I’m in love

Summer crashes in waves around us, cool mornings rising into bone-baking heat, quiet nights shaking into riotous days, weeks of unstructured play and family camping shifting into time-demarked camps and faux school.

And I am in love with the season.

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The amazing benefit to having Seasonal Affective Disorder is that summers are downright manic. So while I spend winters in front of a lightbox, forcing exercise, and wearing bright colors to make it through, from May to August I stockpile joy. I’m cramming all the sunshine I can into my cells. So I don’t forget what good feels like.

I watch my children slurp and mangle the melon my grandmother taught us was the single best treat ever grown. Canary yellow rind, orange and green flesh, and fragrant, nectar-flavored flesh not too firm and not too soft. She insisted on calling it Juan Canary long after marketers decided it would sell better with just the word Canary. And from the May-or-June moment I spy it in stores until the moment my children toss the rind gleefully into the compost bucket and grab more, running past me and out the backdoor in our pretend game of “don’t you dare eat another slice of melon, young man, that melon is the legacy of my grandmother and you may not have anymore, dagnabbit,” I am in love with the taste of nostalgia and happiness.

I wake each morning in the cool, already-loud house, stretching my gloriously midlife body and aching back into the eleven-year-old bed and listen to my children navigate what will be the most important relationship of their lives. And I know soon they’ll spend more time with peers than with a mother and brother. And I know my days of influence are waning even now, even while they’re as young as eight and four. I luxuriate in their giggles and teasing because it’s my morning. This time is mine. This place, this body, this family is mine. And none of it will last. Cool will become hot, slow will become quick, giggling will become screaming, achy will become strong and active. And I am in love with the day.

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Visitors from far and near have peopled our days with fun and love. My new camera has captured more than 2,000 images seemingly on its own, for I have been present, breathing in the wonder and the joy and the fights and the mess. Focus pulls fore and back, swallowing mountains and lakes and trees and flowers, always somehow capturing two wild little boys exploring, yelling, learning, laughing. And reading. I photograph them reading because whether they read together or apart, their bodies are still for a moment while their minds race. I am in love with the flux, and I get weak-kneed at the joy of photographing our oscillations.

We went camping as a family and learned that our new, separation-borne calm kindness extends to family gatherings. So we’re doing well as a family that lives in different houses and as a family that takes trips together. And they’re doing well as three guys who develop their own rules and boundaries and rhythms. Once we returned to the house we still share but don’t really, I spent time with a friend, relaxed into myself in the way that work, run, eat, work, sleep, and more work makes parents feel like regular people who can turn off their ears and attention and fetching arms for a while. I am in love with having a self.

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It has been three months since the boys’ father and I decided we have to change a situation that brought out our worst. It’s been two months since he moved into an apartment and we thoughtfully began working out the logistics of getting us both as much time as possible with the kids. I’m up late every night researching and drafting and emailing to hammer out logistics. And I’ll be honest: I don’t like this part at all. Disentangling is a pain in the heart and in the neck. But then I make lunches and bake muffins and work on deadline and wash off my new fancy-pants blush. It’s all going to be okay. Because the days are full of play and photography and mountains and lakes and family and friends and beach and music.

Oh, the music.

Since the house lost one resident, I have been playing music almost non-stop. Old favorites and new discoveries, I have a need for the creative spark and emotional salve that music offers. Two weeks before we decided to change our marriage, I asked the googles for help finding some new music based on my preferences. I blindly bought two CDs, which is something that old people do, usually with a pang of nostalgia that they can’t go to a record store and debate between a tape and vinyl. The CDs languished, unheard, on my desk until I had to send that desk, empty, to its new home. I shifted all my work paraphernalia and personal treasures onto an underused table and nestled it into a corner recently made empty in the bedroom. And I played the first CD.

I haven’t stopped playing it for two months. Both my computer and car play the same CD on a loop. I don’t know why this acoustic-guitar songwriting duo has so captivated me. But only one CD into this new relationship with two younger men, I am in love.

Enjoy your summer. Eat many strawberries and nectarines, splash in some sort of water, photograph those you love, and perhaps invest in a new blush. Just see what happens.

And try some Juan Canary melon.

It tastes like love.

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February

I don’t know what to do with February.

When I lived in Boston, I realized how terribly seasonally affected I am. My first winter I slipped cleaning up after an ice storm, split open my knee, and spent the rest of the winter somewhat immobilized and terribly depressed. When Spring arrived I rejoiced in the mud season, the sunlight, and the new energy I felt.

My second winter I was again low, unmotivated, lost, and sad. I got food poisoning so badly I was in bed for almost a month, and never quite shook the malaise that settled during that month. That winter ended a relationship and left me more alone, cold, and detached. I don’t remember thawing emotionally until at least June that year.

My third winter I had recaptured some of myself. Following a work injury that ended a career, I had reinvested my life in theater. I walked to rehearsal one autumn evening as rain began to fall. In the streetlights, I mistook the rain for snow. And I panicked. Really panicked. Ran three streets until I found a pay phone, and called the airline by memory. “Get me home!” I shouted into the phone. “I have to go home before it snows!” I actually sobbed on the phone then, terrified I might have missed my window to get out, and would now be locked in Boston for the six month depression they call winter.

It took the agent’s confusion and detached professionalism to make me realize I must have a winter-related mood disorder.

So I sought a therapist who prescribed a light box. “Most people need at least 15 minutes a day of full spectrum light,” he told me. “You should start with two hours every morning, first thing. If that doesn’t work go to three hours.” So I woke extra early and read a book in front of my light box all winter.

Damned if the quicksand that sucked me down every waking minute didn’t disappear.

Who knew?

When I moved home to California I kept my lightbox close. Just in case. But our winters are different. It’s not cold until November, and it warms by February. We have a lot of sunlight all winter, and no snow. Overcast days rarely last half a week before we’re treated to bright, if unimpressively chilly sunshine. There are bright days every week and it’s rarely cold enough for down or wool.

So every year, just as I remember that maybe all the carbs and the grouchiness and the panics that make me resolve to go back to school, change careers, rekindle old relationships, and overhaul my house and life might be biochemical, winter’s gone.

And I deeply appreciate the plum blossoms and the paperwhites and the daffodils of early February. I do. I love the hot days that have us all chuckling that it’s rather rude to go from wool to short sleeves in a day, something we’re careful not to post to facebook or tweet or blog about, because how rude is it to note in February how powerful the sun feels on otherwise rough days. (Oops. Sorry Bahstin and Rhodeyeland. Hope you all have power and food and a warm place to shelter.)

But my body still knows¬† it’s supposed to be winter. It knows that we’re not out of danger yet. It knows March might be really dreary. It knows Mother Nature might snatch back all the Spring she has thus far blessed us with.

So I keep a cupboard full of caramel and crackers, the breakfast of SADS champions. I rush to plant the garden but hold back on tomatoes. I greet each sunny day tentatively. Just in case. Tomorrow might rain. Or snow. Or swallow me whole into a world where the sun goes down at 4pm and doesn’t rise until 8am and never actually feels warm and, and, and…

Breathe.

I think the masochist in me is a little glad it’s going to rain tomorrow. Because I really should get out the light box before it’s too late, one way or the other.