It can't go on this way.

I realize I have no legitimate right to complain about Washington, compared with some other places. The weather is simply wearing me down. By inches.

I've got a miserable case of endogenous winteritis. Here are some of the symptoms:

SIDE-STREET BLUES: I've shoveled the walk in front of my house almost every day, and there's a new layer of ice almost every morning anyway.

We can't park on our block, or even on the next block -- first, because it's too icy, and second, because even when it's not too icy, it might get that way by the next morning.

That means one or two cans of dog food at a time from the supermarket, assuming one can get to the supermarket. (People are getting mean, too. The other weekend somebody stole my husband's basket at the Safeway because he'd gotten the last of the snow peas.)

I'm getting low on bird food and I don't know what the squirrels will do without my bird feeder to raid. Not to mention the downy woodpecker and the rosy finches. And the starlings.

I sent away for some suet, but the stamp fell off and the letter with the check got returned for lack of postage.

CABIN FEVER: I have a friend who has played every game, baked every cookie, plumbed every creative depth to keep her home-from-school monsters productively employed and unbored. It's one of those generational abysses that can never be bridged. I remember going through the same thing when schools were closed and my kids were still in school. They remember it differently. A young woman I know, two years out of college yet, woke up the other day to hear that Montgomery County schools were closed and went blissfully back to sleep. Only, of course, to sit up an hour later in the stark realization that she was late for work.

ELECTRICITY INSOMNIA: I wake up two or three times a night to make sure the power is still on. It did go off during that first snow (how many weeks ago?), but happily it wasn't so cold that anything froze.

(Of course, I don't know what I would do if I woke up and the power was off. But I wake up anyway.)

A colleague had a real horror story. He was away. His power went off, so his furnace went off. Everything froze, and of course the pipes burst. Then the power went back on and his house turned into Old Faithful.

ICY-ROAD PHOBIA: Then there's the problem of getting to work.

I don't drive when there's ice or snow.

It's not that I wouldn't get where I'm going eventually, or so I think, but my creeping along seems to so enrage all the other drivers that their angry horns and howls of outrage have persuaded me that I must be the chief menace.

And, oh yes, I'm paralyzed with terror, stark and primeval. I can practice relaxation techniques until spring, but snow and ice put me into a constant state of fight-or-flight. And with me, it's definitely the latter.

That means I abuse any friends and colleagues whose route to work even vaguely parallels mine. It's really embarrassing to have to admit this character weakness, and besides, in the general run of things, I simply do not impose on others. It just isn't my thing. Except when it snows.

So on top of all my depression about this weather (my mother and my daughter are both convinced that the Cassadines are behind it all -- those "General Hospital" villains whose infernal machine turns summer into, well, like NOW), I am also consumed with guilt.

Because it's my husband, not me, who walks the dogs at minus-20, wind-chill. Because my friend Hubie drives me to my door, down and up the ice mountain we live at the bottom of, with not just ease, but downright panache.

Because, I admit it, I'm chicken.

I remember when my mother never left the house in snowy weather without a bag of ashes to sprinkle before her as she walked. My sister and I would pretend we didn't know her.

Guess who doesn't go out of the house these days without a bag of kitty litter.

You know, Mom, it's better than ashes.

But now I'm getting low on kitty litter, too . . .