I have hesitated posting this because it is so bitter sweet… Laura is one of those people who felt like she just “fit” here. I keep thinking if I don’t post this blog Laura will somehow stay in Greenville. Alas, I know this is not the truth. Laura– Thank you for being who you are. Open. Loving. Kind. We are truly grateful for your presence and the gift of writing you continue to share with us. Namaste. Liz
By Laura Garren
I just read with interest the recent post, “Summer’s Intention,” by Vanessa Lucas. I’d like to applaud her for selflessly and articulately revealing her struggle. Her willingness to be vulnerable has the potential to help others. She certainly motivated me to reflect on my own summer’s intention.
I have a problem similar to the one Lucas describes, commonly called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), only in reverse: I suffer it during the summer months. I absolutely hate the turgid Southern summer, the air so thick you can scoop it with a spoon. I hate walking outdoors and being overcome by waves of calidity; getting into a car so hot I can bake bread on the dash; and being trapped in the house, unable to walk my dogs, waiting anxiously for fall. I am happiest October through May, including during the winter months, because I can comfortably spend time outside. I love wrapping up in scarves, pulling on hats, gloves and vests, and setting off on a long walk in the country with canines Rupert and Caper.
I used to easily combat this summer depression, when I lived in Pendleton and within five miles of Lake Hartwell. I simply substituted swimming for walking. Almost every day, I would pile chairs, towels, canine personal floatation devices, and drinks into the car and drive to the lake, where the dogs and I spent hours paddling back and forth across a cove. Afterward, we felt exhilarated and spent. Engaging in a physical activity in a beautiful outdoor setting, with my best friends, enabled me to be happy during those hot summer months.
We moved to Greenville three years ago after my husband’s stroke, in order to be closer to friends, more social outlets, and medical facilities. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate how much I would miss being able to walk my dogs off leash in the country, or how important those summer swims were to my wellbeing. I can walk the dogs in Greenville, at the park, but it is just not as much fun for various reasons. (Rupert hates other dogs. I hate picking up feces.) And when the weather gets hot, we don’t walk at all. Both dogs, who are black, don’t tolerate the heat any better than I do. Luckily, we have a huge, fenced backyard where they can run around, work off excess energy, and then rush, panting, back into the air-conditioned house. I have searched desperately for somewhere to swim, but have had no luck. So, in order to avoid my summer SAD, I have taken to driving the 30 miles (one way) to Lake Hartwell once or twice a week, just to get outside and get some my dogs and myself some exercise.
Of course, I have yoga, which has saved me in many ways; but dogs don’t do yoga. (I am aware of the fad called “doga” but have a jaundiced view of this, yet another, way of exploiting yoga by tapping into people’s tendency to project human qualities onto their dogs.) Yoga gives me another weapon in my arsenal against summer depression, for which I’m grateful. However, I like spending time with my dogs, other than sitting around in the house waiting for cool weather. I miss sharing time with them walking in the country when its cool, swimming in the lake during summer. I derive such joy, from watching their joy, when we engage in these activities.
What do to? After three years of trying to adjust to life “in the big city,” and trying to let go of my attachment to my former modes of being (walking in the country, swimming), I have concluded that it’s time to think about moving. While I gained a lot from being in Greenville—yoga being the most important, but also the opportunity to interact with friends—I still feel as isolated here as I did in Pendleton (where I also have friends). A wise friend pointed out that she thought “the isolation you feel is because you are there with Chuck all the time and have limitations on your whole present and future life because of that. You don’t ever come out and say that though. I know you’re trying to deal with reality, but in terms of isolation, where you live is a moot point—I imagine.”
Her statement resonated deeply because it revealed a truth I hadn’t realized. I moved to Greenville thinking I could escape my isolation through friends. I know now that I must address, not try to escape, my isolation, which may be a permanent state. Meanwhile, I need to be able to do the things that best fulfill me, things I can do that don’t depend on anybody else. In effect, and perhaps ironically, I need to embrace the isolation and coexist with it. In order to do so, I need to be where I can do the things I love the most, which means moving so that I can have access to them. Granted, they are simple things, but they mean so much. My summer’s intention is to prove that you can go home again.