Winter is coming, but not if I can help it


Dear Cath (and readers!)

Holy schmoly it’s been weeks! I’m so sorry so much time has gone by and I haven’t posted diddly-squoo. And, no, you should not have been posting. As I’ve mentioned in emails, your life is about 15 times (that’s a conservative estimate) more busy and stressful and more social butterfly-full than mine is.

My only excuse is blind panic. My brain has, fairly dramatically, switched into winter-is-coming mode. The sunlight has perceptively shifted and we are on the speedy downward tilt toward winter. Days where the sun barely peeps over the horizon and even then it’s away again in five hours. The darkness is coming. Nooooooo.

Princes Street Gardens dusk

I keep trying to deny it, but my brain chemistry won’t be fooled. Already I feel more inclined to huddle under blankets and watch Netflix all day while I bat away those annoying gnats of Darkness, Gloom, Sunlight-is-dead buzzing around my head.

Always my first course of action is denial (aka binge Netflix watching). But this year, Matt and I are trying something new . The Gym.

I know you’re like an amazing working-out-er now, Cath. You wake up at 6am and go to the Y and lift weights. You do like four classes of Jazzercise on the weekend (and work full time and go to school practically full time). So very inspiring!

Before joining The Gym (has to have caps because it feels momentous and still a strange thing) all I did was jump on my mini trampoline (oops, I mean rebounder!) for 10 minutes and then did some downward dogging. I was/am intimidated by The Gym. All those people running and stepping and moving their arms on these clunky, mean looking grey machines.

You know why else I’m intimidated? The playground. Remember how when we were little and didn’t like to share the playground with other kids (we were extremely shy)? That’s how I feel about the gym. I get intimidated by all those people moving in athletic ways and it totally makes me want to retreat to the park bench/corner-by-the-lockers.

But I’ve been pushing myself to do things, even with other kids on the playground, because of the SAD brain. It needs all the help it can get.


Matt sent me this great article from the Nytimes about how exercise helps depression. I know we’ve heard that before but these scientist at a university in Sweden did some studies on mice (poor guys) and tried to tease out what exactly was happening in their brain chemistry.

How do they know when mice are depressed? They give up trying to get out of the cold water maze. They just sit there. That’s me! During a Scottish winter! Getting colder and more depressed.

And apparently, what happens when the rats exercise is they produce an enzyme called PGC-1alpha1 that makes these guards that combat this mean substance called Kynurenine which basically inflames your brain and leads to depression (and is caused by repeated stress). So the no-longer depressed mice fight through the maze and start caring about eating their sugar water again. Happy ending, phew!

So even though I still feel like an alien in the gym, I just keep thinking I’m calling up my PGC-1alpha1 guards. And I do actually think it might be working. “Kill those #%$@ing Kynurenine dead, PGC-1alpha1s!” Its a mouthful of a mantra, but whatever works against the cold water maze of a Scottish winter is good.

Lar one for one

And I can tell it must be working because I feel like doing (slightly) more than just watching Netflix during my free time. I’ve even (overly-ambitiously) started five books. Three of which I plan to finish! Maybe. Okay two. One’s our Women in Clothes (aren’t you loving it?!) and I will finish that. Two is a biography on Marx and his wife Jenny (probably won’t make it through that one — I’m a terrible nonfiction reader). Three is The Cornish Coast Mystery which is like a cozy Agatha Christie. There are also some feel-good books by Marianne Williamson and Gary Zukav to help with the 1alphas1 (as yet untested on mice however).

I think there is a good chance that I might retreat to the world of Netflix/toast/blanket/couch hibernation mode by December but if I can stave it off until then, I’ll consider it a job well done.

I hope with all you have going on and even though you feel so very stressed out, that the one upside to being so busy is that your brain doesn’t have time to mess around with winter blues. I do so hope that’s the case.

I miss you so, so very much!

Love you like happy mice like sugar water,


13 thoughts on “Winter is coming, but not if I can help it”

  1. good for you for hitting the gym! i’m trying to stick with a gym routine myself. it’s tough though.the waking up at 5:20am is a little much for me. i just gotta suck it up!
    p.s. your outfit is adorable!

    1. 5:20, Diane?! You are so impressive! I tend to work out after work because I just can’t pull myself out of bed — especially in the winter. Good luck with your routine!


        1. Wait, do you mean you aim to do that every day, Diane? You are amazing! Even if you don’t make it half the time.
          I just go twice over the weekend and then do some yoga and Tracy Anderson during the week. I get to tired to leave the house (before or) after a long day at work!

  2. Hello Dearest Lar!

    Even though I lived in Scotland for 6 months (over ten years ago!), I still don’t have any concept of what it’s like to experience that impending darkness. I mean, I bitch about the days getting shorter here, but it’s nothing compared to Scottish winter days!

    It is pretty amazing what exercise can do to boost the mood. The crazy thing is that even though I feel amazing after working out and happier, I still find it hard to stay motivated. The only thing that works for me is a gym buddy. Alison and I go to the Y twice a week and Mere is my Jazzercise buddy. They hold me accountable and I think Matt can do the same for you. Also, taking classes help because other people (like the instructor) are counting on you being there.

    I totally remember not wanting to play on the playground with other kids. I wonder if that’s somewhat of a twin thing too and not just because we were shy. I mean, we always had each other as built-in playmates, so what’s the point of sharing playtime with others? Twins are weird.

    I love, love, love the Women in Clothes book. I read snippets of it right before bed and it totally de-stresses me. I love reading about women’s relationship with clothes with a non-fashion outlook. I’d also love to read the biography on Marx. I’ve never been a biography reader, but I think I want to start. After watching two episodes of the Roosevelts docu, i’m inspired to read about other great people.

    Thanks for patience with my lack of posts! As much as I miss blogging, it just seems impossible with all the work I have. Maybe things will slow down this month?! Hey, a girl can dream!

    xoxo, Cath

    1. Hi Cath!

      Oh please don’t worry about adding one more thing to your plate. That’s totally not necessary at all! I miss you blogging just because it’s another way to “talk” to you but that’s why I’ve been bugging you more on email 😀

      You are so right about the twin thing! I think it was shyness and already having a built-in friend for everything. I guess it was a good thing mom stopped our twin talk early. We would have never made friends with anyone else!

      Having a gym buddy is such a good motivator. If Matt stays longer then I’ll stay longer at the gym too — or at least toddle around and try to look busy — Look, I’m downward-dogging!

      I’ll cross my fingers for you that things slow down in November. You’re halfway there! So, so close soon-to-be-Master-of-Public-Administration!



  3. I hear you, Lar. When I do muster up the energy to pry myself off the couch and away from Netflix, I always feel so much better, whether it’s going out dancing, doing some gentle stretching, or going to the gym (where I run on the elliptical for 30 minutes). Speaking of which, if you’re intimidated by the gym, the elliptical is a great gateway machine! Not as intimidating as the other machines and oddly fun to use.

    1. Lisa, you are spot on! I actually do the elliptical for 30 minutes too. Treadmills kind of intimidate me because I’m not a runner but I love the low impact of the elliptical (confusingly called a cross trainer here).

  4. I could related to this post so much! I’ve never been a big sports or gym person, but once I started running regularly, I started to feel like I was secretly meant to be active all along.

    I dealt with SAD when I lived in a colder, darker place, but even though I’m living in Southern California now, I still have problems with anxiety, and nothing helps as much as working out. That’s not to say that once I started I stuck with it forever. It’s still a struggle to keep doing it.

    Good luck with this Scottish winter! I hope the books (and drinking lots of warm, delicious beverages) make it more bearable 🙂

    1. Hi Mia!

      Thanks so much for your comment! Oh you have no idea how many times Matt and I have just said “Let’s just run away from Scotland and move to So Cal!”

      I know what you mean about the anxiety though — I would still have it on a tropical island. Cath and I both find exercise really does help — now why can’t it be less of a struggle, eh? Wayyy too easy to sit and eat chocolate cake. Exercising should be that easy too ;D

      Good luck with your sunnier winter too!



  5. Lar, I think I’m going to have do a blog post about staving off the winter blues as well because BELIEVE ME . you’re not the only one. For me it hits mid January after the holidays wrap up. I’m usually good until then. For now, this is what I do to keep my head above water:
    1. Candles. Light them often.
    2. White fairy lights to make spaces more cozy.
    3. Books. Jinx, right now I’m reading Zadie Smith’s NW but I’ll order Women in Clothes! Pleased for the recommendation.
    4. Started running almost every day two years ago. I hate it with all my heart but I push on. Ballet helps too . Cath, just do it!
    5. A friend and I have planned a trip to Florida in February (her Mum lives there so it’ll be unexpensive).
    6. Buy a really really nice sweater (one that makes you happy just looking at it). Feel free to reach out . . . safety in numbers! Oh and around the holiday season Agathe and I have decided we’re going to do one holiday craft a week and try and get others to join in and send us photos. I hope to recruit you and Cath and anyone else that reads this! xoxo

    – Aja

    1. Hi Aja!

      Oh you are so right about mid-January. That is usually the lowest ebb, isn’t it? Thank you for all your tips. I do some of them already but it is so good to be reminded of things you can do too. AND I’m definitely going to keep a look-out for a really, really nice sweater too — that is genius!

      I love the idea of doing a craft a week around the holidays as well! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the consumerism, doing something by hand is such a good way to combat that. I can’t wait to see what you and Agathe do. Cath and I would love to join you guys!


      1. You know what it is about mid January – Feb? Lack of awesome holidays! I mean no offense MLK, you are awesome but it’s not a festive holiday with drinking involved. And Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s Day kinda sucks regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship. If we could stretch the holiday season until the end of March, I think perhaps I wouldn’t mind winter so much 😉

        – Aja

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