tulip breaking ground

Are you usually ready for spring?

How do you feel that first warm day when you know the worst of winter is behind you?

If you can’t wait to burst out of the door into the sunshine, you are probably ready for spring. 

What if you need a little time to adjust?

When I first step out without a winter coat, I feel exposed. The same when I put on a short-sleeve shirt–I want to grab a jacket to cover up. And if it’s warm enough for shorts, I feel almost naked when the air hits my pasty white legs. I can’t say it takes effort to step outside so lightly attired on the first nice day, but it requires conscious deliberation.

Likewise, although I’m an avid gardener, I have trouble getting myself into the thicket of my passion in the early spring. Something about stepping out into the yard without the wrappings of winter wear makes me feel vulnerable.

I thought I was alone, but it turns out I’m not.

Not everyone welcomes spring.

I don’t suffer from SAD–seasonal affective disorder–a type of depression related to changes in seasons and exposure to natural light, experienced by most people during winter.

But not everyone has SAD in those cold, dark months. Ten percent of people with SAD experience symptoms in reverse, growing sad or depressed in warmer weather.

In fact, in the UK, suicide rates are at their highest in spring, peaking in April and May.

So, there must be something to this, right? 

Earlier this week, I had planned to do some work in the yard. It was in the mid-sixties, clear and sunny, with a slight chill to the air. Perfect gardening weather. But I kept finding excuses to avoid it. I’d have to dig out my gardening clothes. Find my old sneakers. Spray myself with tick repellant. Slather on sunscreen. Get sweaty and dirty. Nope. I couldn’t do it.

Don’t get me wrong–although autumn is my favorite season, I wait expectantly all year for spring. When the green tips poking through the soil remind me of their beauty to come, it’s like Christmas in April.

But I need a transition period before I feel ready for spring.

I’m not like the arborvitae in my backyard, stolidly green through every season. I’m not like my lenten rose, a ground-breaker through even frozen soil. I’m more of a bleeding heart, tentatively peeking up through the earth after the daffodils, crocuses, and forsythia have bloomed. Like a bleeding heart, I wait until all the other plants nod their flower heads in agreement to say, Yes, the time is right.

I accept that I have to take it slowly.

I get ready for spring slowly.

When it’s warm enough, I first open some windows inside and the fresh air filling the room is all I need. My next step is to walk around the yard and my gardens, assessing what has to be done and what I should tackle first. Then I retreat to the house and flip through garden catalogs, wistfully planning this year’s perennial additions, and plotting a new defense against my nemesis the deer.

Then, with a little push from my inner Martha Stewart, out I go. Once I get started, I can’t understand my own hesitance. There are days that I won’t want to quit. In the summer, I may write about how I’m so obsessed with gardening that the fridge is bare, laundry is a mountain, and a layer of dust as thick and fuzzy as lamb’s ear covers my living room.

Introverts may be slow to warm up to spring. I call it "Spring Exposure Syndrome." Share on X

The best explanation I have for what I’ll dub my “spring exposure syndrome” is that I’m an introvert. My personality is well suited to winter. I’m okay cocooning inside. I actually like it. In fact, I love having nowhere to go and no reason to leave the house for days. If you’re an extrovert, this probably sounds like hell. But if you’re a fellow introvert, you get it.

So every year when spring arrives, I crack out of my protective habitat that has kept me well-nested all winter. I emerge a little shriveled and pale. I need some time to absorb the sun and flutter my wings before I can launch.

Maybe by the time you read this, I’ll be up to my elbows in mulch and compost, happily talking to my irises and allium, welcoming us all to a new year.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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  1. Jack Herlocker on March 20, 2018 at 12:53 PM

    1) Yes, I get the introverted stay inside and veg all weekend approach. My wonderful wife will look at me (when we’re on weekend #4 in a row with something scheduled for Friday night through Sunday) and ask when we’ll be able to just sit on our porch with books and relax; since she does all the social scheduling in the household, I don’t really have a way to answer her.
    2) I also get about losing pieces of yourself as you delete your old website. That’s why I went with a straight cutover when I revamped Deb’s (www.caitlynsadventure.com — are plugs for competitors okay?) so that I didn’t mope about what I was giving up. Pulling the bandaid off in one motion doesn’t reduce the pain, but at least it’s over!

  2. Karen DeBonis on March 20, 2018 at 7:17 PM

    How did I miss that Deb was a writer, and an author to boot? I love her story about the thank you from the royal family! What do you mean by a cutover, Jack? I had just paid for three years of web hosting for my old site when I made the decision to create the new site with a new host. It’s possible that I could get a refund, but for now, I figure I’m in no rush.

  3. Theresa Potts on March 21, 2018 at 1:38 AM

    Karen I haven’t made time to read in a long while and tonight I just happened to make it happen. Your post made me smile and I realized how much I miss interacting with you. I am glad that I can still connect in this way. Blessings.

    • Karen DeBonis on March 22, 2018 at 10:15 AM

      Theresa! So good to hear from you, and thanks for your comment. I miss our connections as well – glad we can keep in touch here. Hope all is well!

  4. aboymom on March 21, 2018 at 7:58 AM

    As a fellow introvert, I understand. Spring always makes me feel like me again, because sometimes winter is a very tough struggle for me, and I try to do too much at once when Spring arrives. It’s very much like coming out of hibernation.

    • Karen DeBonis on March 22, 2018 at 10:16 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Kate. I hope it feels like spring soon for your sake. Apparently it won’t happen in the next few days, but soon, soon.

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