Coping with a Four Year Winter

by Rebecca Ridge ( Image by Dimitre Samarov )

Winters are very unpredictable in Chicago, but it’s guaranteed that this year’s will be dark, grey, and last a very long time. Since November, we are amidst one of the bleakest and most chilling inaugural seasons our generation has seen, so here are some tips for coping with the current harsh environment and the frightful, lingering affects ahead. And let’s be honest: commentary on the weather is trivial.

  • People will get very down and angry around this time, but remember: it’s not your fault ( . . . unless it is, and you know who you are). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or Supreme Asshat Despair (also SAD), is harder than ever to shake this season. Some people may even display regret as anger—regret that they didn’t think the weather would be as grim as it seems to be now. One way to neutralize this season’s SAD—albeit very temporarily—is by engaging with nature: fill your home with plants, grow your own windowsill herbs, find community gardens to join in the Spring. Visit the warm tropics at the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and remind yourself that the protection of these luxuries and treasures is in the unusually small hands of an extraordinary, abominable, orange Snowman. The fragile state of the natural world is threatened by the President Elect’s appointments for environment and climate-related issues, all people who have made a career out of dismantling everything that their new councils stand for.

The soon-to-be head of the Environmental Protection Agency has spent his political career suing the very department that he will lead; the climate change denier, Rick Perry, will be Energy Secretary and manager of the nation’s nuclear weapons; and the chief executive of Exxon Mobil will negotiate international climate agreements as the new head of the State Department. With plans to dismantle the EPA “in almost every form,” threats to back out of the Paris Agreement as well as the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the cancellation of the U.N. Climate Change Fund, it’s looking like this will be the first of many extreme winters in our country. This is not a drill—if you can afford it, go solar and change your consumption habits to live more sustainably. Compositing costs nothing and growing your own food is sublime.



  • Shovel and salt your sidewalks.


  • Layer, layer, layer. Invest in a heavy duty winter coat, scarves, and thermal underwear, and gloves are a must too. Many even wear a three-holed balaclava, similar to that worn by the punk rock protestors Pussy Riot—get one before we follow France’s lead on banned face coverings. In fact, just wear all of your clothes. Buy more clothes and wear them. Buy as many warm clothes, imported food goods, and materials as you can. American-made goods and clothes are favored but can be expensive. Come this winter, it looks like the vast availability of foreign imports may become a luxury of the past. The soon-to-be cabinet of Economic Advisors, the Advisor on Regulatory Reform, the Secretary of Trade and Industrial Policy, and the Secretary of the Treasury are comprised almost entirely of corporate investors and unqualified billionaires who plan to implement severe trade restrictions that could curtail the U.S. economy and increase the cost of goods and services. I’m sure two Goldman Sachs executives, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, an eighty-year-old “corporate raider” with no government experience, and other members of the 1% all have our national economy’s best interests at heart…



  • Strengthen connections with families, communities, and promote camaraderie—we’re in this together. Don’t give in to hibernation.


  • Take a vacation! If you can afford it, taking a break from the Chicago darkness and getting some Vitamin D can feel like a full body cleanse. If not for the sunshine, then perhaps just being immersed in another country will be refreshing and could put the weight of this winter into perspective. First things first: get your passport. Don’t plan to leave the country anytime soon? Still get your passport. The rhetoric during the election season was in the tune of pushing away the U.N. and isolating the U.S. from the entire world. Even though moving to another country is not a solution, there are many reasons to get your legal documents in order. If you want to change your gender marker on your identification and official papers, do it now before Obama’s Executive Order, which makes the process easier, is repealed. Be thoughtful about your relationship with the immigration system (like DACA and DAPA) if you are not a citizen or permanent resident. Consult the National Immigration Justice Center, or if you are a citizen, consider joining the NIJC’s action team to stay informed about immigration issues and defend immigrants’ human rights.



  • It’s cold. Don’t tell people how to feel.


  • Protect and cover your lower half! I cannot stress this enough. Keep your nether regions out of reach from wind chills and old white men in office. In addition to investing in a long winter coat, fleece-lined thermal pants, and heavy duty snow boots, strongly consider getting an IUD, and stock up on over the counter Plan B contraception to ensure sexual safety and health (not to mention that safe sex is a fun and great way to stay warm, active, and get your blood flowing this season). If you already have an IUD or don’t have a body that can get pregnant, pick up a few boxes to donate to youth groups and women’s shelters for when we lose our reproductive rights.

The fact of the matter is, our country elected a pussy-grabbing sexist-pedophile-rapist brute and his bigoted crony to run our country. Their appointments for Secretary of Health and Human Services have spouted opposition for the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood, and introduced legislation that would give doctors more power to opt out of Medicare and make healthcare more exclusive and complicated—as if complying with insurance policies that grow more expensive based on gender isn’t bad enough. While short term contraceptives may become more difficult and expensive to obtain, long term birth control options like an IUD or an implant are affective for 3–12 years and have remarkably low fail rates—we’ll see how long they last.



  • Keep your head warm! Most of the heat from your body escapes from your head, so keep it covered and nurture your brain power. Simply wear a hat and stay fervent, this will also help to prevent SAD. White supremacy won, folks! If you don’t already, constantly practice and integrate anti-racist and mindful pedagogy. Basic human rights are on the line. Now is a perfect time to educate yourself and listen to people who have been describing the fear of this reality and the pain of injustice for a long time. Read black, female, LGBTQ and immigrant authors like James Baldwin, Barbara Smith, Jewelle Gomez, Achy Obejas, Moustafa Bayoumi, and Chicago’s own Essex Hemphill. Media organizations and publications may become more vulnerable with the possible opening of Libel Laws, established in 1964. Before this happens, learn how to recognize real from fake news. If you believe in freedom of the press, pay for your news—many of the largest publications are fragile and depend on advertisements and venture capital. Remain vigilant, informed, and fight misinformation.



  • Whether it’s a Chicago winter or a presidential term, remember: this is not permanent.


  • Bundle up and charge it with full force. The best way to survive winter is to face it.



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