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My Seasonal Affective Disorder Is In Remission Until November

19 Apr

Several years ago I self-diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  This past winter, I even had an indoor bout of S.A.D. inside my apartment when, one cold, grey, sad, S.A.D. Saturday in January when the heat in my building wasn’t working, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to get out from under the relative warmth of my covers to walk to the other side of my apartment, and it was too cold to change out of my pajamas, put on a sweater, and like, do something.  Anything.  The cold grey days and long dark nights can just suck all the energy out of me until I don’t even remember that I am person who has a lot of energy.  Or, any energy.

So, when it felt like the first day of spring had finally arrived this Friday, I was delighted to find myself, once again, bursting with energy and restored to my spring/summer effervescence!  For the first time this year, I threw on my open-toe shoes and headed to work.  It was definitely one of those days that you hope the teacher will say, “We’re having class outside today!”, although I’ve found that that actually never happens in the workplace (and also, really didn’t happen that much in college either, despite all those bucolic pictures decorating college catalogs, with teacher and students sitting cross-legged in a circle on the Green, underneath a lush leafy tree, looking contempletive and ostensibly discussing Kierkegaard).  Overtaken with uncontainable giddiness, I started singing “Cool It Now”  with my co-workers in response to someone talking about “Ronny, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike,” and followed up with an encore of  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  Or, OK, maybe I was just singing by myself…

And then, Saturday arrived and ahhhh that first sunny, warm weekend spring day…  When I am in a really good, sometimes weather-induced, mood, I will blast music as I walk down the street or take the subway, and imagine myself to be in The Music Video of My Life.  My current music video is to the song “My Love” by The-Dream f. Mariah Carey (complete with trademark Mariah Carey high notes a la the early 90’s).  I bounded out of my apartment building and onto the sunny Brooklyn street with this song blaring, and, realizing that it was too hot to be wearing a sweater, dramatically peeled off my cardigan to the rhythm of the musis in a move that could have been in “Footloose.”  When I take on stairs in Music Video mode it always elevates the grooving to a new level, and as I descended into the subway, my steps took on the quality of that stair scene in “Dirty Dancing.”  I was in such a great mood that I couldn’t help but shake it, and then the shaking it put me in an even better mood, and it turned into this R&B snowball effect of positivity until I was bursting with so much energy I was barely able to hold myself back from like, full-out choreography and kinda thinking that everyone else on the subway platform just might join in the routine.

With months of fun-in-the-sun, increased levels Vitamin D, tank tops, open-toe shoes, sundresses, ice coffees, outdoor dining, leisurely strolls in the park, lush leafy trees and blossoms a’ bloom, and maybe an R&B soundtrack, sprawling out warmly in front of me, I am happy to report that my Seasonal Affective Disorder is officially in remission until November, and I have a new self-diagnosis:  Spring Fever.  And it’s highly contagious.

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam

Open-Toe Season

10 May

Me, in No Shringking Violet

What marks the official beginning of spring for me is not the Vernal Equinox on March 20th/21st, but the first day I can wear open-toe shoes.  I am a free spirit who feels seriously restricted in closed-toe shoes, as if they represent all that is binding, constraining, and limiting about our society.  If I had my way (and it didn’t put me at risk for Tetanus), I would probably walk around barefoot all the time.  The second I get home, the shoes come off, and I feel free, liberated, and expansive once again.

I get really enthusiastic about opening the toe early on, often too early, which usually results in me being cold from early March until about June, when the warmth of summer evenings finally supports the bareness of my feet.  But this is a small price to pay for the freedom of running out to do a quick errand in a flip-flop, or the cuteness of perfectly manicured toes in a sassy open-toe pump.  Plus, I love my toes.  Some people have feet issues, and there is plenty that I am insecure about, but not my feet.  I pamper them year-round and keep them pretty and open-toe ready in colors like “Foot Loose,” “Fruit Sangria” and “Turning Heads Red.”  I am such an enthusiastic supporter of open-toe shoes that in some circles, I am even known for my trademark flippy-floppy sound as I walk/run (depending on the urgency of a given situation) down the halls at work, announcing my arrival. 

I pretty much thought that everyone was excited about the toe-opening that spring brings, but this season, I realized that there is an anti-open-toe faction, led by a male co-worker of mine, who I will hereafter refer to as MC for Male Co-Worker, and also because it has a rapper/dj vibe to it, and lastly to protect his identity in case he is not ready to go public with his strong anti-open-toe-footwear stance quite yet. 

One day, when I was feeling quite happy and satisfied with my footwear, MC remarked that he thinks open-toe shoes should not be allowed in New York City and that they are “disgusting.”  (I’ve since confronted him about this disgusting comment and he now claims to have said “disappointing,” but if something was only disappointing it barely seems worth mentioning and then bringing up many times subsequently, and is not nearly strong enough of a word to go with his strong feelings on the matter, and plus, I have a witness who can corroborate my story, and also heard him say “disgusting.”)

At which point a female co-worker (FC) countered, “I think they’re sexy, don’t you?” and then the crickets started to chirp and we all got back to work.

After further investigation into MC’s open-toe hatred, what it comes down to is not that he finds the sight of pedicured toes revolting per se, but that he doesn’t think open-toe shoes are the practical footware choice for the urban environment in which we live (his exact words: “Open-toe shoes are the scourge of our society,” which I wrote down immediately after he said it to avoid another You say disgusting/I say disappointing scenario), and that the more urban-appropriate, closed-toe shoe “protects (one) from the elements and the grime and plague that percolates from the streets of New York.”

I have to concede that I see his point, and when caught in an unexpected rainstorm while wearing flip-flops, I cringe if I accidentally step in a puddle pooling on a street corner, trying not to let my mind go to that place that wants to analyze the components of New York City street ickiness that could potentially be living in the run-off.  Just the other day, I was dashing across 49th Street in my delicate open-toe heels when I looked down to see a layer of dried sludge coating the pavement, and my right ring-finger toe dangling precariously off the sole of my shoe and grazing the muck. 

Behind the scenes, getting open-toe readyWhen I returned to work, I shared my experience with MC to let him know that I was open-minded enough to understand the reasoning behind his hatred/revulsion of my footwear, and he comforted me by suggesting that perhaps the dried sludge was “the Bubonic Plague.”

MC has said that if he had his own company, open-toe shoes would be forbidden, but “there would be other benefits of working at (his) company that would make up for this.”  Which would pretty much have to be an on-site spa and two-day workweek in my opinion, to even come close to making up for these restrictive footwear regulations.

I won’t be submitting my resume there anytime soon, and in the meantime, you can hear me coming, flipping and flopping from down halls and around corners, “Foot Loose” and fancy free.

When It Rains It Pours

28 Apr

Admittedly, today was a total gloom-a-thon.  I worked from home for 9 months last year, and my first thought when I woke up was:  “I wish I worked from home today,” and I longed to spend the day in my pink velour drawstring pants, pink fuzzy socks, and (yes, pink) hooded sweatshirt, put on a pot of coffee that would make my whole apartment smell like “heaven” (aka Sumatra Starbucks coffee beans), and curl up under my covers with a book, John Mayer’s “Continuum” playing softly in the background, while the rest of the world trudged to midtown through slushy subways, getting whacked with people’s drenched umbrellas, winter white pants turning dingy gray and sticking, soaked, to their legs.  In fact, when I did work at home and I woke up to a day like today I would think to myself smugly:  “Damn, I’m glad I work from home and don’t have to go a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e today.”

But.  What are you going to do?  A)  There’s nothing you can actually do to change the weather and B)  April showers bring May flowers, right?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how, on a beautiful day, some people will focus on how it won’t last and complain about that, rather than bask in the brightness of the actual (nice) day.  This morning, on the elevator to work, I overheard this dialogue:

“I can’t believe it’s pouring.”

“That’s how it goes, it’s nice when we’re at work and not on the weekends.”

“We only had one week of nice weather and it was cold this weekend.”

Then they got off the elevator and I continued on to my floor, rolling around and taking apart what I had just heard.  I had two main problems with it:

A)  It doesn’t make sense.  Lamenting that it is only nice weather when we’re at work during the week while complaining that it is pouring outside.  While we’re at work.  During the week.  So following that logic they should have been saying:  “It’s raining and crappy outside but we’re inside at work!  Yipppppeeee!  Save the nice weather for the weekends, Baby, and bring that stinkin’ downpour while we have to be inside anyway!”

B)  We only had one week of nice weather (?!).  What????  Like we only get one week of nice weather in 2008 and we used it up so it’s gray skies from here ’til December?

And OK, my third problem with it which is C)  I remember it being gorgeous and summery on Friday, and warm-ish on Saturday, so “it was cold this weekend” doesn’t entirely nor accurately capture the reality of things.

It really got my goat, as these types of conversations often do, because they are about more than just the weather.  This casual Monday morning elevator conversation mirrors the default setting of society at large, which is to focus on the negative.  Even if there are a million magnificent things going on, that one negative sucks us right in and holds our gaze, as all those great goodies are jumping up and down, trying to get our attention. 

How can you complain that it’s raining while simultaneously complaining that the weather is always nice when you’re inside at work and you miss out on all the good stuff?  There is a vortex in those statements to find a place for the positive – like, for instance, it’s raining but it’s a workday anyway so you’re not missing out on frolicking in the park. 

Or, it’s a rainy day, so there is water pooling in my boots, my commute just sucked, I got whacked by 3 umbrellas whose owners had no sense of where they/their umbrellas end(s) and I begin, my hair is frizzing, my pants were white but now they’re spattered with gray splotches and sticking to my legs, but, it’s kinda cozy.  I feel kinda contemplative.  I’m treating myself to a hot chocolate, or an extra cup of coffee, or a steaming mug of tea, and I’m gonna plug in my headphones and listen to my Norah Jones cd all day long.  Tonight when I get home, I will be so happy to be home and appreciate my bed and blankets like I never would on a sunny day.  I will hang my work clothes out to dry, and curl up in my drawstring pants and fuzzy socks, and listen to the pitter patter outside my window, and the cars whish and slosh by. 

And, another positive:  rainy days are always good days to write.

The moral of this story is twofold:

A)  When everywhere you look is gray and gloomy, and this is starting to feel like a default setting, look somewhere else and see what you see.  It might be a whole different landscape.  It might be a surprisingly colorful vista.  Or, you might turn just a hair to the left and see all those goodies jumping up and down, desperate for your attention and think, “How the hell did I miss those guys?”

and B)  Don’t complain about the weather in front of me because it annoys me and I will blog about it!!!

Just Enjoy It!

16 Apr

Last weekend was supposed to be cold and rainy and I had planned on spending Saturday filing.  Or.  Avoiding filing.  But I woke up to a room filled with sunshine on Saturday morning, and my apartment was a little almost-hot and stuffy, like that temperature it gets when you know it is time to put your air conditioner in your high-up window, no matter how scary this prospect might be, or how much it reminds you of the story your 4th grade teacher told about what happens when someone drops a penny, a penny, off the top of the Empire State Building, and forget the fact that your apartment is not actually that high up (or that time of year to call your handy neighbors and ask them to put your air conditioner in for you while you “supervise” and provide “moral support”).

Anyway, as someone who has self-diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (me), spring and summer are really my seasons; I am a much better person in these balmy months, and I was totally psyched about this unexpected sunny turn of events.  I bounded out of bed and took a nice, bask-y type of stoll through the beautiful bright Brooklyn streets, ambling to the bank to take out some cash for my morning Starbucks/reading/writing ritual.

I approached the bank door at the same time as this other women did, and she said, sort of to me, “I hate this weather!” 

I did a double take.  WHAT was she talking about?  Did I hear her right?

“What?” I said.  “It’s gorgeous out!”

“Yeah,” she explained, “but then tomorrow will be cold and rainy again.  It’s one day nice and then back to being cold.”

OK, I’ll admit that this winter, while not particularly chillingly cold, has been dragging on for a particularly chillingly long time, and it would be nice if it would just get warm already and then, stay that way. 

However, this was the farthest thought from my mind on Saturday, when it felt like (could it be?) it was in the 70’s, and perfectly, perfectly sunny.  I leisurely strolled through my morning errands, went for an invigorating run in the park for the first time in a year (the last consecutive 12 months calculation, not the kind of year that started in January), got a flavored ice coffee with a splash of whole milk in it, ambled to the park with a good self-help book in tow where I sat on a bench and read, people watched, and basked some more, got a cup of ice cream that turned out not to taste very good but that was neither here nor there because I could eat it as I walked outside, basking in the warmth of the sun still some more.  When inside my apartment at intermittent intervals throughout the day, I threw open my windows, turned on the radio and blasted  pop music, and took in deep, full breaths of the warm, sweet, summer-smelling air.

But on one of my ambling strolls, I encountered this negativity phenomenon once again when I passed two women and overheard one say wryly to the other, “Enjoy it while it lasts!”


I wanted to turn around and scream at them:  “Just enjoy it, period (exclamation point)!  Just fucking ENJOY IT!!!”

But I didn’t.

I am one to skip out of the present moment and leapfrog into some future imagined catastrophe (and perhaps I would benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a result of this, as I recently learned that it addresses changing patterns associated with catastrophic thinking, but this is somewhat besides the point).  In fact, to bring this back to my AWESOME NEW CELL PHONE, this is something I did this weekend when I was setting it up – I imagined it was going to be a huge, complicated ordeal and that my phone wouldn’t work, that it would be a faulty, broken, useless phone sent to me (deliberately?  maliciously?) by Verizon, and that I would then have to go through this whole (imagined) rigmarole to replace it.  And then I accidentally put the battery in backwards and my phone didn’t work, which was somewhat, if not totally, a self-created, self-fulfilling prophecy. 

But this is one of the things that most annoys me about myself.  And it most annoys me about our society.  Something totally phenomenal could be happening in the present moment and people are already out of that fantastic, glimmering moment and onto:  “It’s not going to last!  Better get ready and brace yourself for how shitty it is all about to get!”

It’s like, when you ask someone how they’re doing and they’re like, “Getting by,” or “Making it through,” or “You know, I’m surviving.”  Don’t we want to do more than just get by, jumping from one anticipated disaster or shitty circumstance or cold, rainy day to another, without taking any time to stop and smell the roses on a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day?

I’ve been checking the forecast, and it’s supposed to be 74 degrees on Friday.  I’ve already picked out my outfit; I’m going to wear my black summer sleeveless sundress and open-toe shoes, and I have plans to meet a co-worker at lunch and I anticipate that we will sit outside on a bench in midtown Manhattan, sipping ice coffees and basking in the sunshine.  And I don’t care what the forecast has in store for Saturday, I haven’t even checked.  But either way it won’t take away my enjoyment of warm, sunny Friday, even if Friday turns out to be not so warm and sunny, which would be annoying, and then I’d have to last-minute pick out another outfit that morning, which could throw my already precarious morning groove off (I’m so not a morning person) and possibly cause me to be late-ish to work, but this would not be a catastophe worthy of devoting any advance time to dreading.  And it won’t take away from tonight when soon I will throw on my winter wool coat over a spring top because there is a chill in the air, and meet a friend for dinner and drinks, and not think about to do lists and errands and things that could go wrong and phones that could break, or potential cold rainy days in the future, and instead choose, make the choice, to just enjoy it!

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam