Go Outside, Spring Is for Feeling Alive

On depression and sunshine

Editor’s note: I’m the editor and founder of Tenderly, Summer Anne Burton. If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that we haven’t been publishing as often as usual lately. Mostly, that’s been because of my personal problems, some of which I talk about here, and some of which are private. But, we’re coming back! I’ll be blogging here on a near-daily basis and we’ll be bringing in new contributors and your favorite columns are all coming soon. I’ll be writing a bit more next week about what Tenderly has in store and how you can be part of it if you want. In the meantime, I highly recommend taking the advice of dozens of readers who have made Alicia’s citrus cake in recent weeks — it’s a delicious day-brightener!

Today I was laying in the hammock feeling sorry for myself, which was a step up from my usual routine of laying in my bed in the dark feeling sorry for myself. It’s a really nice day.

As some of you may know, Texas has had a rough month. My beloved habitat was coated in snow and freezing temperatures that no one in the state was prepared for, least of all our Republican state leadership’s bright idea of a completely independent and privatized power grid. At my house, we lost power for nearly four days, but that wasn’t as scary as my elderly grandmother losing hers for almost as long. We lost water on day one and discovered later that our 4-year-old tankless hot water heater was busted, and the model to replace it is on backorder. We are privileged enough to [Editor’s note: kind of!!!] be able to afford to stay in hotels off and on ever since, because hot showers feel like a physical and mental health priority in this time of great worry.

There are so many different reasons, a lot of them no one’s fault at all and a few of them some very specific people’s fault — looking at you, Governor Greg Abbott — that the last few days, weeks, and months have been so fucking depressing and sad. I’ve felt lucky, because I haven’t lost anyone close to me to Covid-19 — I feel like I should say yet, or is that the wrong thing? — and friends and family are starting to be vaccinated, and I think I’ll be vaccinated soon as well.

But feeling lucky is a bit of a curse right now too, because what does it mean to feel “lucky” after the worst year of your life? When you are grieving for a beloved companion and you can’t even hug your friends about it? What does it mean to feel “privileged” when you’ve been thrust back into worrying about money in a way you hadn’t in a decade, since you were an Alamo Drafthouse server facing your 30th birthday and wondering if you’d always be cleaning movie theaters with a toothbrush for $2.15 an hour? How does one maintain optimism in the face of watching those we just elected to make things better simply choose not to change that pathetic, stagnant minimum wage when they could, performing bureaucratic reasons I’ve been realizing lately are just excuses not to change too much too fast.

How does one practice gratitude when the vast majority of things that bring you true, unfiltered joy have been impossible to enjoy for months: watching stupid youtube videos with your stoned friends, playing music at a bar or a party that makes all your friends dance, babysitting your beautiful goddaughter, flirting, restaurants, seeing your friends who live in other places, simply being excited about the weekend… And then I’m back to feeling guilty: how dare I complain about missing the weekend when people are dying

ANYWAY — the point is, I’m in the hammock, thinking about how I’m sad and lonely and not doing the things I should really be doing, like figuring out how to wash the rest of our dishes with kettle water or editing the piece I have open in another tab that has been waiting for me for two months (sorry Evan). And I’m mad at myself, and at a lot of other people, mostly strangers, and it’s just not good.

Then, a few things happened, one right after another:

I realized that the sun on my face was warming me from the inside out, making the blood in my hands that was hurting this morning feel warm and light. I watched a bruise on my knee that has stubbornly refused to heal for months and wondered if all it needed was more sunshine. I remembered a meditation I did recently involving imagining a warm glowing light, and I felt that here I was, in the place I imagined, the sun warming my whole body, mind, and spirit.

Then, my dog Maude came outside, said hello, and laid down next to me. When Maude is in the sun, her black and white speckles seem to come alive with color, absorbing whatever is around her like a mirror. She’s been a little bit of a mirror for me ever since I adopted her at 8 weeks old. We share many likes (long naps, sunshine, cute boys) and dislikes (people fighting or crying, gross meat, going home from an adventure), and she’s smart but sometimes unable to function because she just gets a little overwhelmed. Same, natch. So today, we just enjoyed the sunshine together.

Then, came the wind. Some part of my subconscious had been really wishing someone would give me a gentle push — a hammock is so much more pleasant when it’s swaying a bit, but I was feeling too lazy to kick a leg out and propel myself (if this is a metaphor, I don’t want to hear it!). Also, the warm glow of the sun was starting to be a little, well, hot. And it was like the moment that thought — hmm, am I hot? — entered my mind, the breeze blew in fast and hard, swinging the hammock with the force of a high schooler pushing their crush on a past-curfew swing set. It was fucking heavenly.

In this moment, I remembered that it is spring, and I remembered some of the things that means:

  • Baby birds! Sometimes they nest in the tree that’s just outside my desk.
  • Casey’s Sno-balls, my favorite sno-cone truck, will probably reopen soon.
A smiling black chow-mix dog sits among green leaves and blue flowers
Jessie among the early bluebonnets near our house, two years ago.
  • Wildflowers — soon the highways will be blanketed in blue, we’ll see if the tree in the park where I sprinkled poppy seeds lights up, and our front yard will fill with color. Wildflowers are the thing I think of first when someone asks why the hell I’d want to live in Texas anyway. I could say, “well it’s my home, and where my family is and where my friends are, and spring-fed swimming pools and armadillos and breakfast tacos, plus I live in an incredibly progressive city and my city council rep has led efforts to redirect police funds to social services and buy hotels for the homeless…. are you always happy with the state government where you live?but instead my mind usually just goes BLUEBONNETS.

Something that my mom instilled in me from a very young age [Editor’s note: but which you are prone to forgetting because a lot of us are bad at listening to the things our mom’s tried to tell us until it’s too late] is that simply being outside, without distractions, “in nature” is an incredible gift to yourself and will make you feel better. From nurturing the mind and the kind of ecological intelligence that is so important and neglected these days, to literally healing the body with the power of sunshine / vitamin D, getting out from under a ceiling is vitally important to my happiness and I am writing this down so I can’t forget it again for awhile.

Thanks for reading! Here’s Maude when she was a tiny puppy.

The other thing this reminds me of is why I’m vegan, and why I think you should be too, but I’ll save that for another day very soon. Until then, I highly recommend finding some sunshine, and, if you can, a dog to enjoy it with you.

Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tenderly. Former BuzzFeed exec. Moomin. Texan. Vegan for the animals. 💕

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