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Cabin Fever

By Pam Luedtke

I recently spent 11 days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the peak of one the snowiest and coldest months on record up there. My husband and I have a ski house there, and have been going up in the winter for many years. In fact, this was where we met almost thirty years ago. Now that we’re retired, my husband likes to spend most of the winter there, and he pretty much skies every day. I used to ski quite a bit too, but now I am not so interested anymore, and when I go up, I spend most of the time inside. And until these recent 11 days, I thought I was content to do so.

I had gone up prepared for my stay, as I usually do, with all kinds of stuff to keep me occupied. I had my laptop, some projects, my books, some movies. . . and I love to cozy in by the fireplace. Sounds pretty sweet, right? I should be all set.

And then more snow came. . . nearly 30 inches of it over four days, along with howling winds and brutally cold temperatures. Our cars were buried in the driveway in drifts that were waist deep. My husband was out there for hours at a time clearing snow, while I was in the house fretting that he might have a heart attack. But even so, I thought I was doing fine. None of it really seemed to be getting to me too much. This was quite a winter alright, and yes it felt a little closed in at times, but I was making the best of it, keeping a positive attitude. I was doing fine. . . just fine. Or so I thought.

A couple days later, it was my birthday, and I wanted it to be a good day. A happy day. My husband had more snow to move in the morning, and I wanted to get out and go do something in the afternoon. But when he came in from his shoveling, he lay down on the sofa and closed his eyes, exhausted after days of this effort. I went back to the bedroom and quietly ignited in  anger.

Something had risen up in me so strongly and so quickly that it truly caught me off guard. I was mad at my husband. I was mad at the situation. I felt confined in the house and trapped there. I couldn’t get out. . . couldn’t move about! Is this what it feels like to be in prison? And on top of that it was my birthday, which made it all worse!

Later, I asked myself what this was all about. Was I having a bad case of “cabin fever”? Or was there something more going on? It felt like something had changed; things just weren’t the same. And it wasn’t just about being shut in, it was about being up there in the first place. I also realized that this was not the first time I had had feelings like this. But in the past I had pushed them away. I did not want to acknowledge them; did not want to feel them. Why was that?

How ungrateful I would be to feel this way when I am fortunate to have a place like this with my husband! What a betrayal it might be to him if I changed my mind about it! For many years, this had been our “special” place. We built it together and had such a wonderful time doing that. We got married in this living room. This was our refuge from the world during stressful times and we often said that it helped keep us sane. It was a long drive to get there, but it always seemed worth it. Now all that is behind us, and it is not the same anymore. At least not for me. What would it mean to admit that. . . to myself? And to my husband?

If I look at what’s really going on here, it might mean something has to change. And this may be a change I’m not sure I want to make. It involves something that meant a lot to me in the past. And it is something that still matters to someone else in my life. And I don’t want to hurt that person or make things more difficult for them. And I don’t want to feel guilty about any of it. But if it’s not working for me, then it’s probably not really working for the relationship either. If I truly want things to be better, then I need to take some constructive steps in that direction.

That starts with being honest with myself. Acknowledging the problem and the feelings that go with it. Becoming willing to allow change and let something go. Pushing through the resistance to doing that. This is probably the worst part of the process and the most difficult to get to. But once I broke through, I realized that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to have a change of heart about something; to see it a different way. The past is gone, things are changing. It’s okay to consider other options. I can make a different choice about the situation. I can figure something out. And if I share with my husband the truth from my heart, I would have nothing to worry about from him. He would try to work with me. We would work it out together.

What did I learn from this? Letting go of those meaningful things in my life is not always very easy, but when my feelings tell me it is time to do so, I need to respect them. That may mean upsetting the applecart, or it may be just a small adjustment. But in the end, listening to one’s heart is the way we must go. Or we will forever be fighting with ourselves and never find peace.

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