Posted by: GeekHiker | March 28, 2011

My So-Cold Life

(Yeah, I just made that pun.  Deal.)

I don’t know quite what to do with this post.  I’ve struggled with it for a couple of days now, and every time I work on it the tone comes off as much darker than things actually seem, much darker than things actually feel.  Whether that’s because that’s how things actually are or just the fact that I’m a piss-poor writer, I have no idea.

So let me start by just throwing it out there: I haven’t been feeling particularly “up” these days.

It’s not the weather.  The series of cold storms bringing heavy downpours that have rolled through the Los Angeles region in the past week are something that, to no small degree, I enjoy.  The fresh smell in the air, the clear weather afterwards, the variety of clouds in the sky, the sound of rain on the roof: these I like.

At the same time, it has been the weather.

As is typical with California storms, a mass of cold air has pulled in behind them.  I’ll be the first to admit that “cold” in the L.A. basin, as compared to the rest of the country, is a relative thing, but I’ll remind you: my house, built in the 1940’s, has lath-and-plaster walls and completely uninsulated.  I can usually keep the place about 10 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature outside, so when it’s in the 40’s out there… well, you do the math.

Last week, while taking a practice final exam, the temperature dropped so quickly that my skin became cold to the touch, despite the space heater under the desk.  Needless to say, this is not conducive to the “comfortable study environment” that’s usually recommended.

Of course, given that I was in the process of failing that particular test at the time, the temperature drop was merely contributing to my darkening mood as I stared at the computer screen.  “Someday,” I told myself as I fixed another cup of hot tea, “someday, I’m gonna live in a place with actual frakking insulation in the walls.”

* * *

Ironically, I like cold weather.  More to the point: I like variety in weather, hot summers and cold winters and the whole bit, something that is lacking in the L.A. basin most of the year.

However, I tend to like cold weather more when it’s located firmly and distinctly outside.  Look, I love the Monkey Man jacket I bought for Vancouver last year; I don’t love having to wear it while sitting on the couch watching The Amazing Race.

Being cold inside the house somehow serves to make the house feel empty, as well.  It’s on those nights, when I glance over at the thermometer in the living room and see that it’s showing the low 60’s, that I feel isolated, that I feel alone (which is something I rarely feel), that I feel (dare I say it?) single.  (Not that I particularly want roommates; it’s a long story, but sufficient to say that having lived with a roomie who kept a loaded gun under his pillow (a fact I did not discover until after I’d lived there over a year) has pretty much turned me off from housemates forever.)

We all know that relationships can be stressful, but can being single be a stressful experience as well?  Not the dating and all that, mind you, just the being?

Awesome, just what I need: an additional source of stress.

Not that I don’t have enough sources already, only some of which I can talk about here.  Sufficient to say that all of those sources of stress also manage to suck up so much of my time that it lowers my dating prospects to something approaching absolute zero.

* * *

At least one area of stress and time-suck has ended: the class ended on Saturday.

I did okay in the class, but of course, the class isn’t the exam.  Oddly, I did well on the class tests, but the practice exams I’ve blown completely.  Part of it has been the unbalanced nature of the class: fully two thirds of the material was crammed into the last third of the coursework, and I just haven’t had time to learn it all.  Part of it, too, is that the exam questions are a hell of a lot harder than the course test questions.  I’m familiar with most of the concepts (I do this stuff, lest we forget, for a living), but committing all the material I’m expected to know to memory may well be beyond my capacity.  It’s hard not to look at taking the actual exam, for which I have to pony up the $$ to take, with a feeling of dread.

(And seriously, how awesome is being an adult?  As a kid, you got to take tests for free.  As an adult, you get to pay for the pleasure!  Really, the only thing about being an adult that’s better than being a kid is sex and, well, I’m single, so… whoa, hey, that circles up to what I was talking about above, doesn’t it?  Deep.)

* * *

With the class over, I’ve now gotten the burden of assignments and deadlines off my shoulders, at least.  I’ll take a few days off (well, from the class at least; work still calls) and let the memory rest a bit: taking multiple, required 2-hour practice exams last week drained me (of the will to live!!  Bwa ha ha!  (Okay, not really, I just thought that sounded funny. (No, really, I’m okay, put the phone down.))).

Staring at the screen as I was failing the practice exams thinking “oh, my God, I can’t fucking do this,” didn’t help my mood, though.  I’m not going to lie to you, folks: whether it was stress or exhaustion or whatever, there were moments during those practice exams where I almost lost it.

Problem is, as much as I may want to push all of this material away, I can’t wait too long before jumping back in: the knowledge that I do have is fresh in my head right now, after all.  I’ll need to start preparing for the actual exam in earnest: typing up my notes, making cheat sheets and tables to commit to memory, and starting to take more practice exams.  I’m sure there will be those who would argue that I should take some significant time off now that the class is over, but with the material so fresh, now is the time to push forward, not take a vacation.

Besides, as much as I fear the exam, I also don’t want to be a “would’a, could’a, should’a” and chicken out of taking it.  Not after putting myself through this particular form of hell.

* * *

So, having written all this, I think back to what I said at the beginning of the post: you have to admit, it all sounds a bit dark, doesn’t it?  The feedback loop created by the stress of studying for this exam and the cold & empty house sounds downright gloomy, no?

Except… I don’t know that I feel that dark.  Here and there, perhaps, but not all-day, every-day.  In fact, my emotions seem to run the gamut, from being down to up, happy, sad, jealous, anticipatory, everything.  Which either means that I really don’t feel that bad, or that I’m repressing the hell out of things just to get by.

If I were back in college, I’d probably say that I was depressed and just accepted that diagnosis.  I’m older now, though, and I know that things aren’t quite so simple.  Where does the stress end and the gloomy feeling begin?  How do you determine which side of that line you’re on, or in which direction you’re moving towards or away from it?  How much is just stress, and how much is something more, something deeper?

I have no clue.

So, I do what I can.  Keep my nose to the grindstone.  Keep focused on my goals.  Keep the frakking space-heaters going.

And, while it may not make the place feel any less lonely, I baked up my frozen dutch apple pie from Julian Pie Co., from my trip last fall.

‘Course, I guess eating a whole damn pie isn’t gonna help my dating prospects either.  But at least it’s warm.



  1. How you feel is not like, who you are. Nor are stress and depression like, neighbors with a fence between them. They’re housemates. Stress eats all the cereal and deletes Depression’s favorite shows on the DVR.

    I like who you are. You’re like, that nice guy that I would totally date, except you won’t move across the country for a cup of coffee. 😉 I can’t imagine why. (oh right, because you’re not a crazy person!)

    I agree that you’ve been really down for a while. I know you’re kinda testing out that word “depression” to see it if it feels right for what you’re experiencing, but whatever word you choose, you’re not feeling quite like you. What do you want to do about it, deario?

    • I actually kinda disagree. I know people who are very stressed, but handle it well and are generally upbeat. Yes, there’s always the possibility that they’re faking it, but I’m guessing not all of them.

      What am I going to do about it? The irony is, taking on all this stuff is part of what I already am trying to do about it!

  2. Cheer up GH. Things will get better in time.

    • Thanks for the good wishes!

  3. First, I just LOVE it when you write like this. Just get it out. It reads so… well, genuine? Whatever it’s awesome. Second, virtual hugs from another “so cold life”. Sometimes it sucks, yes, I’m punching in the air with you to the sucking of it, BUT; it’s not all the time, so it could be worst. Lets try to look for the good days, the two of us.

    • Aw, you’re such a sweetheart. Gotta ask, though, does it ever really get “cold” where you’re at? 🙂

      • Cold for our standards, yes.

        I give you that when I’ve been walking around in a coat, I’ve seen tourist from the states strutting in shorts and sleeveless shirts.

        But that doesn’t make MY cold less colder! 🙂

  4. Being single is stressful. Absolutely. I don’t know if it’s the exhaustion of always being semi-on-the-lookout or the continual wondering What’s Next? And sadly, the best way I found to relieve single stress was to hike. Or hang out with other single friends. And it sounds like you don’t have any time for that right now. No wonder you’re dark. Is daylight savings at least helping a smidge? 🙂

    When you have free time, it might be worth doing some explorations of happiness. I’ve read some pretty good books about tapping into happiness – and I think they really helped me when times were tough.

    • I would say DST helped a bit. If I pass this exam, it’ll be proof that I should only take exams when we’re on DST.

      Free… time…? I have heard of these words…

  5. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such a cold and stressful time! I think it’s great that you’re writing about it though, and acknowledging it.

    I think Miss McCracken’s question is super dooper relevant. What are you going to do about it? Sometimes just having a plan to talk to someone, to change something, to do more exercise, heck, even to buy a new heater can help! I’m all for plans 🙂

    One of my friends once told me to write about three great things every day, and just looking for those great things helped my days seem just that little bit brighter, and warmer.

    • Well, I’m still trying to get to the gym three times a week, and squeeze in the occasional hike. I know you’ll hate to hear it, but working full time (plus the bloody commute) is kind of a killer right now!

      Three great things every day? Hmmmm… might be a while before I’m at that point…

  6. I’m not sure what I can do for your stress but I can suggest long johns (base layer for the adventuresome types) to help keep you warm.

    • The sad thing, my friend, is that not only have I worn my base layer thermals to bed (under multiple blankets), during particularly cold snaps I even have to wear my toque!

  7. i love the monkey man jacket!!

    i get what you’re feeling. some of it *may* be depression, and there’s actually a level of comfort (for me anyway) to wallow in my own self-pity, you know “my life sucks” style. as much as i know my life doesn’t suck, and how great it is compared to much less fortunate people, there’s a certain comfort that comes with darkness and pity about ourselves.

    and yeah, get going on taking that test. the longer you wait, the more you have to re-study, and that’d suck even more.

    • The Monkey Man is awesome. 🙂

      I think I know what you’re saying. It’s definitely a factor of comfort, plus it becomes habitual after a while.

      And, yes, I’m studying.

  8. I can relate to the physical cold. Not because I live in UT where it’s actually snowed three times just this week. Rather because I grew up in a house in the “Crescenta Valley” above LA where temps in the winter easily dropped into the low 30s and high 20s overnight. An old house with little to no insulation. A house with no central heating system…just a wall mounted gas unit in the dining room where we all fought to stand (and my dad being a safety freak did NOT allow space heaters). Layers of blankets three feet thick on the bed were not uncommon. Why am I talking in past tense…it’s still like that whenever I go home to visit.

    As for the “cold” feelings…it’s nice to hear you write about them because I think so many people don’t say anything. Maybe they think they’ll be labeled as depressed when, in fact, they are just human. Single or coupled, I think we all experience these ranges of feelings you describe. It’s part of being human. It’s part of connecting to the experience.

    I think it’s possible to experience unhealthy ranges of these feelings for sure, and I think it’s more common when the hustle and bustle of life takes over and you’re missing out on the whole humanity part. And, I think that happens to all of us from time to time, too. It’s why I make a concerted effort to get out into the hills at least once a week (although with work travel schedules it’s been a little less than that lately). The quiet, the scenery, the (whatever temperature) air on my face. Reconnects me to the human part and seems to put all the rest in perspective.

    Don’t fight the feelings…connect with them and experience them. You are who you are and you’re going to feel what you’re going to feel.


    • Thanks. There’s actually a little relief in being reminded that I’m human!

      And, no doubt, with my busy schedule my inability to make it outdoors as often as I would like to of late has played a factor as well. It’s strange, because all of this work is for the goal of making my life more balanced, yet I’m less balanced in the process!

  9. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    It’s almost like this post could’ve been about me, except I live in Oakland, where the cliche is NOT “sunny and 75 degrees year round.”

    Cold house? Check.
    Cold heart? Check.
    Single? Check.
    No daring prospects? Check.

    I just finished an EMT course in December, having had no background to build upon at all. I was very stressed the entire time. And then had to face the prospects of taking the registry exam, which I was SURE I was going to fail (I didn’t). So many people from my class, and even the class before mine, still haven’t taken it. Now that I’m officially certified, I don’t know what those people are thinking waiting so long instead of taking it while it’s fresh.

    Anyway, I don’t really have any advice for you, I just hope it helps to know you’re not the only one who feels this way. I know it helps me.

    • I used to live in SF (went to college there), and I remember the variety in the weather. Most of the area directly affected by the Gate (vs., say, San Jose) never really seemed hot or cold, just various shades of “chilly”.

      And you’re right, procrastination can be a killer!

  10. Julian Dutch Apple Pie > Nearly everything else.

    • LOL – well, I can’t argue the logic of your math!

  11. I think you need something “happy” to look forward to. Maybe your hiking, maybe something new. Set up an online date, just something to look forward to to get you out of the slump.

    And if that doesn’t work, do something for someone else. Get your mind off of yourself. Usually that’s an instant pick-me-up. Whether it’s volunteer work, helping a family member or friend out, be creative. Sometimes getting your mind off of your life brings more happiness into your life.

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