Dear Wayne and Wanda,
This winter has impacted my relationship big time. My girlfriend of a few years is fed up with these heavy snowfalls and won’t stop talking about wanting to move. She has always loved Alaska and up until the last few weeks she was super excited about her family coming up for New Year’s. We have a rental in Fairbanks, and they were all stoked about seeing the northern lights.
But the recent snowfalls have really impacted her. She doesn’t want to go out. She’s defeated by the snow load on the roads in our neighborhood. She keeps talking about moving. She doesn’t seem excited at all about her family’s impending visit.
I know this major load of snow is tough and I understand why it’s bringing her down but — this is Alaska! This is why we are here! For snow and extreme weather and all the other things that make us tough and interesting. How can I talk her off the ledge? And how can I get her to find this fun and not burdensome?
No doubt this is a tough time for us all — a time when we have to work for the basic stuff, like moving from point A to B, or being comfortable outside. That’s Alaska for you. All of us who have committed to this place as home recognize that there is a degree of sacrifice. We will absolutely deal with cold weather, bad roads and loads of darkness.
[Anchorage is buried in snow. You have questions. Here are some answers.]
But, we also enjoy buckets of sunshine come summer. No state or sales tax! PFDs! And we enjoy a charming small-town ambiance across a space so wide that we literally have less than one person per square mile in Alaska.
So, gently offer perspective. This winter, objectively, hasn’t been awesome. Lots of snow, lots of interruptions to life. People have been stuck at home for days with driveways blocked by oppressive snow loads. As we hopefully emerge from this, find ways to be supportive and reinforce what Alaska has to offer. Take trail walks, go hunt the northern lights, go ice skating, skiing — reconnect with the reasons you love it here!
Not to make light of your situation, but it’s nice to put the shovel down for a bit, rest my back and simply use my fingers, brain and laptop to dig someone out of trouble. And like the seemingly nonstop, repetitive shoveling of every surface around my home and neighborhood, and pitching in to help friends and strangers do the same, there’s a lot of work ahead for your girlfriend to get out of her slump.
This could be serious. These storms may be her breaking point if she suffers from seasonal affective disorder, depression or both. If so, she’ll need a lot more than your enthusiasm and a week of Alaska extremes to lift her spirits; she’ll need professional help and your understanding.
Hopefully, you and Wanda are right — someday soon, after this crazy daily snowfall ceases, after our daily sunshine increases, and after a few weeks of relatively “normal” winter life in general, your girlfriend’s feelings about Alaska will shift. But it won’t be today, as we all dig out from another foot-plus of powder and our city is at a standstill once again. And it won’t be in a few weeks, when you take someone very upset about Anchorage’s winter on a Fairbanks vacation to stay in a strange home and stand around outside for a few dark, 20-below nights hoping to see the northern lights. What’s the Christmas morning warmup before the New Year’s special? A family snowblower?
For now, we’re all tired of the snow and this strange stretch of winter — even me, and I love love love snow and winter! Many, like your girlfriend and just about any parent of stranded kiddos, are really struggling. So instead of trying so hard to make her love Alaska again, try being supportive and empathetic about where she is right now and where she’ll be in the days and weeks ahead. This is her health and your relationship we’re talking about here. Postpone the northern lights experience for another time, and point that plane south to Hawaii, Mexico or any warm, snowless change of scenery. Good luck to you, your girlfriend and all who are dealing with this wild winter.