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  • Writer's pictureLex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA

Surviving the Gray of Ithaca

At the time of finishing this article I have not seen the sun for 10 straight days. As a lifelong Ithacan I can tell you a few things about the gray that accompanies the winter here in town and it is my hope that it helps pull you through the next months.

While there may be a certain Tea Party fanaticism as to the validity of global warming I can tell you this: Ithaca no longer gets much of the brutal blizzard cold that we got when I was rocking flannel shirts and listening to Nirvana in my yellow two tone Saab. Winter has changed, so this article is not so much the survival guide to the cold but to the surival of the gray (and a slight diminutive cold). Read on friends. Read on.The incongruence of the Cornell Calendar is that you, my collegiate friends, end up arriving and leaving when Ithaca is totally beautiful but you don’t get to enjoy it. The rub is that you only get sporadic “wow” weather in between. A lot of the days from about October 31 until April 31 are simply GRAY. The other months are, well, paradise. Seriously. So, like I said to start off, we are in the midst of the gray. This sucks. I can admit that. I’m big enough of an Ithacan to point out the hard aspects, if ever a city needed more sun it was Ithaca. Now, there’s nothing that we can do about the weather, at least, not yet. Here’s your Ithacan advice to deal with this.

DISCLAIMER: If you are experiencing the blues, mild depression accompanied by the lack of real sunlight I suggest visiting the amazing health professionals at Gannett. This article does not attempt to replace any services, only supplement what you may already be doing.

Step One — Dress appropriately: This starts from the bottom up. Wear a decent pair of boots that won’t get soaked through. Second, inside those boots / shoes make sure you have decent socks. I’m a fan of anything that says thermal or makes my feet ensconced in a thread that is greater than one proof. Next, long johns. They’re all the rage.

I see everyone wear these around campus. Now personally, I dig wearing these under a pair of jeans when it is brutally cold. I know, wicked old fashioned, but honestly, I’m warm. It feels good. Next, have a favorite sweater, any old sweater will do but we’re not talking a Florida sweater. Go to TJ Maxx and buy yourself a decent sweater. While you’re there shopping, buy a hat. People. While a hat may mess up your eagle dome it has the ability to cover up those ears and the scalp. Sometimes, I rock a hat just for fun without a jacket. It works.

Step Two — Adapt your caves: Swap out all the light bulbs in your house for a higher wattage. It makes a huge day-to-day difference in a gray house to have light. Energy bills be damned! I know it seems really stupid, but trust me, this is a local gray survivor here. Second, while you’re buying new bulbs, get a few more lamps. Something that matches your new long underwear, like in an off white.

Most researchers on the subject know the body’s need to be exposed to brighter light is big, which is why the T.V. is so attractive. Ohh, Hulu, Netflix, WD stream, LED light, yum, right. Third, hit the tanning spot (don’t go all tanning mom on us) but inject your body with some rays.

Step Three — Trick the body: For a lot of us who are outdoorsy people during the summer but ick out on the winter running, well, friends, time to move it indoors. Whether you’re on an exercise bike, take up rock climbing or want to check out a heated yoga studio, go out and do something. Make it a point to shatter your winter blues by sweating a pint or so of sweat (sorry for the visual) and let your endorphins be tricked into seeing the light. Let’s stick with the pint for a second. Be wary of letting your depressive drugs get the best of you when it looks depressing outside, in all seriousness.

This does not mean stay away from the local watering holes, by all means, enjoy yourself! Take in an Ithacan band! This means, if you’re already blue / gray don’t expect to drink yourself out of that depression (it doesn’t work, trust me I’ve tried). However, popcorn, lots of laughs and taking in good music at the Chapter House is known to cure many of a winter night’s blues.

Step Four — Be friends with people: Beating the gray is more than that though — for a lot of us it is going to take interventions from friends to get us out of our apartments. So, take up your friends invitations. Talk to people, even for a mini-break. Stellas tea catch ups are groovy. People who like to spend time with people are always much more apt to be happy. How is that for logic? Look it up in your gut, it’s a real thing. Make it a point to schedule regular dinners with one another during the winter. This is something my friends and myself do, we brace our winter nights with an order of Sticky Rice and The Walking Dead.

Step Five — Go outside: If you can afford to take a trip, take a trip — borrow a car, board a plane, travel until you see the sun for a long weekend. Make it happen. However, for those of us to busy to do so — face this winter and just throw down. Take up a winter sport. While there may not be a ton of downhill skiing in the area anymore (thank you Tea Party) I strongly suggest looking into the calmer, gentler cross-country sport. Snowshoeing. There are other winter sports but again, I’m from an island family; I wasn’t raised with all of them at my fingertips.We will survive the Ithaca winter, we’ll do it together. We’ll get over the gray and we’ll see the sun. See you all soon.

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