Arctic explorer

This is the year I’ll become a winter person. Nothing like a pandemic and the prospect of six months confined indoors to open me up to new (previously dreaded) things.

Winter is normally my season of woe: the long stretch of shorter, darker days that make life feel like the ultimate “Why bother?” I’m afraid of that dark state of mind, my black cloud days, more so now because pre-pandemic, I achieved the ability to live differently under certain circumstances: with light, movement, space, warmth. All the things that disappear with the setting back of the clock.

This year I will draw upon my growing super power of adapting. I’ve been adapting for the past six months. I’m ready for the next level. A snow suit will be a game changer. I mean like the insulated, water-resistant, hooded navy one-piece my mom made me wear as a kid. It made me impervious to the cold and wet snow. (Actually, I remember often being sweaty, likely due to the base layer of long johns my mom also made me wear, like I was leaving for days of exploring the tundra instead of joining my friends for an hour of playing in the snow on the property of our public housing complex in NYC.)

I’m certain if I look online I can find an adult-sized version, proportioned for a petite woman. I’m no longer a grade schooler whose mom insisted on getting every last bit of money from that navy snow suit by making me wear it three winters in a row (and always insisting to me “No te quejes tanto. It fits just fine.”). so the days of a snow suit that cuts uncomfortably into my crotch, chokes me at the neck and leaves my wrists and forearms exposed will remain in my past.

What concerns me now, four decades later, is going to the bathroom. As a kid, I just held it. Waiting for the elevator to get to my family’s fourth floor apartment, pulling off my mittens so I could unzip the suit, unwrapping the scarf around my neck so I could pull down the hood, peel the suit down to my knees and aim my tushie toward the toilet seat with a me-sized insulated cocoon gathered at my ankles—just the thought of it all hit the Off switch on my need-to-pee impulse.

Now in middle age, the need to pee now is a constant state of being: I am therefore I pee. At all times. The Off switch is disabled. The impulse hits me immediately and desperately. I’ve been in public many times, hobbling towards a bathroom with my legs wrapped tightly in eagle pose, sweating as I tell myself “Think dry thoughts. You’re a big girl”, and barely control myself long enough to lower my elastic waist yoga pants. I fear what would happen to me in a snow suit. No anti-frequent urination pills and no adult diapers yet, thank you. I could restrict my water intake but if the purpose of the snow suit is so I can engage in outdoor athletics in the winter, I need to stay hydrated. Maybe I would sweat enough so all excess water would be eliminated through my pores? Advances over the last forty years in technical fibers and venting must make these modern snow suits more breathable.

My husband says I overthink things. I worry he might be right. I overthink, over worry, over pee. The whole point of taking up outdoor winter activities is to replicate the conditions that free me from my over-ness and allow me to find a groove, a flow, where I enter The Zone and hear only the sound of my breath that announces the power and grace of this amazing mechanism that is my body. At those moments, I’m grateful for life and believe it is full of possibility.

Nothing like a pandemic, the prospect of six months confined indoors and the knowledge that I’ve made it this far to open me up to new things. I will purchase an adult-sized hot pink snow suit so I will be unmistakably visible as I seek The Zone, whether in my urban environs, in the surrounding hills or unexplored distant tundra.

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