Last week, after I admited to some tough days, my new doctor suggested I read WINTER BLUES by Norman E. Rosenthal. He is a psychologist who was one of the first to focus research on Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD. What an awakening! Memories flooded back of seasonal mood swings.
Sixteen years ago I was on a cross country concert tour with the Gregg Smith Singers. It was February and we spent time in Mexico City before traveling by bus, giving concerts, from Los Angeles back to New York City. It was an exciting trip traveling cross country in a beautiful bus with huge windows and the beautiful winter vistas. Who knew the dessert and Nevada were so beautiful? While driving from LA to San Luis Obispo I noticed how absolutely gorgeous it was and have a photo in my brain, of the hills and architecture along the coast of California. The open spaces and geography were in deep contrast to the East and New York City. As we left San Luis Obispo and drove North on Intersate 5 up the Central Valley, I became more and more alive. I felt an amazing sense of euphoria; I felt at peace and at home. When we stopped in Stockton for lunch, I walked around in a daze. Later that evening at dinner, I called my husband to tell him I wanted to move to California.
Thus started a year of discernment. I continued to keep a journal and noticed that when we left the Chicago area to continue East I felt cut off from the energy I had felt in the West. My mood turned flat, by contrast. Later in the year I made several exploratory trips to Californina to see if a move was reasonable. Consciously, I realized I loved the feeling of space and openness, both geographically and philosophically. Never did it occur to me that the intense sunshine was a huge element in this decision. We moved to California in June of 1998. Our house had windows facing the beautiful vistas, capturing sun all day long. Now, after 14.5 years, I recognize that all the energy I felt back then was sun light. Now, I also recognize that I am not OK with days and weeks on end of grey skies and short days. What to do?
Back to the new reality. For years I have been interested in how the Alexander Technique helps people with mood disorders, especially depression. I have not found much written on the subject and I certainly didn’t choose to be the subject of research on this aspect of the Technique, at least not to this degree. The new reality is that now I have a new opportunity, if I choose to take it on. I can choose to pause and breathe. I can choose NOT to be in denial. I can stop and develop new habits in response to the stimuli of greyness and gloom. Awareness is good; stopping in the midst of the storm is good. And, ultimately, the sunshine will come and the rainbow of blessings will reign. As F.M. Alexander said, “You are not here to do exercises, not to learn to do something right, but to be able to meet a stimulus that always puts you in the wrong and to learn to deal with it.”