The other day I was watching Portlandia in the afternoon down here in Mexico. It was that episode about the annual day in July when the first beam of sunshine returns to Portland after eight months of gray and drizzle. People come rushing out doors with their picnics, bongo drums, sun hats, skateboards, and guitars. I instantly doubled over with guilt, verklempt with shame, suffering a double dose of Sun Guilt in both art and life. The sun was shining, and I was inside making a bracelet. I should have been Out There.
You see, I grew up on the East Coast, where every week of the year included both sunny days and wet days. On the sunny days we went out to play, on the rainy ones we Got Things Done. It all worked out. I contracted Sun Guilt when I moved to Oregon seven years ago. When the weather was gray and rainy for eight months in a row, I Got Stuff Done, including the lecture series I gave on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and still had time to go to daytime movies, bead in front of the television, make clothes, and enjoyed Happy Hours in bars with roaring fireplaces.
But then summer comes, and the sun shines in Portland, inexorably, even monotonously, every day from July 4 to October 10. That first summer, I kept waiting for a rainy day so I could Get Something Done. Nada. Nul. Zip. Zilch. “Oh,” one the natives told me. “Nobody works in the summer here.” Here is the Sun Guilt droning monologue: Move it, sister. Step away from the computer/kitchen/television/sewing machine/craft table/treadmill and get out there. The sun will not last forever!
But it is sunny in Puerto Vallarta almost every day, at least during the half year that we’re here. I’m not good at doing nothing, so afraid of being bored stiff, I plotted a novel to be written, bought a sewing machine to play with, and enlarged my bead stash to make new treasures. Those are all my favorite things, but they are indoor sports. I feel I can’t do anything right. I do my walk, swim, and get my brief doses of Vitamin D sitting outdoors in the sun with a book. All during that time I feel guilty about not being inside making things. When I go inside and make things, I get the big slap of Sun Guilt. Somehow, I don’t do a lot of either baking or making. People complain about SAD. When will there be a cure for the little-discussed SG?
But it’s not that bad. You know what’s really bad? Sunset Guilt! Sunset Guilt happens around 6 p.m. when the sun is getting bigger and brighter and about to slide down into a pile of clouds that will instantly turn hot pink, in a different pattern every night, and Tom and I are on a bus or in some restaurant downtown and not on our patio at the edge of the sea watching every second of that sunset’s festive glory.
And so, more often than not, we pour margaritas and settle in our lounge chairs facing west over the Pacific, and the show goes on for an hour, and we just can’t be anywhere else. Like the sun, that view is not going to be ours forever. Only six months. Now and then we may say, “We should go out to eat/sightsee/visit!“ But we stay put. Sun Guilt is one thing, but Sunset Guilt is just too much to bear.
(Portland photo credit:Courtesy http://www.so-many-places.com)
Chris Flavin said:
Hi, Louise. I feel I could use both sun guilt and sunset guilt right now. In the northeast we’re sitting in a big bad arctic air mass, and although the sun comes out to invite us outdoors, I feel like a lumbering polar bear with my layers of clothing. Considering the time of the year, the snow is appropriate for those of us still young at heart. Oh, how I yearn for sun guilt. By the way, your feet never looked so happy. Peace.
Chris, i don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for me…but I do know that feeling you’re talking about. I remember days in New York when, on the umpteenth cold day, I just gave up on putting on all those layers and going outside for any reason. Hope it warms up for you, but not enough so you can’t make a snow man. Stay young at heart!
Haha. Yeah I lived in PDX and I remember when the sun came out folks were suddenly friendly too. Strangers would say HI to me, when walking by, but if it was overcast, no such thing!
Although I have never heard of Sun Guilt…I guess b/c I was born and raised in Hawaii. Sunny was just the way of life! But when I was in the NW – ug. I was definitely suffering from SAD. I need the sun!!!
Louise Lague said:
Hi Lani! Never thought of that but you are right. Northwesterners are naturally friendly but the clouds do depress them a bit. Stay in Hawaii!
Julia Lundy said:
Being an OLD Oregonian, I will add that we do not suffer from gray as much as we use to. I get panicky when day after day (about 60 + this year) we receive no water from the sky!. Bad for our skin, bad for our bodies in general and bad for storing water for the Summer (snow) and skiing in the Winter. Everything is topsy-turvy . Enjoy any water (clean) that you can!
In the meantime, hope I get to see you during your respite from the sun.
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