Shall I tell you what is troubling me, and you can tell me it’s a first-world problem, that I’ll be fine, and we can go back to regular programming? I really think that would be the best use of your Sunday morning. Forget slopping around in your bathrobe, eating pancakes at noon (almond chocolate chip with real maple syrup), reading an edifying book. Your real work this morning is to cheer me up.
Just a few days ago, in a moment of pride and astonishment, I realized it’s almost February, and other than a few weeks of gloominess back in November, I seem to have escaped my annual Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Now here’s where you might be tempted to say, “Jan, that’s because you’ve been misdiagnosed. That golden, life-affirming fluorescent light which hangs over your head, its beams hitting the back of your retina so that it can reprogram and regulate your biochemistry — that light is unnecessary. You might have Annual Effective Disorder, or Hourly Affective Disorder, but you don’t have SAD.”
But you won’t, because you are kind. And in any case, if you did, I would reply — with a twinkle in my eye, you understand — but firmly nonetheless, “Who’s the doctor in this relationship? And aren’t you supposed to be affirming me, not questioning my authority?”
(This is how we handle conflict in my family, but I digress again, because in this thoughtful essay, I’m not supposed to be modeling conflict-resolution but asking for help.)
My theory about why I’ve done better this winter is the weather. It’s been unusually mild and dry. I’ve had no difficulty in getting out for walks most days of the week. Driving’s been a cinch.
I’ve also seldom been alone. Between one kid or another, the ToolMaster taking holidays, or motoring down to help family, I’ve had people around most of the time. Oh, I’ve had plenty of solitude, which I crave, but no week-long spaces where it’s just me and the animals.
All that’s about to change. The second semester’s about to begin and it promises to be more rigorous. My family is dispersing. Molly’s next nursing assignment is at a hospital a good hour away. She’ll need a vehicle.
At my instigation, thinking of finances and the Earth, rather than expediency, I suggested we try to manage without purchasing another car. In effect, from o’alarm-clock to o’dinnertime, I won’t have a vehicle. I can still walk, bus, drop the ToolMaster at work on the odd day I need transportation, but I’m wheel-less, peeps. Of my own volition.
Why does this feel different? Why does it give me a pang?
On a practical basis, it’s doable. It won’t change 97% of my week. But the very air seems to carry different potential. The wind whispers, “All licensed-up and no way to go.” I feel thwarted. When I dig in my purse, my car keys reproach me.
So my questions for you: Have you ever been car-less for long? Did you grow to love it or acclimate? If an empty parking spot cries in the garage, and no one’s around to hear it, will it still be there by nightfall? Talk to me about suburbia and what it does for community.