I’ve hit my winter limit: The snow has turned ashen, the skies are a perpetual state of gray, and one sickness blends into the next in this household. Not to mention I’m home way more often, nowadays.
It all leaves me questioning- do I belong in Vermont, a state known for its harsh winters?
Most Vermonters, or at least the ones I see on social media, turn to the slopes as the temperatures dip. They strap on their skis or snowboards and head to their nearest mountain to fit in a full day of winter sports. They call this fun. They belong in Vermont. They also seem to enjoy snowshoeing, ice fishing, winter hiking, and other questionable activities.
Meanwhile, I sit inside at home, surrounded by two toddlers, who take approximately 17 hours to bundle up and then inevitably cry because their snowsuits leave them immobile and unable to touch their toes. We can forget the hot chocolate, too… I don’t need to also endure two kids with cabin fever on a sugar-high.
Okay, it’s not all bad… but this season really does leave me wondering whether I truly belong in Vermont, a state where nearly half the year is filled with snow, coldness, and snowsuits.
“Noone’s keeping you here! Stop complaining!” This is what I hear in my head when these thoughts start to intrude.
But, amongst those voices of doubt and distress, I also remember why I moved here in the first place.
Over the last 5 years, Vermont has shown me just how welcoming of a place it can be.
We moved during summer (of course) and quickly fell in love with the Lake, Church Street, and the miles and miles of green, lush farmland. We went apple picking, swimming, and ate our fair share of vegan food.
I’ve met neighbors who have become friends, restaurants that have become “our spot,” shops that fill me with pride for “shopping small” and jobs that turned into passions. I’ve begun to learn about the school systems, the community organizations that provide assistance to children and families, and the rich vibrant cultures (new and old) that help to define Vermont’s people. I even started writing for this publication and calling myself an official contributing writer for Vermont Mom. Sure, I’m far from owning a “Vermont Native” bumper sticker, but I’m on my way to defining myself as a Vermonter in my heart.
But, that still doesn’t change how I feel about winter. So, what’s a non-skier to do about all this?
In keeping with my Type-A personality, I made a list. That list I turn to when I’m about ready to pack my bags and throw in the towel. The one that encourages me to look on the brighter side of things, despite the lack of sun! Here are a few things that are helping me:
I’ll be honest, exercising hasn’t really been my priority lately. It’s usually superseded by work, kids, or sleep. But, in those moments when I am stressed or sad, I turn to indoor cycling to help me find those endorphins I’m missing! It’s not so much about being slimmer or reaching a goal as much as it’s about feeling better than I did 20 minutes ago. Turns out, it always works. (I usually follow this with my daily Vitamin D vitamin, because, let’s be honest, I’ll forget otherwise.)
Leaning into other Vermont winter activities (and you can print this checklist at home.)
As I mentioned, I don’t foresee my family becoming a skiing/snowboarding family anytime soon. I chalk it up to the huge expense, hassle, and some bad knees! But, there are other winter activities we can invest in that are worth it for us. I even made a handy visual to help my toddlers participate and simply point to the one they’d like to do that day.
Getting Away from Vermont
About three years ago, when the realities of winter first set in, my husband and I committed to prioritizing travel during the winter months. We replaced the typical summer vacation with a winter one, instead, because nothing beats a Vermont summer.
We did well with that goal for two years… and then the pandemic hit. Needless to say, these past couple of years have been harder for us (and countless others) to endure. But, I hope to get away next year and fly somewhere really warm. This helps me towards the end of January/into February when my anxiety and sadness are usually at their peak.
Finding tiny moments to be thankful for what I do have is always an easy answer to momentary sadness or anxiety. Lately, we’ve been using meal times together to share what we’re thankful for. It’s encouraging to hear things my three-year-old is grateful for. Simple things like, “my pajamas,” help me remember to appreciate the things I already have.
Remembering I Have Toddlers
Is everything harder with toddlers? This is a question I ask myself at least once daily, usually while feeding them something they refuse or getting them ready for… anything. But, winter is especially hard. My littlest one has just learned to walk, and my three-year-old is still adjusting to wearing boots. It makes being outside for long periods hard. They’re kind of a drag when I desperately want to get outside to get the rare moments of crystalline sunshine.
Alas, I remember that one day these tasks will become easier and we might be able to try more adventurous endeavors with them. Things like tubing, eating at a restaurant, allowing them to wipe their own boogers- will all be things I can look forward to soon enough!
Allowing my Story to Go Unfinished
Sometimes, the best piece of advice for someone like me, the perpetual planner and over-thinker, is to remind myself that my story is still unfinished. Trusting that I’ll make life’s more important decisions, such as moving/not moving, when the choice becomes clearer is all I need to return to the present, more mindfully. Worrying about moving when I currently have nowhere else I’d like to move to doesn’t serve me.
I trust there are also others out there struggling to wade through these winters, too, and wondering if you belong in Vermont. I hope you’ll turn to a friend and share your feelings and know it’s okay to not be okay right now, or whatever season it is. Whether it’s hopping on your bike, consulting with your doctor, or simply trying something new, I’m grateful for a community of people willing to share that these days are long and hard… and helping me to feel like I belong in Vermont.
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