What do you do when you wake up and it’s -22 degrees (-49 with the wind chill) and you need to walk the dog?
Then you rationalize. Decide that it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t go out and you can always clean up whatever messes she makes. Consider talking to her sensibly and explaining the situation, how you’ll set up a towel in the basement that she can use for her loo. Realize that you’re attributing unrealistic cognitive abilities to your dog, who is smart enough to find her way out of a locked container but still considers deer poo the height of epicurean cuisine.
Look at your smartphone to see when it is the warmest. Oh, it’s going up to -18 at 10:00! Surely she can hold out until then. Panic that you’ll get frostbite. Panic that you’ll fall on the ice and no one will be around to help you up and you’ll freeze like that poor man in Rochester, Minnesota. Panic that she’ll pee on the floor as you’re putting on your outerwear.
Get dressed. A tank top, a thermal long sleeve T-shirt, and two cashmere sweaters. Give thanks for the goats and sheep who sacrificed their hair for cashmere, and give thanks to China for making it affordable. A pair of corduroy stretch pants that are impossibly warm and unwearable most days of the year. A paint spattered pair of lined Gore-Tex pants that everyone in your family has worn, including your almost six foot tall son. A hat. A hood. A muff that goes around your neck and up your nose. A pair of mittens over a pair of gloves. Uggs with Yak Traks (more gratitude). Cover it all with your down coat that ends where your boots begin.
But wait! Where’s the dog? Envision getting undressed, or else stomping around the house, ruining the floors with the Yak Traks and getting overheated. Decide that neither option is acceptable and call for the dog again, who miraculously shows up. Notice how hard it is to open and close the door when you are wearing so many layers.
There is a keyhole for your eyes but everything else is covered. The hat comes down to your eyelashes. The muff comes up to your bottom eyelashes. You are inhaling the CO2 right back in because there’s nowhere for it to go. There are little drops of condensation on your eyelashes. Amazingly, they don’t freeze.
Also amazingly, your hands and feet are warm enough. And as you walk through the deserted neighborhood, your core temperature starts to rise. You think to yourself “maybe I didn’t need all these layers,” pull the muff down over your nose, and immediately pull it up again. It’s cold! But when you’re covered up, you can be outside comfortably.
The dog is happy. She doesn’t get that thing where snow or salt is stuck in her paw and she holds it up for you to clean off, which is good because you can’t move your fingers the way you’re dressed. She pees a lot. She poops a little. She sniffs at the other pee and poops and tries to engage you in a little game of chase. You decline. You are oxygen deprived from excessive CO2 intake and need to get the muff off your face but are not quite ready to go back because it’s so damn badass to be outside and to be the only one because everyone else is hunkered down inside where it’s warm.
A car passes you. You stand off to the side because you have absolutely no peripheral vision and wave to the driver as he passes you. He waves back. You share the unspoken connection of the few who venture outside.
As you approach your house, you realize that your arms and legs are getting a little cold, but that you’re also sweating. You think about the Bear Grylls episode where he tells you to jump around after falling into freezing water and start to pump your arms and walk a little faster. You get sweatier. You think about “To Build A Fire” and “After Great Pain A Formal Feeling Comes.” You feel smug because you’re so well-read and so well-dressed. You walk down your driveway feeling like a thoroughbred crossing the finish line.
Well, maybe a draft horse crossing the finish line, with all your layers.
You walk inside and immediately pull off everything because you’re so damn sweaty. The dog runs away, does a lap around the house, and immediately passes out in her crate. She is happy. You take a sip of coffee from your insulated cup and discover that it’s still warm. You are happy.
You realize that all of the worrying you did this morning was unnecessary. You realize that the fear of the cold was worse than the cold itself. You realize that when you take those first few steps forward, acknowledging your fear but not letting it hold you back, that the rest is easy. You think, “This would be an amazing subject for a blog post! I need to write more posts. I want to be a writer but I’m just too damn lazy. And isn’t it cool that I can make a yoga metaphor from walking the dog on a really cold day!”
You also realize that whoever said, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” was a genius.
You are a spiritual goddess. You are a Chicago badass. You went outside for 15 minutes on a day when Antarctica would seem balmy and came back with all of your extremities intact…
and then you realize you have to do it again in the afternoon.