Monday, March 14, 2011

Life As a Dinosaur: My Winter Woes

In this post I take a brief break from detailing the progression of my AS and address one of the overall changes that I am experiencing because of the disease. It's a bit longer than my normal posts and if you really don't want to read my whining I suggest you just skip this one. =)

I used to love winter. Growing up in West Central Minnesota meant long hard winters, but so much fun for a kid. My family lived on a small farmstead where a minimum maintenance road (basically a dirt road that the county did little to nothing to maintain, especially in the winter) jutted off from the highway. Approximately the first eighth of a mile of that road was had thick trees on both sides. In the summer we used those trees to play war games or cops & robbers, but in the winter the snow would cover the road and pile up taller than my older brothers. We would build snow forts and tunnels and have the best snowball fights.

About a half mile further down the road there was a steep drop off to a frozen creek bed. It was the best sledding/tobogganing hill anywhere. The brush at the bottom, right at the edge of the creek, would either stop you from going too far, or, when covered in snow, would act as a ramp to launch you into the air and across the narrow creek. If you followed the creek for another half mile it widened out and we could use it to ice "skate" or pretend to ice fish. We would come home all rosy cheeked and exhausted. The only thing about winter I didn't like back then was waiting for the school bus at the end of the driveway.

Later, when I was in college and afterward, I would walk around campus or town enjoying the crisp quiet that only comes in winter. The sounds were sharper, the smells more intense and I loved it. The smell of wood burning in fireplace always made me smile. When it snowed I would either watch out the window as everything slowly turned white, or if it was blizzarding I would curl up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate.

I never fully appreciated those times until now. Being a dinosaur has changed how I feel about winter and now I pray for an early spring. This winter has been the worst of the three I have gone through since being diagnosed with AS. It's been colder, snowier, and downright unrelenting in its WINTERNESS.

I used to think it was silly when people could say they could feel a change in the weather in their bones, but now I know what they were talking about and I so very much wish I didn't. I will feel an increase in my general aches and pains a day or so before a storm. I sometimes won't notice it until TheHusband or a coworker will comment on a negative change in my attitude (I try hard not to take it out on the people around me and this often manifests itself in me being more introverted than normal).

I no longer enjoy taking walks in the snow. Before I even get outside my fingers start to hurt, and if I'm only walking to/from my car the sharpness with which they hurt will sometimes take me by surprise. If I'm shoveling the walk (which I do from time to time, if I beat the neighbor kids outside), they hurt a little less. I think the activity helps keep the blood flowing, or it could just be I'm distracted from the pain. Once I get outside, a misstep could mean a fall, and even if I manage to catch myself before hitting the ground I could still end up with sore joints and muscles. The cold, dry air also makes my joints more stiff and it takes longer for me to loosen up in the mornings. To help combat this, we have a humidifier in the bedroom, but it's one more thing to check on every night before bed (and if I'm very tired it's one more thing for me to forget).

TheHusband is generous and lets me have the garage so I don't have to scrape ice and snow off my car in the mornings. But I still have to deal with it occasionally after work. I don't mind if it's just snow. The Beetle's domed shape practically takes care of itself. But ice or frost is no fun at all. I can no longer apply the same amount of pressure as I used to when scraping the car. Then hours later I will feel it in my arms and hands, that feeling in your muscles you get a day or two after a good workout that lets you know it was a good work out. Only I don't get the benefit of stronger muscles, just the aches.

Don't get me wrong, we've had a few good days this winter. Days where the snow starts to melt and drip off the roofs. I try to enjoy them, really I do. But when that run off turns back to ice, it just means I have to be more careful when walking. I sometimes wonder what is worse, an actual fall on the ice or how tense I get worrying about falling on the ice.

It's the middle of March now, so winter has to end soon, right? Please let it end soon, so I can go back to idealizing it and imagining that next winter will be like the ones I loved so much as a kid.

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