It’s been cold in New Orleans lately. The last two nights we’ve had freeze warnings. I don’t think it actually froze, though.
Fortunately the new insulation under our house seems to be making a huge difference in terms of our general comfort level. The energy savings remain to be seen.
I still find cold weather a challenge. My body seems to be deeply offended by any temperature below 70ºF. I’m not really comfortable until we hit 75 or 80º. It looks like we’ll get close to such temperatures again in a couple days, but right now it’s just hitting 40º and it was much colder on the morning bike ride — especially factoring the wind.
When venturing out in the morning, I gird myself my remembering that a) I come from hardy Norwegian stock, and b) I lived for a year by the arctic circle. I even have a photo to prove the latter.
It doesn’t look too arctic in that picture, but it was taken in August.
But back to cold mornings here and now: I bundle Persephone up thoroughly, with coat, hood, mittens and a scarf over her face to protect her tender cheeks from windburn. She’s only got a few minutes on the bike, though; I have a longer ride after dropping her off. It’s really not too bad until I turn off Jeff Davis onto Drexel Drive. That’s always the windiest part of my ride. Not sure why. Maybe the Washington Avenue Canal has something to do with it.
And yet I really don’t mind a cold and windy bike ride. It’s a brief ordeal. I dress appropriately, and I get through it. I’m active and moving the whole time.
No, it’s the sedentary parts of my day that are more of a challenge. When I get into my office my body temperature is usually elevated from the exertion, such that I can’t tell how cold it really is. This morning the thermometer told me it was 61º in here. After an hour or so, my body temperature subsides to its normal level and I really start feeling the cold in my fingers.
I’ve never understood why I have a tendency to sweat when I’m cold, but it certainly adds to the general unpleasantness. Some basic net searches turn up plenty of info about people who sweat in all climates, but that’s not me. I don’t sweat excessively in the heat. It’s only in cold weather that this bothers me, in particular when my feet sweat. Anyone with cold, wet feet is truly miserable. My fingers are cold to the bone. No, I don’t have Raynaud’s. They are just uncomfortably cold, not discolored or painful. And my palms are sweating. What the hell is going on?
When I mentioned this to my podiatrist last week, he made a remark about it being a “sympathetic reaction.” That phrase led me to this:
Also sweating responds to your emotional state. So when you are nervous, anxious or afraid, there is an increase in sympathetic nerve activity in your body as well as an increase in epinephrine secretion from your adrenal gland. These substances act on your sweat glands, particularly those on your palms of your hand and your armpits, to make sweat. Thus, you feel a “cold” sweat.
This would seem to bear out a long-held suspicion of mine — that I’m sweating because of anxiety about the cold. In other words, it’s psychological.
In fact, the name of my second, abortive blogging attempt from way back in April 2003 (a good year before I started this one) says it all: Frigophobia.
The universe is basically a cold place. Heat is a mysterious aberration. No one really knows where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that it is slowly going away. The universe is cooling, and in time it will chill out completely.
This morning it was around 60º F when I left the house. I was wearing a light sweater, a shirt, and an undershirt. After a ten minute bike ride to get to work, my hands were still like ice.
The air conditioning is out of control in my office. It’s so cold we all have to wear sweaters. We all run space heaters in our offices to offset the air conditioning, which cannot be turned off or adjusted by us directly.
I’ve been reading about Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Raynaud’s Disease. Many people have suggested that I might suffer from this, but years ago a doctor told me I didn’t. I’m inclined to trust her diagnosis. The coldness of my hands and feet does not come in the form of attacks. My fingers do not discolor. I do not experience pain.
I don’t have Raynaud’s. I just have cold hands.
My hands are cold. My feet are also cold, sometimes colder than my hands, sometimes warmer. The rest of me is fine.
I used to worry about my “core temperature” dropping. But it is very unlikely that my core temperature has anything to do with it. Indeed, the ability of the human body to maintain the same basic core temperature for many decades is a marvel. I’m not going to freeze solid and die anytime soon.
Two concerns dominate the thoughts of one who fears cold, besides the obvious factor of temperature; these twin concerns are: Moisture and Insulation.
Nothing is eternal. Even the idea of eternity is a fraud. Time is only temporary. The universe is ending, slowly, dying the Cold Death.
Calling it a phobia is probably overly dramatic. But it seems possible that my sweating is caused by anxiety. I wonder where that came from? What’s the root of this anxiety? Perhaps that year up by the Arctic Circle has something to do with it. It was a fairly grim time in my life. In any event, I wonder if I could overcome the anxiety and be more comfortable. It seems plausible but I’m not sure where to start.