-written by Kailyn Allen
Sometimes I get this creeping suspicion that holidays were invented by people in the Midwest, solely to have some reason to stay alive during the winter months.
I’ve lived here most of my life, and should really be, not only acclimated by now, but also wearing my ability to survive the freezing temperatures and navigate a set of icy stairs or stretch of slippery sidewalk without cracking my face open, like a badge of honor.
I should be putting air in my tires, sans gloves, without sobbing out icy teardrops that freeze to my face. I should be indifferent to the heavy chunk of frozen breath (or snot?) weighing two of the three scarves I’m wearing down, and just talk to people through it like it’s normal to have iced-mucus brooches, and like I’m not desperate to get inside before my nose gives up and falls off. I should be deftly hopping over the gigantor mountains of blackened snow that the plow posits at the end of every walkway, in big clompy boots that belie my graceful sprightliness. I want to be a prairie-hardened baddass like my nana. I do.
But, baby it’s cold outside.
I’m not going to make it on the prairie. My car doesn’t start when it’s too cold, and neither do I, and it’s almost always too cold. Weirdly, though, what keeps me here complaining about the temperature, is how warm it can be.
I will try to avoid sounding like a tourist ad, but this community is really one of the warmest places I’ve ever been. (and I’ve been some places) We have tons of individuals who are actively trying to make the world a better place in their own ways, through community groups and organizations. Many of our local churches are moving towards LGBT positivity, all of our higher ed campuses have some type of Safe Zone, or LGBT support, and don’t even get me going on how many dynamic and passionate community leaders we have who care about equality, and work to ensure we have a safe and beautiful life. (If I could tag them all here this would read like a selection from the Yellow Pages)
It’s normal here to see smiles and receive handshakes. It’s normal to have three people hop out of their cars and help get your vehicle unstuck from the snow, and then just smile and hop back in theirs and drive away like it was no big deal that they just saved your life, and then casually told you to consider snow tires and have a good day, through a chunk of frozen scarf-mucus. It’s normal for neighbors to blow each other out after a storm, (which isn’t as disturbing as the phrase suggests, but actually the purest form of love in this region). It’s normal to post that ‘so and so fell on the ice the other day’ and within hours find six different people willing to bring them hotdishes, and groceries, and sidewalk salt until they are off the crutches.
That being said, let’s go back to the coldness for a second. The holiday and winter season combined is statistically the most suicide/depression heavy time of year. We all know that LGBT’s are at a higher risk for substance abuse and depression/suicide in general as well.
What’s the most tragic about that is that anytime I reach out and admit that I have been considering a permanent dip in the river, I unfailingly find that at least three other people in the room feel the same way. Wait. Think about that a second. So if instead of saying something we all just went ahead and jumped… we might find a bunch of our friends floating/freezing in there with us. So, we’re not actually alone. Even in our ‘aloneness’.
Or rather, ESPECIALLY in our aloneness.
This season, instead of thinking of the holidays as the excuse we use to survive the cold, I may start thinking of the cold as the excuse we use to huddle together to keep warm.
Whether you are celebrating with hundreds of friends and family members, or feeling lonely and thinking about celebrating at the bottom of the Red, we are all in this mess of slop and snow together. Whether you are a prairiemaster who scoffs at my six layers of mittens or the type who can’t “put their arms down” from wearing so many sweaters at once, the cold touches us all at some time.
If we stick tight to each other like a tongue to a frozen flag pole, we can keep it from getting inside and hurting our unscarved and hatless hearts. This year, let’s keep each other warm, and leave the cold outside where it belongs.