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I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for five years, which taught me some things about winter. I don’t claim to be an expert or the most awesome at winter—I mean, I did leave, right?—but I listened when long-time Alaskans talked, and I observed which advice helped the most. For your use and mine, here is the advice I’ve gathered from friends, coworkers, strangers, and the internet, about how to thrive when the days are short and cold.

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On chronic illness (and other disabilities) as perceived imposition

We have this ideal, in American society, of a “low maintenance” person, and I get the sense that the ideal is especially important for women to meet. We should be easygoing. We should not complain, and whatever is offered to us should be enough, should be accepted with gratitude. We must never impose on others. Taken to its logical conclusion, it also means suffering should be done in silence.

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Chronic illness: wrecking all your plans

I’m a good project planner, great with logistics. I had backup plans for my backup plans. But I also had a chronic illness to contend with, and the one place where I should have known to build in extra leeway—the parts involving physical labor and the ability to sleep soundly in adverse conditions—were the parts where everything went sideways. And, oddly, they were the parts for which I’d done the least contingency planning.

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