When life hands you snow pants

Toddler in snow gear faces an orange winter sunset.
Snow pants. January 2024.

I wrestled my children into them, oh how I wrestled them. For two human beings who don't reach my waist, why did their legs feel interminable when I tried to slide snow pants over them? I pulled and tugged, zipped and tightened, and after what felt like half a morning of effort, I sent the kids stumbling like Frankenstein's monster into the snow for 26 minutes of seasonal fun.

The snowfall came at the end of a weird week for my family, where the bitter cold combined with a Covid quarantine to give us an intense variant of cabin fever. Taking work calls one minute, making lunch for four people the next, staring out the window at a sunny day that belied the frigid temps ... I did it all neither completely nor well. The soft, steady snow on Friday brought relief on multiple levels. I practically shoved the kids out of doors for fresh air and movement, but in truth I was using them as an excuse for my own tiny escape from our rapidly shrinking family room.

My snow pants—bulky, constricting, infrequently used—were faster to put on, if no less awkward. I bought them on severe discount at REI well before I bore two children, so when I slid them this week over my leggings, I had to leave buttons open, snaps undone, zippers half-zipped. Despite the incomplete fastening, however, they stayed waterproof and warm, and they helped make that hard-earned 26 minutes of frolicking much more enjoyable.

When I did kneel in the snow without hesitating, confident that I would stay dry and insulated, I wondered for a moment if the neighbors would see me and think I was resting or praying, maybe silent screaming at an unrelenting sky, when really all I was doing was checking snow pack quality for snowman assembly. Then I thought, who cares what they think? Does it matter? I was comfortable there in my own skin, and my comfort set me free to move as I desired.

If early indicators bear out, 2024 is going to be a weird year for our country and our world (she writes as New Hampshire primary results roll in ... thanks, U.S. election cycle!). Much like my week at home with my young children, this year we as a society will spend too much involved in each other's business, snipe at each other for infractions large and small, and wind up peevish, impatient, obstinate, and coated in Goldfish drool. And that's my best-case scenario. My worst-case scenario involves mistrust, disinformation, active harm, and—god forbid—widespread violence.

Here, I look to my snow pants. When the time came to go outside in inclement weather with less-than-ideal gear, I didn't throw up my hands and claim I couldn't possibly, because I didn't have the right stuff. Instead, I adjusted what I had and learned it sufficed for the task at hand. That's the lesson I have to take forward into this year. Somehow I must find a way to use what I have to address circumstances that discomfit me, because I need to be able to live with myself and my choices. Avoiding tough situations and conversations will not achieve that, but finding the right mix of comfort and discomfort will, leaving me free to move, to act, to speak as I'm required.

Unless I magically return my body to its adolescent weight, my snow pants will never fit well. Nor will I wake up one day this year as a seasoned organizer or influential journalist, ready to redirect the flow of national dialogue. I am working on accepting those realities and also considering that ill-fitting does not mean ill-used. May I have the courage to call on my talents and convictions, meager as they can be, and trust that, like my snow pants, they will be a good-enough tool for addressing a circumstance beyond my control.


Prayer #396: Misfit

A misfit is not unfit for a refit.

Outfit all misfits with benefits unknown, so that misfits' ill fits still befit your love.