One of my kids got in the car after school today and said she felt kind of spacey all day, like she was floating. From the way she described it, and from her demeanor, it was clear that this was not a happy kind of feet-off-the-ground sensation but instead, it was a feeling of being disconnected from reality, ungrounded.
“The weather’ll do that to you,” I said, looking out into the other end of a long, dreary, wet day.
I’m smiling as I write this because I realize that both to my children and to myself, I always respond to mood changes with weather-related explanations. When we’re all in high spirits, it’s because of the perfect, dry sunny day. When we’re dragging, it’s the heat and humidity. When we’re feeling blue, it’s because it’s uber-cold and the sky is grey.
I can’t count as high as the number of dreary days when I have not been able to accomplish anything. I’ve felt listless and mildly irritated, a combination that makes it hard to start anything and even harder to keep focus if I actually do get started.
What I’m trying to figure out is why I was in such a good mood today. Not complaining, just hoping to make a habit out of it.
Unlike a typical dreary day in my life, I did all the things I set out to do; I worked on my novel; I spent an hour doing my French lessons; I worked out on the elliptical machine; I took care of phone calls and errands I’d been avoiding; I played with the dog; I ate healthfully; I got my kids to their afternoon activities on time; I even got in an hour of pleasure reading. All before dinner.
So, what was different? The only thing I can think of that I did, which I normally do not do on dark, drizzly days is that I spent some time outside. After dropping the kids off at the bus stop and taking a quick Starbucks visit (coffee and reading), I drove to the older part of town, parked my car and walked. I stopped to look out onto the harbor and to people watch. I smiled at the other walkers and waved hello to people I didn’t know. I went to a park and took pictures of wet grass, boulders, boats, and a beautiful old rundown castle that looks like it comes straight out of some 19th century romantic or gothic novel. I walked in a leisurely way, unlike the normal walks I go on where it is all about getting somewhere or getting some exercise.
And then I went home. And did my stuff. Joyfully.
My instinct is to cuddle up under a blanket on damp, dark days and only go out if I have to run an errand or transport a kid. And even then, I rush from house to car in an attempt to stay reasonably dry and warm. Yet that response almost always leads me into a slow day, in terms of brain and body movement, a day that ultimately would have been better spent sleeping than continually forcing myself to start something, to focus, to finish whatever I’m doing without taking a break to nap or snack or play games on the computer.
There are times when the cuddling under a blanket during bad weather is a truly satisfying experience. But that is usually in the evening, with my family around, and the rain pounding on the roof. Looking back, I can’t recall a single time when I spent the day burrowed into a spot on the sofa, alone, that doing this made me feel better. In most cases, the inertia, the inactivity pushed me further into that place where I lose interest in moving forward with my day.
Every day, I learn something new. Now if I can remember, on the next dreary day to go outside and interact with it, maybe I will be one step closer to finding the joy that I’m quick to push away if I perceive the things around me as being less than perfect.
I’m curious how many other people avoid engaging with life on dreary days. Do you?
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