Fresh snow fills my patio chairs from seat to arm rest. My dogwood blooms fluffy white blossoms of snow. Winter storms and elected officials shut down Western Washington. In Greater Seattle, 3.5 million people have cabin fever. We have nearly two feet of snow in our front yard with another six inches due tonight. Cabin fever won’t be breaking any time soon.
Unlike my neighbors, I’ve had cabin fever for most of the past year. Last February, I got a super-duper fancy pacemaker to address the return of severe heart failure and began a long recovery process. No driving, no lifting, and only supervised exercise for months. Big time cabin fever.
By the end of July, I’d begun blowing out the cobwebs and opening the windows. I gardened. Volunteered. Started to meet people. I wasn’t free of the cabin, but I began to dream again.
On August 1, we welcomed a new granddaughter, Cora, into the world and celebrated that her delivery was smooth. That same afternoon, my cardiologist gave me great news. I dared to hope.
Filled with excitement at all the good news in my life, I threw open the door and jumped into life with both feet. I tripled my volunteer hours in that first week of joy, resumed gardening, did some cooking…..and forget to rest. How did that work? Poorly.
I was so distracted by joy and exhausted within a few days, that I forgot to watch my footing. I fell off a step at home. I broke my foot so badly I couldn’t set it on the ground. More surgery. The surgeon said I absolutely could not put a moment’s weight on that foot for five months if I wanted to regain a normal gait. So much for hopes, dream, and happy dances.
From August – October, I lay on my bed or sofa with my foot on pillows. No walking or driving. (It was my right foot.) No gardening or traveling. I moved around on a knee scooter and used crutches on stairs. Every Monday morning, my husband (who deserves sainthood) dropped me off at a Senior Center where I’m a volunteer receptionist. A friend picked me up at noon, took me to run errands, and brought me home. Otherwise, I stayed home. I had cabin fever no matter what the weather was like.
I read until I was tired of reading. I streamed videos until I was tired of TV. I got bored and went nutty. After a few weeks, I got over enough of my embarrassment at having another broken foot that I was almost ready to call friends and fess up.
That is, until I fell off my knee scooter in the dining room and broke my ankle. I couldn’t even stay safe on a knee scooter going to the kitchen for a coffee refill. At least the broken ankle was on the same side as the broken foot. The ankle lengthened and complicated my recovery. I was so upset, depressed, and embarrassed that I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened. I buried all thoughts of calling friends for company and pushed through the solitude.
I learned a lot in those months. I took on-line classes on sewing and knitting. I drafted doll clothes patterns as gifts for my granddaughters. I read histories of Seattle and Washington State.
I learned that riding my scooter too fast over sidewalk cracks results in a face plant. I learned that turning a corner too sharply one-handed can cause a broken ankle, even with my foot and lower leg encased in a walking boot. I learned that I need to be even more careful and attentive than I thought I did.
I re-learned that I hate to reach out for companionship and help when I feel I have nothing to bring to the table. I’m afraid I’ll sound depressing or be suffocated with sympathy.
People tell me I inspire them with my hopeful, positive attitude and perseverance but I don’t feel inspiring. I just try to keep doing what I know how to do: to not give up, to get up again, push forward, look for beauty and goodness, and hope that one day I can hope and dream again. On the other hand, people who live with this attitude, inspire me to do the same.
These days, I can walk, drive and climb stairs again. I volunteer, do a fitness class and physical therapy each week. I’m meeting people and maybe beginning to find a place for myself here. That pesky thing called hope was raising its head again.
Then it snowed and the city shut down. And it snowed some more. Yes, it is stunningly beautiful. Yes, my dogs love to play in it. I’ve taken them for walks and watched them wrestle in snowdrifts.
In Seattle, even a little snow closes down the city. Last week, we couldn’t get off our street for two days. Nearly every day brings more snow, with another six inches predicted for tonight on top of the almost two feet already on the ground. The city is in shutdown for at least two more days. Cabin fever is rampant.
It’s ironic that the snow makes me feel better about my own cabin fever. I’m no longer the odd one out. All around me, 3.5 million people in Greater Seattle. We’re in it together.
With so much in common, I’m finally willing to share my own experience of year-long cabin fever. I dream of groaning and laughing together when we’re finally free. I hope there’s another happy dance just around the corner.
Until then, I’ll stay cozy by the fire, snuggle with my new puppy, eat my husband’s wonderful cooking, knit a shawl and give thanks for the beauty outside my window.