A few unusual ideas for beating winter doldrums

Mike Royko

January 21, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

Mike Royko is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column originally appeared in 1981. WE'VE ENTERED the dullest, most depressing time of the year. People suffer from the post-holiday blahs. The miserable weather keeps us indoors. Election excitement is over. Football is winding down and baseball hasn't started. Wallets have been tapped out by Christmas spending and the Social Security bite.

So the question we face is how to glide through January, February and March as painlessly as possible; how to find a way to brighten our spirits and keep busy and make the time fly by until spring arrives.

I've talked to several experts in the fields of psychology, social work, and recreational therapy, and they've helped me put together a list of things to do that will help you through these long, gray months until the sun and the muggers come out again.

Here are some of their ideas:

DRINKING: Getting roaring drunk has always been a remedy for the doldrums, especially in parts of the world that have long, cold winters. In Finland, for example, so many people use this means of fighting off the blahs that the government provides free hangover stations to administer oxygen and massive vitamin doses. So you might consider throwing a log on the fire and becoming absolutely stinko. Every so often, throw on another log, bite the top off another jug, and before you know it, April will be here, all the loudmouthed birds will be chirping and you can take a bath, shave off your three-month growth of beard, throw all the empties out in the alley, stagger outside for a breath of fresh air, and walk down to the neighborhood saloon for a drink.

BROODING: Brooding is so often overlooked as an absolutely great way to pass dull time. And it's something you can do any time by yourself. Just pick out all the things that you hate about yourself; or think back to all the terrible mistakes you've made with your life, things that make you feel guilt and shame. Or think about all the cruel and thoughtless ways your friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors have ever hurt your feelings. Then sit in front of the fire or in a dimly lit room and dwell on them at length. Go over them time after time, reliving each awful and shameful detail. The hours will just fly by. (You can combine your brooding with drinking and have one heck of a time.)

CHANGE LIFESTYLES: By that I mean, you say to your wife or husband and kids: "I have cabin fever -- I've got to get out of the house for a while." Then clean out your bank accounts, move into a high-rise apartment, join a racquetball club, hang out in singles bars, take a loveboat cruise, run amok with your credit cards, and carry on with some attractive but shallow and empty-headed young thing. And in the spring, return home looking dazed and tell your loved ones, "Quick, give me Volume A of the encyclopedia. I've got to look up amnesia!"

WINTER SPORTS: Cross-country skiing has become very popular and downhill skiing is still growing. There are also winter camping clubs, and ice fishing. But I don't recommend any of these. They can give you a heart attack, frostbite, or broken legs. The best winter sport is shooting pool. You meet really fascinating people in pool halls or bars that have pool tables. You can gamble and swear and get in fights and buy and sell stolen merchandise. And even if you're not a good pool player, don't worry. You can play the pinball machines or just hang around. Something is bound to happen.

CORRESPONDENCE: People don't write letters anymore, and they should. It's a wonderful form of human contact. And it's an inexpensive but constructive way to fill empty time -- especially by writing hate letters. So make a list of the 10 or 20 people you hate most and write them long, totally honest letters telling them why you hate them in vivid detail. They don't have to be famous people, although that's always fun. Friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers and old flames will do. If you have illegible handwriting and don't type, then consider cassettes. With a cassette, you can growl, snarl, hiss, shriek, weep and say any obscene old thing that pops into your head.

NOVELS: You might consider writing an obscene novel. Make yourself the hero or heroine. You might be surprised at how well you write, and the colorful ideas you can come up with. Your book could even be published. And even if it isn't, later in the year you can give it to someone -- a friend, loved one, or a stranger to whom you are attracted -- as a birthday or Christmas gift.

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