The sun is the heart of our solar system and imperative to existence, but it’s especially important to mine. It is iconic as a symbol of life and energy. It comes as no surprise the great ball in the sky comes with a plethora of health benefits besides the Vitamin D rhetoric. It can lower blood pressure, improve bone and brain health, and the most important for me, help ease mild depression.
In college, I had unpleasant bouts of depression and they typically happened in November – January. Sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression in winter months. The disease name inventors had a great sense of humor naming a form of depression, “SAD.” Moderate sun exposure increases your brain’s production of serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical. In the mid-1990s, I spent two winters in Connecticut and out of desperation tried tanning beds. I loved the feeling of the light and the heat, but the coffin sensation combined with the paranoia of thinking the front desk clerk forgot my timer forced an early end to my tanning days.
The sun is my medicine. With my face greeting the Almighty star, I recharge, my mouth forms a smile, my insides warm. I have a theory that my devotion towards the sun stems from an August birthdate. I emerged onto this planet under peak summer heat and it became my preferred default. Bonus: I look great with a tan.
My husband, clad in freckles and long-sleeved, 50 SPF protective hat and shirt, thinks the sun is oppressive. He says, “It’s torturous but worth it to see you frolic on the beach in a bikini.” For how alive I become when kissed by the ball in the sky, he will cook, fry and burn in it. I crave a shadowless spot and he retreats to shelter under an umbrella, a tent, or under the water.
The cold has gotten aggressive in my fourth decade. I used to tolerate “the seasons,” but now I dread them. I have no desire to ever see snow again. I prefer to live in the 80-degree range, or at least in a geographic locale where I get more than 29.3% sunny days per year. I suspect global warming is helping my cause.
I’ve also realized the sun has magical powers on the demonic monthly PMS. This month, my very regular menstrual cycle surprised my husband by arriving on the exact day I predicted it would. (This is how “regular” periods work, BTW.)
“I don’t understand,” he said. He sounded side-swiped as if this was our wedding night. “When were we supposed to get it?”
“Today,” I said, “just like I told us.”
“I don’t understand. When was your big ‘freak out day’?”
In other words, “How could a period arrive without a massive blowout a day or two before?” PMS is no joking matter, (only it usually is). Sometimes it feels like defibrillation paddles sending electric blasts to every fiber of my body, making each nerve on hyper-alert. It’s not that everything literally hurts, but kind of. I don’t like myself under PMS duress. I usually lose it a few days before it rears its red eye; everything is a mess, too many people want my attention at once, and trying to keep it together twists my insides into a tight knot.
My “freak out day” was eclipsed this month. Summer crept in last week and I met it head-on with walks in the park, through the city, and around the neighborhood. Somehow the sun’s power burned the bitch right out of my PMS.