It’s not an uncommon problem this time of year. Cabin fever. It’s been snowing most days this winter, and when it isn’t the sky is still gray. The snow is heaped up against the house in huge drifts and even on snow shoes a walker is likely to be knee-deep in the stuff. On Monday of this week, it blew across the fields and woods, cross-hatching the world outside, and my cabin fever grew to fever pitch. Nearly everyone has it at this time of year—seasonal affect disorder or SAD, claustrophobia. It’s also called “climbing the walls.”
Moreover, it’s going to get worse. It’s only the first of March, and even though I haven’t lived here for seven years, I remember—oh, how I remember!
Of course, on Monday I did what any of my contemporaries would do under the circumstances: I looked on-line, and discovered that Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies can be bought for $6.89 at Amazon. I also found out that claustrophobia isn’t an accurate description since it describes a more serious mental condition: “a fear of being closed in, not having an escape route, being trapped.” No, I could get out. I just couldn’t get very far.
Claustrophobia more appropriately referred to something else I was feeling, something that didn’t have so much to do with the weather as the world. I was feeling claustrophobic about the world and its events, and wishing, almost, that it could be a little more like a snowfield, empty of everything but evergreens in a vast white space. Wishing that I wasn’t bound in on all sides by world events. The world has been way too much with me. I know I’m not the only one who’s been feeling that way.
I’m not complaining about any specific kind of news event, although I could do with much less Charlie Sheen. I’m not even asking for less news. I found myself in a rant today about how little we know about most of the countries in the world, and how, chancing to catch BBC News, I’d discovered things of importance going on in India that were utterly new to me. I really don’t want less news, just better news. I want it to help me to cope with the world at the same time as it tells me about it. I don’t want to live in an old-fashioned world whose details are all local. I want to know about Lybia and Kosovo.
Of course, it’s not just current events, it’s the whole array of information on the internet. It’s the magazines and the e-zines, television and talk shows. It’s a world that’s altogether too present. It’s probably harder for people like me who are older to deal with all that information in its vast confusion than it is for young people who have grown up absorbing facts at lightning speed (and sometimes discarding them the same rate). The world is a perpetual blizzard of facts and questions, and all of us have to learn to deal with it.
A friend said to me tonight that someone suggested to her that she listen less to the news about Lybia and Wisconsin so that she’d worry less—so she’d have greater leisure to enjoy life, she guessed. But she couldn’t do it. I couldn’t either. It’s our world and we can’t ignore it. We can only take a deep breath and deal with it as it comes.