According to the calendar, it’s supposed to be springtime here in Connecticut. But the weather begs to differ; an icky mix of sleet and rain is dripping from the sky, glazing the six-inch coating of snow that accumulated overnight.
It’s been a long, cold winter in these parts. That hasn’t slowed me down – much. I’ve walked the dog in all kinds of weather, braving wind, sleet, frigid temperatures and slippery paths. I’ve kept my spirits up despite the early dark in the evenings and the late light in the mornings.
I made up my mind long ago that if I were going to live in New England, I would have to learn to love it in all seasons. Otherwise, I might find myself less than happy for months at a time. That seems like a waste to me. So I forced myself to embrace winter.
But I’ll admit I’m more than ready for spring and ultimately summer. The sight of a robin on the lawn the other day made my heart glad. Because, as much as I say I’m okay with winter, I really don’t like being cold. In fact, unlike many people with MS, for whom heat exacerbates symptoms, I much prefer to be warm, even hot. Give me a tank top, shorts and a nice, long, sweaty day, and I’m golden.
It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, I hated the blazing sun and the humidity that started in July and lasted through the end of September. But back then I lived in air-conditioned luxury, and the contrast between the cold I experienced inside buildings and cars, and the heat outdoors was miserable.
Today I live in a house with no air conditioning. I don’t even run the air when I’m in the car. Over time, my body seems to have adjusted. At first I was just okay with the heat. Then I kind of started to like it. Now I crave it.
But that’s not the whole story. About the same time I learned I had MS, I started experiencing funky symptoms whereby my fingers would turn yellow and waxy, and also kind of numb whenever I got cold. I finally learned I could reverse that by running my wrists under warm water in the kitchen sink. But before returning to normal, my fingers turn all kinds of strange colors, purple and blue and red spots mottling the wax-yellow background. It’s quite the horror show – just ask my kids!
I have since learned that I suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, a generally harmless, though ugly and uncomfortable, condition in which the capillaries in my hands (and now sometimes my feet, too) constrict and draw blood away from the surface of my skin. Another thing I have learned about Raynaud’s is that it can, like so many other things, including some symptoms of MS, be triggered by stress.
So I look forward to the coming warm months, which promise relief from the cold and from Raynaud’s, in a big way. How about you? Are you more comfortable and happy when it’s cold outside or when it’s nice and hot?