The snow, ice, and frigid weather we’ve had so far this year have already caused me to change my plans several times. When I hear words like “snow emergency” and “travel advisory” on the news, especially when they say we shouldn’t go out unless we absolutely have to, I reevaluate my plans and priorities. That doesn’t mean I always stay home, but it does mean that I give it some extra thought. And I’ve come to realize that this is another way in which we show – or see – what’s really important to us.

A temperature of 9 degrees below zero didn’t keep me from going to the grocery store one day, but on another day, 4 below was enough to make me stay home instead of going to work out.

I haven’t skipped Mass because of snow or cold, but I recently stayed home from another religious service I was planning to attend on a morning when it was still snowing after an accumulation of several more inches during the night. That one would have required a much longer drive than the one to my church, however, and that was an additional consideration.

Below-zero temperatures didn’t stop me from getting together with a friend I had planned to meet for dinner, but we did change our choice of restaurant based solely on how far we might have to walk from the parking lot to the entrance. And I stayed home from a play I was really looking forward to attending last weekend when the person I had planned to go with called and said it had taken her 45 minutes to get home from running an errand to a place that was normally ten minutes away. Both of us said that we’d still go out if the other really wanted to, but we wouldn’t be heartbroken if the other one preferred to skip it. We ended up skipping it.

But the next day, when I woke up to a weather report that included sub-zero temperatures and additional snowfall, and a traffic report that included extra-long commutes, a warning about icy patches on the road, and a listing of locations where cars had spun out and landed in ditches, I still got up to drive to a meeting near the airport that was scheduled for later in the morning, because it had to do with one of my projects in Uganda and would have been difficult to reschedule.

Sometimes when I change or cancel plans because of foul weather, I feel like I’m being a wimp. I grew up in Chicago, after all, and have lived in Minnesota for almost fifteen years, so cold and snowy weather is nothing new to me. Other times, I question whether I’m using the weather as an excuse to stay home. But what it really comes down to is priorities. And the level of risk, discomfort, or inconvenience we’re willing to go through in order to meet them.

I suppose the same could be said about anything we do. Whenever we take on a new project or problem, or get involved in a new relationship or situation, or even when we’re going through our everyday lives and normal routines, we may face threats of “bad weather” and slippery conditions along the way. We can anticipate and evaluate them, adjust our schedules and actions in order to accommodate them, and perhaps decide that they’re not worth the effort and we’re better off just staying home and avoiding them entirely.

Sometimes this is the wise and prudent thing to do. Other times, it means we’ll miss out on something important or enjoyable. It’s not always easy to tell which is which, and it’s something everyone has to decide for themselves.

So, for the rest of the winter and the rest of my life, I’ll try to remember the rules and guidelines that can keep me safe, yet productive, in foul weather or other treacherous conditions: Pay attention to any relevant warnings and cautions, and plan accordingly. Keep the gas tank full, and pack any emergency supplies that might be needed. Allow plenty of time to get where I’m going. Be willing to change or cancel plans if it’s warranted, but don’t be too quick to do so.

I’d like to offer you the same advice. Stay warm. Stay safe. Be careful and vigilant. But don’t let foul weather – or anything else – keep you from enjoying life and experiencing whatever opportunities are just up the road.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 12, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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