Friday, April 2, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes. -- Joseph Addison
There are many benefits to living in Maine. Our proximity to wonderful beaches, fresh seafood and a plethora of outdoor activities, ranging from skiing to sailing, are among those items in the "plus" category. Our relatively sheltered way of life and small town atmosphere create a safe place to raise children. While we're traveling and asked where our home is, people will sigh and picture lighthouses, deep forests, lobsters, blueberry fields and Andre the Seal, upon hearing our answer.The billboard slogan that greets visitors heading north on I-95 reads "Maine: the way life should be".
Yet, despite being able to go to LL Bean in Freeport 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, there is a major drawback to living in Maine: the lack of sunshine for a large portion of the year. Although we don't have to contend with the same shortage of daylight hours that my Swedish friends have told me about, we do have a discouraging lack of sunshine for more than half the year. Given our proximity to the ocean, as well as the northern tip of the continental U.S., we are often shrouded in darkness....from clouds or because of the calendar. The lack of sunshine is okay at first; we learn to create roaring fires in the fireplace, to snuggle under blankets and generally hibernate with the indoor comforts of prolonged coziness. After a while, however, the novelty wears very thin. I find myself sinking into my own black hole of grumpiness and anxiety. I forget how happy I can be in the magical, lyrical days of shining Summer and Autumn ablaze. Especially because we lack a true Spring season (we move from Winter to Mud to the Fourth of July), the desolate and disheartening gray seems to linger interminably.
Despite being a native Californian, I've lived in the east far longer than I did in the west. Yet, a large part of who I am, of what I need to be truly happy, lies 3000 miles away; the sunny skies of the southwest. When the winter blues turn toxic, I know that, for my own benefit, I have to slip away from Maine's foggy shores to rediscover the cheerful person I am. It's as if the low cloud cover not only encompasses my home, but my very soul. I forget to count my blessings. I have amnesia regarding the state of my spirit. I lose my zest and become a winter sloth. By traveling, I'm able to allow the parts of my personality, that I'm proud of, to reemerge. It isn't so much that sunshine creates my level of happiness or state of mind. Rather, sunshine simply seems to call forth the enthusiasm, the friendliness, the brightness and the merriment that has gone dormant. My laughter, so elusive in the depths of both emotional and seasonal, winter, finds its way to the surface once again.
So, what inspires me about the west? My east coast friends cite reasons why I shouldn't like it...the crime rate, the smog and the traffic. The high cost of living. The surface level judgment. Yet, I miss my home state when I'm not there because of many simpler pleasures; going outside to pick an orange or an avocado off the tree. Being able to sit outside, with a good book, in February. Basking in the warmth most days of the year. The generally positive attitudes of people around me who are accustomed to paradise-like days. The fresh foods. The ability to go barefoot and put my toes in the sand. These funny little actions do an extraordinary amount of good in my drizzle covered soul.
I've come to realize that one of my life lessons is to cultivate eternal sunshine within me, regardless of my circumstances. I need to find a way to keep the gloomy, Eeyore days of February and March at bay in my heart. I must discover a path that allows me to bask in the warmth and glow, that the west brings out in me, wherever I am. I need to find the 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and my laughter, even in the midst of darkness. Yoga can help me with this. By maintaining my practice and classes, I can cultivate positive 'light'. Additionally, even when it's cold and dreary, I need to find additional methods to brighten my day internally. The one way that appears to assist me the most is helping others...by volunteering, by encouraging those who are suffering and by making a difference in my community, I feel the sunshine welling up within me. Even if I can't change the weather, I can certainly be the sunshine for someone else....and in doing so, perhaps I'll bring that light to my own heart, as well.