Winter Stockholm Syndrome

By Christina Clancy | December 13, 2017


Listen Online

You came around again like I knew you would. I braced for you, or should I say that I braced myself against you, knowing that I was powerless. But then there you were, and our beginning, like all of our beginnings, was actually pretty sweet. I had to admit that I liked the way you made everything look different and feel different. I even felt a little sad for people who never feel your power, who never go through the changes you bring.

I thought: maybe this time it’ll be OK. I mean, I’m not a kid. I’ve been through this before. I was realistic about our future.  I knew that even if it was good in the beginning, all sparkly and beautiful, it would still get old.

And it got old.

I thought you would change, or that maybe it was me who had changed enough to accept you, because there are plenty of people who think you’re OK, but like always, you brought me down. I felt trapped.  Have you ever seen a dog run into a dog catcher’s net? The way it panics? That was me! I fantasized about escape. I was tempted to drive past my every destination. I’d just drive and drive some more, like Harry Angstrom in John Updike’s book Rabbit, Run. I wanted out from under your hovering, heavy, relentless presence. I wanted to be someplace where you don’t exist, where you couldn’t exist, where you couldn’t even be remembered or imagined.

I say this, but honestly, this last time, you know, it wasn’t as bad as before. Those other times… let me tell you, you’ve forced me to connect with the darkest nights of my soul. But this time, even though it got bad in the end, it wasn’t so bad overall, which is to say you had a better-than-average badness.

Still, I wanted desperately for it to end. And then, one day, it did. How could it be that easy? You were just… gone. I expected you to come back the way you always do: once, twice, three times at least. You always come back three times, often with a vengeance. I couldn’t trust your absence. It was as if I’d been cured of a horribly painful chronic disease.

And then something weird happened: I almost wanted another chance. I started to miss you just a little. Misery had become my new normal. I’d grown used to you, the way you gave me an excuse to become a recluse and do nothing but eat Indian food and drink dark beers. You were gone and the chorus of the defrosting world called outside my windows. It became so loud that it was almost overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do with all that energy. It wasn’t just me who was glad to see you go: every jogger and biker and gardener and parent – especially the parents – they were thrilled!

This new season, Spring, didn’t even bother to flirt this year. It just showed up like a lost relative with a suitcase. Before I let it in, I peeked around the corner one last time to make sure you were really gone, knowing you’d still come back just when I’d almost forgotten about you, and our relationship – our sick, unhealthy relationship – would begin again.

Christi Clancy

Christina Clancy

Christina Clancy is the author of “The Second Home” and “Shoulder Season.” Her work has appeared in “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “The Chicago Tribune,” “The Sun Magazine” and in various literary journals. She lives in Madison with her family.
2018-02-10T23:07:18-06:00Tags: |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.