Saturday, January 25, 2014

Surviving Cabin Fever Season

As most of you probably know by now, I do not like to be stuck in one place for too long. I am extremely claustrophobic and I need to have access to wide open spaces at all times. I guess that is why I enjoy leaving the house periodically to go for a drive between working and household chores and why I love to travel to far away places. I’m not sure how I developed these strange traits (at least strange to most people who can sit for hours at a time in front of a television – something I cannot do no matter how hard I try!) but I suspect it has a lot to do with my upbringing. My parents were always on the go and always took us kids with them everywhere – road trips, beach excursions, museum visits – you name it, we went. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’m glad I was exposed to all that at an early age. It allowed me to develop an interest in the world around me and to develop many hobbies and interests that I took into adulthood. The only problem is, well, I took it into adulthood and now my feet are constantly itchy and I always have to be doing something outside the house!

When I lived in the city, being stuck somewhere in one place was never an issue because everything was in walking distance. No, I didn’t have a car but there was a mostly reliable and efficient bus system and I lived in a central location right downtown that was close to malls, museums, walking trails, restaurants, bars and anything else I needed. I could just walk out my front door, walk for about two minutes and be in a beautiful park. When I moved back to Cape Breton, I found myself living in the country without a car. This worked for a while because there were so many open spaces I could wander around and explore and I had the use of my dad’s car whenever I needed to go into the city to run errands. After a while, that got old. I got sick of spending all my time in that little village so I broke down and bought a car, the first one I owned in over ten years. It was so nice to have that freedom again. The freedom of being able to just jump in the car and go wherever I pleased, whenever I pleased…that is until mid-December when the snow started falling and still hasn’t stopped. I neglected to even consider putting winter tires on my car because I usually get along fine with all-seasons. I guess the combination of heavier snow than normal and the fact that this car is heavier than the cars I am used to driving and has different sized tires than what I am used to resulted in my car literally being parked at the bottom of the driveway, buried in snow and ice for a little over two weeks.

For those two weeks, I was stuck in the house, unable to go anywhere unless someone came to pick me up. While it was nice that friends and family offered to take me to get my groceries and pay bills and run daily errands, its not the same as jumping in the car and going on my own. When I’m behind the wheel and in control of the vehicle, I get to listen to whatever radio station I want, I can crank the volume up as high as I want and I can take the long way home or go for a little drive around while I finish my coffee. The first day without my car wasn’t so bad except that I do have a caffeine addiction and I am in the habit of taking a drive into town at around the same time every day to appease that addiction with a medium coffee with milk or a French Vanilla Cappuccino if my sweet tooth is acting up. I solved that problem with some homebrewed instant coffee. It wasn’t the best tasting coffee but it helped keep the caffeine withdrawal symptoms at bay.

That first day went into a second and a third until it turned into a week of not being able to move my car. Believe me, I tried. Every night is snowed and every morning I walked down to the bottom of that long driveway, shoveled all the snow that was around the car, salted the ice and broke it with an ice pik, warmed up the car and tried to move it….to no avail. Those low-profile tires that make driving so much fun in the summer months made driving in the winter much like driving on banana peels. The wheels just spun and spun but the car would not budge. For another week, my car sat at the bottom of the lane, unable to move. My fault for neglecting to put winter tires on it earlier but in my defense, I wasn’t expecting a winter from hell especially so early in the season. It wasn’t even technically winter when the snow started falling!

So what did I do during those two weeks that I was almost literally stuck in one place? Well first of all, I shoveled a lot. Than I paced a lot. Than I shoveled some more…and paced some more. I managed to order some winter tires but they sat at the garage almost the entire time while I waited for the hill by my house to be cleared of snow and ice so I could get up it. Somewhere in between all that shoveling and pacing, I realized there was no point in being anxious and I started looking at the situation as an opportunity. An opportunity to give my car a rest and save on mileage so the warranty doesn’t run out as fast. An opportunity to save on gas and therefore save on money too. And an opportunity to work on some things that I had tossed aside.

So during those two weeks, I revamped my blog, organized my photos, started a newsletter, a Tumblr account and a Facebook page and, most importantly, I completed the MatadorU travel writing course that I signed up for over a year ago. I also started organizing my notes for a book I want to write and completed a few other projects I had been procrastinating about. Now I am on a roll and can’t stop writing. Not having the distraction of a car parked in the yard that I can jump in at any moment to aimlessly drive around listening to music, drinking coffee and dodging work really got me into action!

The roads finally cleared enough for me to get my car into the garage to have four brand new studded winter tires put on. The car drives like a tank on snow and ice now but I think I broke that bad habit of going for pointless drives. Since getting the car back, I have no real desire to go anywhere except to the grocery store or for something specific. I am getting so much done and writing so much that I barely think of going for a drive! Or maybe it is because my very long driveway is still impassable and I don’t feel like trudging through knee-deep snow and ice through coyote-infested woods to get to my car parked at the bottom.

Summer will be a different story though. Once the temperatures warm up and the roads to the beaches are cleared of winter’s remnants, the temptation will be too much. I love my work and I love to write but I love nothing more than a moonlit drive in the country or early morning walk on the beach!

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