I woke up and flicked the radio on before opening the curtains. “It’s the worst snow in London for 18 years,” said the early morning newsman. “All bus services have been suspended, many trains have been cancelled and schools closed.” I immediately felt upset that my plans for the day had been disrupted. But then, before I knew it, I was up and peering through the window, excited to see the thick white blanket of snow muffling the street.
As I gazed outside I felt myself being tugged in two opposing directions. My more controlling, professional selves were annoyed at the disruption. For them the snow was a real nuisance. I would have to make phone calls to cancel or postpone meetings and change my very sacred schedule! On the other side were my younger, more light-hearted selves, happy at the opportunity the snow gave them to come out and play. If I went with the former, I knew I would spend the day inside working at my computer and frowning through the window at the snow as it continued to fall, each flake piling up more disruption. If I went with the latter, I would use the weather as an excuse to abandon all thoughts of work and take the day off.
Either way, parts of me would be upset. Staying in and working would upset my inner kids and, come the end of the day, they would make me feel like a real spoilsport for not having let them out. On the other hand, taking the day off would incur the judgement of my Pusher and Organiser who would make me feel a good deal of guilt about “wasting my day”. I knew I would have to sweat this choice if I was to stay conscious.
I let these voices battle it out in my head as I had my shower and got dressed. After a hearty breakfast it was time to decide. Putting an arm around both camps I let them know my compromise. I would split the day into work time and fun time. I would deal with the phone calls, rescheduling and some emails first. Then I would go outside with my partner - who was unable to get to work - take a walk and enjoy the snow while it was daylight. In the late afternoon after dark I would come back to work at my computer again. Sorted.
How hard it was to stay conscious! I completed the tasks I had set myself and then, as if on autopilot, found myself writing another email and checking another document and making yet another phone call. The morning was slipping away from me. I heard my Pusher whispering, “Just one more thing, and then go out. Just one….” And at the same time I became aware of the growing upset on the other side: “Are we going out or not? Are you going to keep your promise?” I snapped to, closed the computer, called to my partner that I was finally ready, and put on my boots and coat.
Outside was magical - the enveloping white, the crunch of the snow under foot, the lack of traffic, the icy glow on my hands as I formed the snowballs, the cold drip down my neck as my partner’s snowball hit its mark. Our inner Kids came out to play as we made our way slowly towards the local shops. With schools closed, there were many children and teenagers out on the streets having a great time. Some had built a huge snowman with a carrot nose and apples for eyes. Others were pulling each other along on makeshift sledges.
On the faces of the adults I could see differing reactions to the snow. I wondered how many of them had gone through the same inner dialogue as me. Some fathers were obviously delighted to have an unexpected day off with their kids. Couples walked hand in hand smiling and chatting as they sipped warming cups of coffee - for them the weekend had arrived early! However, the faces and postures of others betrayed different emotions. Gripped by their fearful selves, older people shuffled along anxious that they might slip and fall. Then there were the frustrated businessmen heading with gritted teeth towards the station just in case a train might arrive and carry them late to work. I could imagine their inner voices sounding, “Bloody snow!” “Another day wasted!” “That is all I need right now!”
When we got to the local supermarket I was surprised to see it was packed with people. There weren’t too many smiles, and an atmosphere of mild panic hung over the aisles. Then I realised why. There was no milk on the shelves, no eggs, only a few loaves, no tins of soup and many other basics were in short supply. The lorry that delivers goods daily had not been able to get through. I could feel a part of me starting to kick in, “Quick, we should buy what we can before it all disappears! What will we do if we run out bread?” Here was the part of me that sees the glass as half empty rather than half full. Then another voice told me to, “Just chill. Don’t get caught up in this ridiculous panic buying. There’s plenty of food at home.” I smiled to myself and we left the shop without buying anything.
We continued our walk through the winter wonderland lobbing snowballs and shaking trees as we walked under them to make the snow fall from the branches onto our heads. Darkness was descending as we arrived back home a bit damp but happy. At my desk again I reflected on this snowiest day for 18 years. I thought about how easily external conditions can influence our inner climate. I ran through the cast of characters that had showed up in myself and others: there were the Pusher, the Controller, the Magical Child, the Playful Child, the Fearful Self, the frustrated Business self, the Deficit self, the Easy Going one…
So much snow, so many selves!