August 7, 2015

Just Another Day

Yes, it is just another day here in sunny and oh, so very HOT Phoenix. Our weather forecasters promised showers this morning, and instead, I look out my window and see blue skies with white puffy clouds in them. Okay, so that is a change from our boring NORMAL sky. Usually, we have blue skies with no clouds at all, so I guess I should be happy to have partly cloudy skies today. Still, I know that those clouds will not do anything, will not bring showers to help cool us down. I know this because our normal weather pattern when we have a weak monsoon season is just like it is this year -- hot and sunny with little to no chance for rain. It is not so in other parts of the country. In fact, where my friend lives in the South, I would guess that it rains at least several times each week. It seems that the forecast is always calling for showers and storms (current stats show that in this region there are an average of 200 days with sunshine in some form or another). Sigh!

It is just another day -- like all the rest that have preceded this one -- and like all the rest that will follow. I know, I am sounding depressed, and while I wouldn't say I am depressed really, I would agree with you that I am feeling a bit down and blue. Yep, I would definitely agree that the blues have arrived this morning, and it is all due to the perpetual sunny skies!

In the Pacific Northwest, there are people who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines sad as "a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year" They write on their website, "If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer."

Curiously enough, people who suffer with this disorder are treated with sunlight therapy or phototherapy. The Clinic advises individuals who feel sad at certain types of the year to not, "brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year." I wonder what they would recommend for me, for someone who has a reverse case of SAD. I don't need sunlight therapy, I need rain, clouds, and gray skies to help check my mood!

Mood and Motivation

I don't know about you, but I suffer from moods that zap my motivation. I would characterize myself as being a moody person but not in the way that most people think. I mean, when I think of a person with moods, generally, I think of someone who is very disagreeable all the time. They are moody, unresponsive, or worse, characterized by an instability that sends them on an emotional roller coaster ride daily. I am not this way. In fact, I would say that I am very steady, very emotionally in control. I just tend to have moods that are quiet and pensive. Moody or moodiness is defined as a person "given to unpredictable changes of mood, especially sudden bouts of gloominess or sullenness." Merriam-Webster adds that a moody person is often unhappy or unfriendly or subject to depression. I would say that this is not me at all -- well -- rarely me. I tend to be happy all the time. I do get depressed, but it is rare, and as for changing moods, I would say that I seem to suffer a "bit of the blues" now and then (really, it is more of a down feeling rather than being my normal cheery self). I am sure it is tied to my hormones, but I also think there is a correlation between my feelings and the weather. I am just saying it, but I think there is a connection to how I feel and the weather outside my door. Let me explain...

Gray Skies or Winter Skies

Growing up in the East and Midwest, I became accustomed to cloudy and variable skies. The winter months cast a bluish tone over the entire skyline, and frequent storms brought in rain, snow and ice. I loved the winter in Maryland, New York, and Illinois. Yes, I loved the cold, sloshy, and very wet winters of my childhood. Did I like the cold, the bitter cold? No, I didn't. In fact, as a person who struggles to keep her body heat, I found that I could barely keep myself warm without layers and layers of clothing on during the day and the night.

The Chicago area has a humid continental climate zone with four distinct seasons. The average high in the summer in July is 84, and the average low in the winter in January is 18. Summers are wet and characterized by thunderstorms and tornadoes. Chicago and the surrounding area experiences 189 days of sunshine with almost 124 days of rain/snow. About 50% of the year is either sun-filled or stormy.

When I moved from Chicago to San Jose, I was told that the weather would be the most significant change for me. San Jose was once called the "Garden Spot" of California because of its almost near perfect weather. It averages 301 days of sunshine a year, and boasts a semi-arid climate, called sub-tropical mediterranean. The average high in July is 80 and the average low in January is 42. It has mild winters and summers, and for the most part, has the reputation for having gentle rains (very few major storms) and a nightly onset of cool ocean breezes.

I enjoyed the weather in San Jose. The skies were partly cloudy all the time, and while it did rain, the rains seemed to come in the winter time more than in the summer. The hot days in summer were limited to a handful -- maybe 3 or 4 only -- so no one had air conditioning in their homes. Offices, of course, were air cooled, but most people lived with fans and screens and enjoyed the blessing of breezes, which were frequent. I don't recall running my car A/C except on really hot summer days. Most of the time, I rolled my windows down and let the breeze cool me off. I loved the weather, the variableness, and the fact that there were seasons (mild changes). While we didn't have fall like in the Midwest or East, we did experience cooler days as October and November rolled around.

In 1996, I moved to Phoenix with my then husband and our son. We came here for many reasons, but mostly, we came to get out of the rising costs of living in the Bay Area. We weren't making enough month to live on comfortably, and since I wanted to remain at home, it was becoming harder and harder for us to live on one income. Phoenix was the place where my ex-husband's parents moved in 1994, and we had visited them several times before making the decision to move here. Phoenix back in the 1990s was booming, and housing was very inexpensive. For example, we left a rental home in San Jose where we were paying $1500 per month and moved to Phoenix and rented a lovely condo for $800 per month. Later, we moved to a rental house for the same amount, and then in 1999, bought a home where our mortgage ran us about $600 per month. In all, financially-speaking, moving to Phoenix was a smart move. Of course, there were other issues, more serious issues with family relationships, work, etc., that made moving here a poor choice. Still, we found ourselves living in the arid climate of Phoenix, and while the winter was comparable to San Jose, the summers were nothing similar, but rather were like 'death in a furnace!"

Phoenix is not called the "Valley of the Sun" for nothing, you know. Phoenix boasts a whopping 330 days of sunshine and clear skies. Typical of most hot arid desert climates, Phoenix has over 100 days of 100 degree or higher temperatures. The wettest month is July, but with a weak monsoon, that means that day and nighttime highs never vanish. In fact, because of the effect of an urban heat island, Phoenix continues to see higher nighttime temperatures than normal. Our average high in July is 106, and our average low in January is 42. I can't really explain what the difference is between the sunshine in San Jose and the sunshine here in Phoenix. I guess I would have to say that it has to do with the fact that San Jose is further north and has a subtropical Mediterranean climate whereas Phoenix is arid desert. It must be because of the way the sun sits over the equator -- you know -- Phoenix is closer to the equator so the sun is harsher and more intense.

Blue Skies and Blue Feelings

I've thought a lot about this connection, and I've wondered if scientists have researched the color blue in this way. I mean, for me, blue skies are fine, given with limits. If you consider it this way, I live 330 days each year under clear blue skies. I only get to experience 35 days a year where the skies are gray or some combination of gray or cloudy sky. Conversely, in San Jose, I lived 300 days of sunshine, but partly sunny skies (always clouds). I enjoyed 65 days of variable weather, clouds and rain or some combination. In Chicago, where I lived as a child, 50% of the year had either sunshine or storms. What's more, the region was four season, so there was a distinct change between spring, summer, fall and winter. In Phoenix, we like to say there is summer and then there is the rest of the year. With over 100 days of 100 degree temps, you can see how it is HOT to VERY HOT for 1/3 of the year. The rest of the year ranges from mild to warm. In a contest for clear days, Las Vegas rivals Phoenix for number of clear days (210 to 211). Sigh!

Sensitivity to Blue in the Spectrum

From a purely scientific perspective, some people who are sensitive to the sun, note that the blue in the spectrum causes them to become ill. Some people will report that they cannot work well under fluorescent lights because of the blue tone that is cast. I am one of these people. I also find fluorescent lights to be bothersome. In fact, I often get migraines because of the flicker in the bulbs. I was reading online for a bit and I discovered that people with brown eyes such as myself tend to absorb more light than people with blue, green or hazel eyes. This means that my eyes absorb a lot of glare and glare is something that can trigger migraines. I struggle with migraines more in Phoenix than I recall living anywhere else. I believe it is because of the intense light here in the desert. Moreover, because of my low-vision, I tend to prefer indirect light in my home/office. I do not like bright light. I like the warm cast of a low-light, an indirect source versus a bright, clear, blue light that sits over top of me. I like bulbs that cast a pink or orange glow to them.

As I think about my struggles with lighting today, I wonder if there is a place where I could live without feeling so blue all the time. One thing I think would help, and that is to move to a place where there is more variety in weather condition. Natural lighting is my preference, so I do like daylight, just not intense bright light.

What does this all mean to me today? Well, probably nothing much other than to say that I know I want to move from Phoenix simply to get out of the intense light and heat. Yes, I want to go someplace where it is more moderate in climate. If that is not possible, then I would like to go someplace where there are less sunny days per year.

Sigh. Only the Lord knows what is best for me, and of this I am sure, He has the best place in mind for me, and in His time, He will provide a way for me to leave Phoenix.

No comments: