You wake up one winter’s day and you feel like you’ve got a chill running down your spine. Your fingertips feel like they’ve been dipped in ice water and you’ve got a constant need to pull your warm coat closer around you. You check the weather report and it looks like it’s going to be cold for a while. You’re glad you remembered to grab your coat as you rushed out the door and now you have no choice but to walk hurriedly to work, fumbling with your scarf and gloves.
That’s how you feel when you’re cold. You feel like you’re on the other side of the world, yet you’re still in Ireland. You may not even want to go outside, but you have to, otherwise you’ll freeze. You may feel that your life has changed forever, as it’s hard to describe the feeling you get when it’s that cold. You don’t feel like you can ever go back to how things were before. You don’t know how long it’s going to take for things to get back to normal, if ever.
But you don’t want to stay in and hibernate either. So you force yourself to go outside, even though you feel like you’re going to regret it. You wear long sleeves and you put on layers, because there’s no knowing how cold it’s going to get. Your breath turns to fog as you walk. You feel like you’re almost there, when you reach the top of the stairs and you remember that you’ve left your car in the driveway. It’s not there anymore. You’d usually remember to leave it in the garage, but on that particular day, you’d left it in the driveway and you could barely see in front of you, due to the fog. You don’t even bother going back for it. You just drive to work as quickly as you can.
That’s how it is when you’re cold. You feel like you’ve got the flu or something, but you don’t want to show any weakness, so you push on, even if you feel like you’re not moving properly.
It’s not just that you feel cold. You feel different. Like nothing you’ve known or felt before. You feel a sense of disconnect, as if something inside you has changed. You don’t feel like you belong here. You wonder if this is how elves and fairies feel when they appear in front of you in your garden. You feel like you’ve woken up somewhere else and it’s not yet fully formed what it is you need to be doing here. You don’t quite know where you are, but you know you don’t want to be here. You feel itchy and itchy, as though something inside you is trying to get out. You feel like something’s been stuck here, a thorn perhaps, or a hook.
You’re not sure what it is, but you can’t seem to get enough of scratching and clawing to get it out. Once you start, you don’t know where the itchy sensations stop. You feel like you’ve been dipped in liquid nylon and you’re having allergic reactions. It feels like you’ve got bugs crawling under your skin and you want to cry out in pain, but you don’t want to give in to the impulses, otherwise you’ll become a slave to them. The itches are driving you mad.
You don’t notice you’re scratching until you’ve started and you don’t notice how much it’s hurting you, until you’ve worn yourself out. Your skin is red and raw and you can’t seem to stop. You feel ashamed of yourself when you’ve finally stopped, as you realize you’ve been going at it for so long that your nails are now broken and you’ve scratched right into the flesh of your palms. You know you’re not supposed to do that, so you try to take care of yourself better and learn to control your urges. For a while, it’s like you’ve got an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. You pray to one or the other, depending on which one you need at the time.
It’s not only that you feel cold. Your teeth start to chatter and it’s hard to stop. You feel like you’ve got ants marching up and down your spine, you feel their tiny legs under your skin. You want to scream out in agony, but you don’t want to give in to that either, otherwise you’ll end up like Lot’s wife. You try to cover yourself in layers and you put your trust in the fact that it will get warm again. You remember winter and you feel grateful to the cold, for reminding you that spring is on the way, but you know this is just a temporary state you’re in. You know you have to wait for better days and warmer climates. You just have to hold on, until then.
Thrilling, isn’t it? To feel all of this? To understand what it is you’re experiencing and why? To know that there’s a name for all of this and that it’s not your imagination? To know that you’re not going mad?
Try as you may, it’s hard to pin down. It’s like trying to explain a dream to someone else, when you don’t quite understand it yourself. You feel like you’re going to wake up any minute and it will all disappear, like it never was. Like you dreamed it all. You want to wake up and be with familiar faces and warm, cosy surroundings. You want to go back to how things were before, the way you understood it. You feel like you’re going to lose everything that makes you you, because this isn’t how you feel ordinarily. You feel different and it’s hard to put into words.
This is how you describe being cold. Of course, it’s only one side of the story. As you read this, you might think you know what it’s like to be cold, but it’s only from the outside looking in. It’s not as dark and dreary as this, not even close. When you’re deep inside your own head, the fog is so thick, it’s almost impossible to see your own thoughts, let alone the world around you. It can be a lonely place, inside your head, when you’re all by yourself. There aren’t any voices, there aren’t any thumping heartbeats to be heard and it can get really quiet, except for the wind, whistling gently around the eaves. When you go out into the world, the fog clears and you feel the sun on your cheeks. You can almost reach out and touch the warmth of it. It clears the air and makes you feel alive. You can breathe deeply and properly again. You feel like the cold doesn’t belong here, either.
This is how you describe being cold. It isn’t an easy word to put into practice, when you’re feeling it, but it might become easier, with practice. You can learn to control your impulses and you can learn to trust your instincts. It might take a while, but you’re making the right choice and it feels good. You’ve gotten used to the cold and you even look forward to it now. You might not feel like yourself, but you know you have to put up with it, until the day it isn’t necessary any more. Until then, you’ll have to be grateful for what little relief it brings. For now, in this moment, you feel alive and you feel powerful. You don’t know how long this sensation will last, but you feel like you can hold out for as long as you have to.