The First Snowfall

I am notorious for hating winter. In fact, I like a lot about the season- visiting my family for Christmas and piling up in front of the fireplace, an excuse to put all the quilts on the bed and make a nest, slightly more forgiving clothing. But what I don’t enjoy is being cold.

My first year in Pittsburgh after leaving Atlanta, I wasn’t ready. At all. I never learned the proper way to layer clothing (no need in the balmy South). I didn’t understand the difference between a stylish coat and an actual functional one. I didn’t own a hat or a scarf. And to add insult to injury, in my first apartment the radiator in bedroom refused to kick on. It was ice-cold in there. I came home from work and cried for most of my first winter because I couldn’t thaw out. My bones were cold until spring.

As my years in the great white north have worn on, I’ve picked up some skills. My family buys me piles of polar fleece everything for my birthday and Christmas. I pay a little extra year-round for the privilege of running my heat warmer than average in the winter ( at a temperature at which locals assure me I could grow citrus fruit in my living room).  I have a back-up space heater for the bedroom that can get the room up to 80 degrees, no matter the outside weather. I not only own a dozen scarves, but made some of them myself. I am getting better at this winter business.

But the one element of winter that never goes away is a slight anxiety with the first snowfall. You see, I think snow is pretty. It looks beautiful falling outside the window. It makes everything look all quiet and peaceful. But I take the bus everywhere. And my biggest fear is falling on a pile of slush. There. I said it. I’m not afraid of the physical pain. I’ve slipped and fallen many times, bruising my tailbone, scratching my hands, etc. I am afraid… of being embarrassed. And I will avoid leaving my house rather than risk the embarrassment of slipping and falling.

I was talking to BC about this the other day in another context- specifically, dating. And what I figured out, when I really thought about it, is that this fear of embarrassment is why I’ve stayed out of the dating game so long. When I found out that the ex was cheating and had to cancel the wedding, I was humiliated. I had to tell my family and friends that the person that I thought I could be with forever had been running around town, in places I knew people no less, with someone else, and that I had no clue. I had to call the caterer and the minister and the hotels and the location and mumble out that the wedding wasn’t going to happen and I felt like a fool.

Maybe the whole embarrassment problem goes back to being teased a lot as a kid. I wasn’t particularly cute and was bookish and other kids were not kind about it. I remember walking with friends and older kids shouting over, insulting my clothes, my glasses, my weight. And rather than being hurt because of their meanness, what sticks out to me is the humiliation that they said it in front of other people. That they knew. As I told BC the other night, upon reflection, I think avoiding embarrassment ranks at the top of my personal values.

So, today is our first snowfall in Pittsburgh for the year. This year, I’m trying a different approach. I have a few pairs of boots with some decent tread. I have a shovel and salt for the sidewalk. And I’m trying on a new attitude all around. I’ve missed out on a lot by being afraid of being embarrassed. I haven’t gone places where the sidewalks might be slick. And that includes my personal life. Maybe, just maybe, this winter I can take a chance. Perhaps the important thing isn’t that anyone sees me fall. Maybe the important thing is that someone sees me get back up. And if I’m very brave, maybe I can give someone a chance to help me up. Or to share my cozy couch this winter. The heat bill’s on me.

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11 Comments

Filed under Building a Better Me, Relationships, Soul Searching

11 responses to “The First Snowfall

  1. Sarah663

    Just wanted to say – what a great, well-written post!

  2. I LOVE this. Such a great perspective! And yes, avoiding embarrassment is a good thing, but sometimes it’s a tradeoff. And one thing I love about Torsten is that I can have embarrassing moments in front of him and it doesn’t matter, or if anything, he’s sympathetic. I hope you can date guys like that, too.

  3. I’m totally scared of embarrassment too. And to make matters worse, when I get embarrassed, my face turns red. Essentially this makes me embarrassed of being embarrassed, because then the person will see my red face on top of the embarrassing thing I did.

    When you think about the falling thing, though, imagine you were walking on the street and saw a stranger fall. You probably wouldn’t laugh at them or re-tell the story (“oh my gosh…and then this woman FELL…hahaha”); you would probably feel bad/sad for her, maybe even help her get up.

    So on a deeper note, could it be a fear of weakness/showing your weakness to someone else vs. just straight-up embarrassment? I think it might be that for me, at least…

  4. Oregon Sunshine

    Being Alaskan, I know about ice. I know about falling, falling in and falling through. None of it is fun. It’s worse when you’re trying to crawl over a 4′ snow berm (purpose long forgotten) right around break up (melt off, called “break up” because you can hear the ice breaking up in the rivers). Where was I? Oh yes! So, crawling over a 4′ snow berm and the top gave way, putting me into about 2′ of freezing water. But, there is one thing that greatly helps deal with walking on ice! GREATLY! Ice grips are these magical little inventions that help you keep traction on ice and snow. You simply slide them over your boots and voila! You can walk where it’s slippery! The only catch is that you need to take them off when you go inside, as it’s dangerous to walk on them on linoleum.

    So, send me your mailing address and I’ll get a pair of ice grips out in the mail for you.

    I do love your comparison of ice and snow as to your reason you hesitate to date.

  5. What do you fear? The fear of thirst is the thirst that can never be satisfied.

  6. Ang

    Great, very well-written post.I would love to hear the follow up of this. 🙂

  7. jeanniekay

    Beautiful post.

  8. As a kid, I’d have said I had the opposite issue since all my hobbies and early jobs seemed purpose built to embarrass me: Skating (Ice or Roller), Skiing, Soccer, Band, Radio DJ…looking like an idiot was basically built-in to those activities.

    Maybe that’s why I took so much solace in books and computers? Something that could be done alone without reprisals or uncomfortable teasing and finger-pointing?

    I hated grade school, and I didn’t care much for High-School either. I was always the outsider, in my head if not in fact.

    Fear of embarrassment. It’s not something I’d ever considered as a personal motivator until I read this post. Now, I’m reconsidering several episodes in my childhood in a new light. Sometimes we don’t see the obvious until someone else points it out.

    That moment where you were mortified not because of what they said, but who they said it in front of; that part was painfully familiar.

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