 60 degrees is “cold”) and has experienced symptoms from seasonal affective disorder, moving to a state so far north was a risk. The thought of living through months of dark and dreary weather made me hesitate even when I knew in my core that Maine was the place I was meant to be.

Turns out it wasn’t that bad!

In general, I’m a person who prefers to be warm rather than cold, so it was pleasantly surprising that even when the temperature hit zero, it was tolerable. Not that I wanted to spend hours outside on those days! The dogs had to deal with shorter walks. But it wasn’t something that wrecked my mood or made me regret moving here. It just meant wearing more layers.

The shorter days did affect me, but a sunrise alarm clock* that also simulated a sunset when I went to bed worked wonders in counteracting that effect. It’s become one of my favorite things! February was probably the gloomiest month and I noticed my energy was lower. Instead of trying to “push through” this time, I tried to give myself a break and rest more instead.

As we enter early spring, I’m glad to hear birds singing in the morning and have some days when I only need a sweatshirt instead of a sweatshirt and a coat. The funny thing is I’m actually going to miss the winter days when there was just enough snow to cover everything in a beautiful white blanket and my dogs and I could walk through the woods without worrying about carrying any ticks home (something we have to watch out for during the warmer months of the year). I never thought I would miss anything about winter! Yet, here I am.

I take my reaction to my first Maine winter as further confirmation that I chose the best path for me in deciding to move here. Despite missing ballroom and my dance family in SoCal, the last eight months have been wonderfully peaceful and happy. Without the constant weight of stress from living somewhere I wasn’t happy, the incidental or temporary stresses like zero-degree weather or having to put off dance lessons because the house needs a new roof aren’t as heavy of burdens as I might have expected them to be. I’m learning that when I live in a way that makes me happy overall, Life’s challenges don’t require as much effort to handle. It sounds obvious, but really, who makes decisions based on what makes them happiest, as opposed to what they think they’re supposed to do or what will make them the most productive?

It’s a hard habit to break – choosing productivity over happiness – because we’re so well-trained to value tangible results over everything else, including our health and happiness. We’re supposed to contribute to society and if we don’t, we’re labeled a burden. I love my coach’s response when I expressed feeling selfish for wanting to focus on fixing up my house and enjoying walks through the woods, versus planning my next big move to grow my business or impact the world. She said imagine if everyone decided to live in a way that made them happy, imagine how the world would change. We would still be faced with stressful situations, of course; that’s part of Life. But the impact of that stress would be far less because we wouldn’t be dealing with it on top of the burden of living a life we didn’t want.

As we move into April, we come back around to the time that I first saw this house a year ago. They call spring “mud season” here in Maine and I’m already understanding why as the ground thaws and turns to mush. Soon enough though, things will dry out and warm up. I’ll be back on my riding mower, humming “Green Acres” as I cut the summer grass!

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