Samantha Bennett: At the vortex of an endless winter and tax time

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Merriam-Webster defines “cabin fever” as “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.”

This year’s relentless “Groundhog Day”-style winter has spread cabin fever to epidemic levels. I realize I am not helping when I point out that if you’re feeling particularly desperate and homicidal, it’s not JUST because Jack Frost should really be paying you rent at this point.

It’s also because the above dictionary definition also applies to a concurrent seasonal hazard: tax time.

When I’m not struggling through blizzards of frozen precip, I’m struggling through blizzards of inscrutable Important Tax Documents (1099-OMG), and “extreme irritability” is frankly a charitable way to describe the situation.

The media are only making it worse. First there was the Polar Vortex, which was just a fancy way of saying A Nice Day on Pluto.

Then they started naming all the storms. Does this seem unnecessary to you? It used to be only hurricanes (or their Asian cousins, the typhoons) that merited names, but Sandy was a Superstorm, and now all of a sudden we’re being introduced to Hercules and Ion and Titan … it’s like we’re being attacked by a succession of pretentious Dobermans.

You know who started this? NOAA? No. The National Weather Service? Guess again. No, it was The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel. Our lives are now being run by cable TV, and come summer every passing thundershower or fog bank is going to be Worf or Lion-O or Skeletor or whatever. Also the Golf Channel will start naming holes and Court TV will amend the Constitution.

In the meantime, the media have also given us the term “snow rage.” Because we didn’t have enough flavors of rage yet. Are people actually flinging themselves, screaming, on snowmen and stabbing them with their own carrot noses? I know icy roads have often been a-salted.

(I’m terribly sorry you had to see that. I really am. I’m just — I’m trying so hard to keep it together, praying every day to the snow angels … The nervous punning is just a symptom. I think I may have rage rage.)

A clinical psychologist from Alabama, where they can only imagine how keen Yankees are to put a hit out on Old Man Winter, told Time magazine that cabin fever is “your mind’s way of telling you that the environment you are in is less than optimal for normal functioning.” That’s clinical psychologist-speak for “This is an outrage.”

How do you know if you have cabin fever? The Time article goes on to list symptoms including difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation and “feeling irritated and on edge for no apparent reason,” or what I refer to as “today.”

So what can we do about it? How can we feel better until the snow melts, sometime around Flag Day? I have some Tips for Fighting Cabin Fever.

1. Exercise. Get outside and try some curling, with a real curling iron. (Make sure the extension cord is safe for outdoor use.) This could also lead to swimming.

2. Seek out genuine sunshine. They have some in Florida. You’ll probably have to go there to get it because it’s hard to mail.

3. Use your brain. You could try doing your own taxes. If that’s too easy, challenge yourself — do them with Roman numerals, or in base eight.

I can’t get motivated to do my taxes. I think I feel a cold coming on.

Maybe I’ll name it.

Samantha Bennett, freelance writer:

Samantha Bennett, freelance writer:

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