Spring is officially here: the vernal equinox has come and gone, the first full moon of Spring has come, and
the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox is Easter. For everyone, the world of hope and green and longer days is here. And for some of us, that sends us into a slump—we are somehow obligated to be happy. Ugh. Sounds like work.
I have a friend who hates winter desperately. Naturally, he lives in New England. He can’t move because of “family obligations” so his whole family is obligated to buoy him up, jolly him through winter. He moans, “I hate the dark of winter. It’s so depressing. I’ve spent the last 30 years suffering in the dark of winter.” His family saved for two years, and this winter, took him to the Caribbean. While his neighbors were shoveling epic snow, he was wind surfing in sparkling blue water. I called him, expecting to hear gloating about this stroke of luck. Nope. “It’s so cold, I missed the pretty part of the snow, now I have to look at the dirty, icy mess.” Wasn’t that week in the Caribbean a great break? There was a pause. Then he said, “It was only a week. I have to live through this winter just like I have for the last 30 years of my life.”
Martha Beck, the life coach and author of Steering by Starlight, calls this Story Fondling. My friend so loved the pity he got, and the soft comfort of hating his life, he is reluctant to take the tiniest step that will change his life. He’d rather fondle that story and protect it–it’s his excuse for treating friends and family badly. He cannot possible feel the joy of having just been in the sun for seven days. No, he closes the present moment out in order to enjoy his pat, comfortable misery. He will hurt no matter where he is because he drags his unhappy past with him until the baggage is so big it blocks out the joy of the present.
We all do this to some extent. We want our friends to lock up their dogs when we come to visit, so we remind them we were bitten as a child. Story fondling. We get to have special treatment because we have a horror story. We want others to fondle our story, too. Here’s a hint: other people do not want to fondle your story.
For a while, demanding that your family and friends fix your hurt works. But you need an ever-widening circle of friends to keep up the pity-party, because your friends don’t want to spend their lives fixing your past for you. You are going to have to do that yourself. Pick something from your past you hate, and do one thing to change it. My friend who has “family obligations” to stay in a cold climate could look for jobs somewhere else, could find a hobby or distraction that takes his mind of winter. He could read the travel section of his paper to see about another winter vacation and start planning it. Nope, he loves his misery. Well, the people around him do not. And neither do your friends. Self-improvement is hard because we have to do it ourselves. And after we do the work, we have to be responsible for the consequences. That’s the hardest part of all–we give up the opportunity to blame others.
Start small. Enjoy one moment. Then enjoy the next. It’s a start. And it’s Spring. That’s a good match.
—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach who helps her clients stay in action. Two years ago, she hated winter enough to move to the Southwest. It hasn’t been easy, but she loves every day of her life. Because it might be hard, but it’s not cold.