We recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. Days of endless sunshine have been replaced by gray skies punctuated by rain showers with only glimpses of the sun. The weather folk on tv call these “sun breaks”. It is an odd concept to wrap my head around, but I am getting used to it. At least I keep telling myself that.
I admit that seeing the sun peek out from the clouds at the end of long wet day, feels like being greeted by a warm smile when you enter an unfamiliar room. It immediately lifts my spirits. I know sunshine has this effect on many people. It’s the reason why so many of us travel to warm, sunny and tropical places in the winter to experience that instantaneous mood elevation. (Of course, that’s also why I am marred by sun damage and saw so many patients in my office with skin cancers, but that’s a downer, so let’s focus on mood elevation!) The good news, is that I have recently found the sunny side of rainy days. Who knew there was one right? But there is….just look in the mirror, it’s you.
Spending more time indoors, I have spent more time getting to know me. It sounds strange, that after all these years of being me, I never spent much time really listening to my inner voice: what she likes, dislikes and is curious about learning. She talks a lot by the way, so for the longest time I just shut her up because I had work to do, or kids to chase around, or frankly (and most truly) I was afraid of what she might be saying. But this recent move has provided me with an opportunity to spend more time indoors and by default more time with me, so I have indulged her (speaking about myself in the third person is odd, I know, but bear with me).
She wanted to cook. Now for those of you who know me, know that this is outrageous because the stove and I had never really bonded. There was always the occasional flirting with brownies and chocolate chip cookie baking, but real cooking… not a chance. My sweet husband had indulged my culinary incompetence for the last 18 years (I know, he is a saint) and whipped up delicious meals for the kids and I. Until now. At the beginning of the new year I started critically reading food labels and realizing that despite my umpteen years of schooling and learning the crazy terms and acronyms that lend themselves to dermatology, I couldn’t pronounce or understand 90% of what was on the ingredient lists of most packaged food. I knew I didn’t need to have gone to medical school to know that this was not a good thing.
So what next? I got schooled. I recruited the help of a nutrition counselor (love her!) and delved into the realm of whole foods. Now I know this is not a new concept. But while the rest of the gang was getting wise to the ways of nutrition, I had my nose in the derm books and remaining blissfully ignorant to all the additives and preservatives that filled the boxes in my pantry. Long story short (sort of…I told you “she” had a lot to say), empowered with my new knowledge and abundance of rainy days, I put on my figurative big girl pants and dove into cooking. I have roasted vegetables. That’s right rutabaga, you don’t scare me anymore. I have made soups, stews, gluten-free and dairy-free entrees, desserts, sides and salads… it has been life altering. For me. For the kids. For my my husband.
Yes, the warmth and vision of the sun is uplifting emotionally, there is no doubt. But you may find that if you step into the shade, whether literally or figuratively, and listen to your inner voice, she/he may have something interesting to say and lead you to a new type of “shaded bliss.”