The sixth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders should include the following criteria to assist mental health professionals identify a New Englander suffering from winter:
• Arrogance. The descent into winter is marked by cockiness. Red flags include a post-Thanksgiving braggadocio, sparked by the confidence that comes after successfully deep-frying a turkey. Subjects who cite the Farmers’ Almanac and/or global-warming trends should be closely monitored. Anyone boasting about their new snow blower, their reliable plow guy, or the cross-fit exercises that have prepared them for shoveling are among the most vulnerable.
• Distortion. By the first weekend of December, subjects misunderstand themselves to be the stars of their own show on HGTV. The title of each of their shows is the same: “The Decorations on the Exterior of My Home Are The Real Miracle of Christmas.” Watch for people whose electricity bills quadruple during the month, and whose foreheads, necks and wrists are nicked with the pinpricks of ant-size light bulbs. Once they start complaining that their white “twinkly” lights would really “pop” if there were snow to serve as a backdrop, recognize that your only option for a happy ending is a medical conference in Arizona that lasts until March.
• Confusion. December ends. Santa managed to land and depart with just a dusting of snow on the lawn. People worry about how the mountains will fare through the season. Grocery shoppers clog the aisles with clucking conversations about the warm temperatures. Half of your friends remark that hey, they’ll take it over the alternative. The other half of your friends hate that half. It becomes awkward, but it passes because everyone’s focus returns to wondering where the snow is.
• Reassurance. It snowed! A big storm! A plowable storm! Now everyone pretends that “plowable” is truly an adjective, and is a positive one at that. Schoolchildren rejoice when the first snow day is announced. Parents talk about “spending the morning in our jammies” and about the hot cocoa everyone enjoyed after building a snowman. Everyone hums “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and chuckles knowingly. This is Maine, this is winter, and of course we want to build a snowman!
• Euphoria. IT SNOWED AGAIN! This is so amazing! Snow is a gift from the sky, like rain in the desert or bubbles at a sing-along class for toddlers! Two snow days in a row give us so many options for Facebook and Instagram posts! Here are all the cozy ways we spend our time when we are snowbound! Look at how the snow has partially blocked me from exiting my house using the door! I spent six hours shoveling my driveway, but hey, I’m a New Englander and did I tell you about cross-fit?!?!
• Fatigue. Did you see how you got swept up in the stages of reassurance and euphoria, and you’re the mental health professional? That’s the power of the riptides of this emotional arc. Regain solid ground and be prepared for the stage that begins when it snows – a plowable snow – for the third time in a week. The sights and sounds of this stage include moaning and near-religious protestations to the skies. Shoulders stoop, eyebrows sag. Even the shovels look tired.
• Desperation. By now, the sound of a plow truck will cause a Pavlovian response. Specifically, at the sound of metal scraping pavement, subjects will immediately return to bed. Outlook calendars will provoke uncontrollable periods of crying. Some will insist the walls are actually caving in around them. Children find themselves with permission to watch multiple movies a day, usually one right after the other. No one bothers with snow removal anymore.
• Psychosis. Proceed with extreme caution. Soon after desperation hits, subjects lose all grasp of reality. The truly afflicted blame weather forecasters for every flake of snow, taking any sort of accumulation as a personal attack and threatening revenge by way of channel-changing and/or criminal activity. Many announce they’re moving to Florida, ignoring the utter lack of transportation available to get out of their ZIP Code. Everyone forgets to take their boots off before bed. The only treatment is to sing the children’s song about the four seasons, as a gentle reminder that spring will follow winter. Hopefully.