I’ve been told the following:
I have an infectious smile.
Ditto my laugh, even though it’s loud.
People love my optimistic, yet humble outlook. “real,”Take control of your life.
I’m leaning into the realness today. As I sat in the basement gym’s sauna, which was a wonderful place to relax and focus, this morning I thought about how I would approach this outdoor column given my current state of mind.
I don’t think I have a positive spin on this, I thought. I’m just taking things moment by moment.
So, in the spirit of sharing about real life and trying to zoom out to find the humor in trying circumstances that are just that — not dangerous for me, not harmful, just uncomfortable — I’m sharing about unhealthy ways I cope with rain.
The rain has continued unabated since mid-July in Palmer, which coincidentally is when I returned to the state after a few months. I’m sorry, everyone. I feel somehow responsible. This is a special mix of superstition and megalomania.
I’ll also say by way of context that this is nearly my third month of living full-time out of our new trailer here in Alaska, so the wall between me and the elements is quite thin. It’s aluminum-thin, in fact, in our tiny, shiny 19-foot Airstream. It’s a dream, yes, but there’s also a bit of a horror film element of the incessant pattering of endless water from the sky. We’re living this way partially by choice, but also because a while ago we decided to rent our house out on Airbnb for the summer and now those chickens are roosting.
In relation to Airbnb, I will share my unhealthy coping strategy No. 1: You can spend hours snuggling up with Airbnb. Nighttime hits, and I delight — seriously, delight — at turning on my little MiFi device, cozying up on the couch-that-converts-to-a-bed with some pillows and blankets, and navigating to Airbnb. I have three. “GTFO” — I’m not unpacking that acronym in print — lists that I apparently created three separate times, and I scroll for longer than I care to admit through sunny destination Airbnbs, adding them to saved lists for a later that has not yet come.
Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 2: Check the weather app to see if there are any changes or slightly better forecasts. In the morning, after another night of the no-longer-soothing-but-slightly-stressful pitter-patter of rain above our heads, I reach for my phone to check my weather app to confirm that it is, in fact, raining. This is the healthy habit of successful people they didn’t tell you about. It warns me that there is a 100% chance of rain for the next hour. I then mutter about the changes in the forecast since last night. The sunrise icon throws me, and I momentarily think that maybe we’ll have an hour of sunshine at 8 a.m. No. I look at the 10-day forecast and take a screenshot. It’s raining, raining, raining. Later, I’ll spend some time scrolling through other forecasts to see if it’s worth heading to somewhere notoriously sunny like, say, Valdez. Homer? Juneau?
Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 3: I tell myself to get up and do better.. There’s an element of truth to this one. I am deeply affected by the devastation caused by the typhoon in Western Alaska. It is likely that this will become more common as the climate heats. My stepdaughter is starting her second semester in hazardous atmosphere quality in Reno, and I feel grief that there is now a legitimate wildfire and smoke season in the Lower 48 Western States. It could be worse, but I keep telling myself. You are safe, warm and dry. Objectively speaking, you have it really good: you have a roof over your head, and you just need to wait out some discomfort until you’re back in your house. Are you feeling down because of the cold? Yes, I’m sorry. It does put it in perspective and it is true on one level. But, I would advise anyone to be aware of context and not let it reduce your own experience. Now I’m telling myself the same.
Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 4: Worrying about the possible ways it could get worse. Like any other habit, catastrophizing can be a habit. I used to worry that I was addicted to worry, and now when I catch myself fearing that the roof will spring a leak, or the truck will cost one million dollars to fix, or I won’t actually make it doing whatever latest thing I’m trying, I do my best to coach myself out of it. So far, the roof isn’t leaking. I can feel grateful for that, and if it changes, I’ll cope.
Finally, because I can’t help myself and my life orientation tends to be upward, I have a variety of healthy ways that I cope. These help get me through and by in a way that brings joy in moments, and assures me I’ll be intact on the other side of this stretch of life.
Painting is my escape. I choose a photo of a sunny or green place to focus on and paint it. Seeing and working with the colors gives me not only something beautiful to meditate on, but it gives me a creative outlet that I’m proud of when it’s complete. It’s taking a discrete step to bring something new into being.
I love to play board games with my spouse and friends. Scrabble is my favorite, but I also enjoy playing Catan. Somehow, Pandemic doesn’t do it for me anymore.
It shouldn’t surprise me that I exercise regularly. I’ve realized recently that exercise for me is just as much about mental as it is about physical health, if not maybe more on the mental side. The only reason I sleep as well as I do is that I get those 10,000 steps a day, through running or walking, and recently I’ve started to lift with a gym membership my husband graciously purchased for us both at the outset of this bout of “van life.”Lifting heavy objects gives you focus and purpose. It is a great way to be immersed in the task, see my progress and feel proud of what I have accomplished.
Finally, the sauna. I go there and lie down in the darkness, feeling warm and dry. It’s a brief, lovely getaway that I carry with me by way of residual warmth into the rest of my day.