Bouncing Back.

Rochester, VT –  When Words Count Writers Retreat

I am back in Vermont working on my book.  Yesterday was a beautiful day and this morning I awoke to a blizzard.  I remember years ago saying, “The only way I will ever complete a book is to go to New England in the dead of the winter, rent a house with no television, and have enough food to last me (because I’m definitely not up to braving the cold). Then I’ll have to write just to amuse myself.”  Where I am, in this circa 1850’s inn isn’t quite that, but it’s close. I didn’t bring a car here so there is no going to town because I MUST have a latte. There is a TV but I am deliberately avoiding it.  And meals are provided so I won’t go hungry (quite the opposite, in fact.)

I am missing Bill. He would love it here; there are ski slopes nearby. Ironically, the topic of my book is emotional resilience and there has never been a more difficult time for me to feel that I have such a thing. But I do. And so do you.

As people tell me their stories—in person, by telephone and in emails—I am in awe of what we can endure. What is even more awe inspiring are those who don’t simply endure but come through hardship and, at the end, have a smile on their faces. Those are the ones who will just not stay down, no matter what happens.  Then there are those who never seem to know there is anywhere but down.  I have been both and in my book I explore what happened that made me take a turn toward the light.

Today’s harsh weather has me wondering whether environment has anything to do with it. Not with causing a negative outlook but in keeping us there. I was raised in a suburb of Boston and, as a child faced some difficult situations that drew me into depression. Years later, I attributed my bad disposition to the fact that in the unpredictable New England weather, I was often cold. A friend of mine would joke,  “You mean all you needed was an electric blanket?” Now we are aware of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that has to do with deprivation of sunlight and it’s affect on mood. There are even special electrical lights for treatment.  Perhaps I had SAD and it exacerbated my depression.

What interests me is that (and this is a generality) people who live in the harsher, four season weather seem to be more conservative in their personalities and outlooks and those who live where there are no harsh winters seem to have sunnier outlooks, if you’ll pardon the pun. In New England, we could trace it back to our stern, Puritan ancestors but I wonder if fighting the elements leaves us too tired to smile very often.  I have noticed that, in the harsher weather places, there are more smiles in the summer.  And maybe the happiest of those who live in sunny climes are the transplants who left the cold to come to the sun.

What do you think?  Do you think the weather has an impact on disposition or is it more cultural?  If not weather, what do you think makes the difference between those who come through hardship and find joy again, and those who never seem to recover?

Seven months after Bill’s death, I have good days and bad. What continues to amaze me is how quickly I can bounce back.  Because I was simply unable to do that as a youth, I am grateful for that ability now.  Maybe it’s Nature’s way. As we get older, we face more loss and we need more emotional resilience. If you have it, and I’ll bet you do, put it on your gratitude list. It is a great gift.