Friday, July 22, 2011

Sunshine paradox

Right now it is really hot where we live. I used to refer to this kind of heat as *Africa hot* because I always imagined it didn't get any hotter than Africa judging from the pictures. But living in Washington DC and all those State Department families, we now have several friends who have lived in different parts of Africa. And they inform me it isn't this hot there (note: yes, I'm talking to you Kathleen. Thanks for ruining that for me). So that leaves me with referring to the heat as *almost as hot as the surface of the sun*. I am confident that living here it is just a matter of time before we meet some family who have lived on the surface of the sun and I will have to abandon that simile as well. Never mind - it is just freaking hot.

It is too hot to go outside, even at night when the sun goes down. It is too hot to go to the pool because the thought of leaving our air-conditioned home to get into the car and drive there and then walk from the air-conditioned car to the front door of the clubhouse is unbearable. And there is a good possibility that during the 15 minute *safety break* each hour someone will spontaneously burst into flames. Today I made my children toast for lunch. Why? Because I didn't want to turn on the stove to make mac n cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich, or any other *and cheese* food item that involved heat. And because my brain is so addled by the heat that I took the path of least resistance. Unfortunately we also ran out of bread after they ate five pieces of toast each so I will have to think of something else for dinner.

But this sitting inside at home, prisoners of the heat, touches on a fundamental flaw in my belief system that I haven't been able to shake in the 14 years that we have lived in Washington DC. This is the belief that because the sun is out you should be outside enjoying it.

I grew up in Seattle. In Seattle it is fairly straightforward. When the sun comes out you drop whatever you are doing, even if means leaving work, or school, or rescheduling critical surgery, and GO OUTSIDE. It doesn't matter what you do outside - run, walk, play with your dog, sit in a chair and read a book, lay down a blanket and have a picnic. For the love of god, just go outside and enjoy this fleeting bit of sunshine while it lasts. This logic works in Seattle for two reasons. First, since the sun will only shine for a very brief period of time it isn't like you are losing any productivity inside. And two, when you go outside to enjoy the sun the temperatures are conducive to it. These are two fundamental truths that I can't quite let go of.

In DC the sun shines. A lot. It shines a good part of the year. The difference is that it shines in the winter - when it is only 20 degrees outside. It shines in the summer - when it is 102 degrees out (like today). Neither of these temperature are conducive to being outside and enjoying yourself for very long. And truth be told, I am much more likely to go skiing all bundled up in a million layers in the freezing cold (but sunny!) as opposed to going outside for an extended period of time in 102 (but sunny!).

So herein lies my problem - the sun is out (yay!) but we can't go outside (boo!). This paradox, combined with my Seattle roots creates internal chaos and tremendous anxiety. Because despite living here for 14 years, whenever the sun comes out, as it does most days, there is a little voice inside of me that says *we must go outside NOW because who knows when this will come our way again*. It physically pains me to look outside and see that glowing orb and know I can't be a part of it. It gives me hives to let my children turn on the television and watch it all day long because there is nothing else to do, as though it is 50 degrees out and rainy. Every once in awhile I will get a burst of inspiration and make the kids take the dog on a walk. We make it about three houses away before even the dog is complaining.

So any year now I am hoping my mental crisis will pass and I will come to accept that it can be sunny and crappy at the same time. That one day I will be okay with having my children turn to piles of goo in front of the television because no one has the will to live anymore, let alone come up with an idea to do something else. And one day it will be sunny *and* pleasant outside, and we will be able to enjoy it to the fullest extent possible. I just hope my kids don't object to not going inside for the entire month of October.


  1. love this. painfully true. good thing you don't live in Colorado where everyone goes around saying, "Here in Colorado, we have 300 days of sunshine per year," and I keep thinking, but I don't want to go out when it is Titanic iceberg temperatures even if it IS sunny!


  2. Haha, I am the same way, but I grew up in the South so usually the heat doesn't bother me. I absolutely hate winter so I feel like, living in Missouri where we get cold winters and hot summers, that if I am going to complain about the cold, I refuse to complain about heat. I spend 4-5 months out of the year pining for summertime, so I refuse to talk smack about it. Except, man its been pretty warm out these past couple of weeks...