When is snow not just snow? Well for me it was hanging myself from the nearest tree. I think the snow was just collateral damage that night. I don’t think it had anything to do with my plan, though of course it complicated it immeasurably. I would go so far as to say it was my savior. With no storm, no snow and no brutally cold temps I could easily have tied that knot. It would have been the end for me. Instead I learned just how bad it feels to freeze. I always run cold. I can have every layer on and still find it hard to stay warm. But I had no layers that night, no defense against mother nature at her most wicked. That stiff northern wind that stops your breath in its tracks. She is mighty in her power. In those first moments before dawn I lay humbled by that power. I was an insignificant nothing but a blip on her vast surface. In that moment I felt as small as I ever have. Powerless to change. Fugitive to my mind and it’s violent impulses. I had fell victim to myself and I lay there shivering knowing I was weak. I had succumbed to the impulse. Yet there I lay beneath a blanket of thick snow with nothing but my bone chattering shivering to keep me company. I made a decision. It didn’t matter less than an hour earlier I was intent on ending my life. I chose to get up out of that snow. I did not want to freeze to death. In fact, I could not think of a worse fate. The panic that swept me was thorough and to my core. There was no ambivalence. Zero. Yet just that day I had wanted nothing more than to end my suffering. The rope taut on my neck still evidence of that truth. But something changed. Was it the freezing cold?. The biting wind and snow? Would I have even gotten up had I not been buried under that pile of cold ice? I may not have. It is easy to blame the snow for my failure that night, but I can just as easily blame it for my survival.
I can trace the cold through so many awful nights in my life. Experiences tightly bound to the feeling in my body. It wasn’t just the Nor’Easter. It was the frigid predawn hours that I lay curled on that bath mat unable to fathom what had just happened to my body and soul. It was my shivering that kept me awake and aware till the sun finally lit the window of the small bathroom. I had never been that cold, in body and mind. Nor felt as small. They go hand in hand. Standing pinned to a walk-in freezer, shivering beneath the hands of a man I didn’t know enough not to trust. Squirming in the chill dark air as rough long fingers penetrated me. Years later sitting shivering in a police station, feeling just as small and frozen. They link together. My emotional state wrecked in each. Broken in mind and spirit. Both at the hands of others and of myself. Cold is a state of being in my head. A brutal lonely place. A place of mistakes and errors of judgement. A place that comes at such an extreme cost. I don’t like the cold. Nor does my head. I find it hard not to dwell in the past as my core temp drops too much. I’ve found my defenses, and try not to think much about snow and storms, or sub-zero temps. They register. They always do, but I fight hard to see the beauty and peace. In the past year I have fled from the house out into the snow and cold. To run till I no longer felt the cold and all its icy triggers. I bound in the fresh powder, alone and free. Nothing but my breath to keep me company. Tomorrow will be no different. I will fight hard and see the wonder, not the horror. I need not dwell in the worst the cold had to offer my soul. Instead I can change and seek a new dynamic with the cold frozen conditions. They don’t have to define my experience anymore. It won’t be easy. I know that. I can try. Snow doesn’t need to be a death knell. Though it once came so very close to being one. Yes, it was one of the worst nights of my life, just as all the other awful brushes with the cold were. They do not define me, not if I don’t let them. It is finding the skill and power to unteather myself from them. So, no a snow storm may never be just a snow storm. I know that. But I can find a way to see the beauty in the clean slate mother nature has created for me.