It’s cold. Yesterday I turned my heater on for the first time since Spring. This cycle is not new, but it feels new right now. It always does at the beginning of winter.

At first, it’s bitter and uncomfortable, and a little sad. I’m used to the warmth of summer and feel reluctant to go outside and face the frigid, still morning air. Winter’s short and dark days show up seemingly without warning, and at first they are unwelcome.

The cold makes me think of Lofoten. Norway’s majestic northern archipelago sits inside the arctic circle and is flooded by the arctic ocean. This is a still frame of me jumping into that ocean’s 50 F water. The instant I hit the water, my breath leaves my body. Splotches of red and white show on my skin as blood retreats from my extremities to my vital organs. Goosebumps. After a few seconds of gasping for air my body is flooded with a wave of heat, perhaps numbness, as my body resolves to get used to its new environment.

The initial shock of the cold is intense, but it wears off more quickly than expected. Everything feels warm after I leave the water and I even have the confidence to jump right back in. All this happens in a matter of seconds.

This same cycle happens, much more slowly, at the onset of winter every year. Days go by and each time I bring myself to leave my cozy bed and face the morning cold, my body gradually gets used to what’s in front of it. After weeks, winter sets in and bundling up to go outside is routine. The cold bite of winter air on my face isn’t so shocking anymore. Resistance towards going outside fades.

The cold makes me wonder about discomfort. What other discomfort feels unbearable at first, but par for the course with a little bit of exposure therapy?

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