Joyful Connections

Our time in Hilton Head is winding down…in one week Dave and I will begin the three-day journey back to Nova Scotia. The hope is that by the time we get home, winter in the Valley will be but a cold, frozen memory.

I am so grateful for the time Dave and I are able to have in the South these past three winters. The sunshine has been wonderful for brightening the spirit and feeling healthy. In fact, for several years before we started going south for a few months I suffered greatly from SAD—seasonal affective disorder, although for a long time I just thought I was depressed. I guess it wasn’t normal to stand in front of the living room window in January and cry for the greyness of my world. In the South, even when it is cold outside, usually the sun is shining and that’s all that matters to me.

This is the first winter in three that I have not been sick; two years ago I suffered from shingles during my time here, and last year I arrived with Bells palsy, so when I say I’m grateful, I really am.

I’m grateful for the increased health I’ve experienced in the past six months! I still have my moments of insomnia and low energy, but overall things are much better.

I have said that I believe JOY and happiness in life comes from connection and relationship, not from possessions, outings and workplace successes. What’s the point of having all those things if you don’t have someone to share it all with, someone who really cares? I’ve missed my friends, my groups and my church while basking in the sunshine and getting healthy. My Knitting Ninnies have had to move on without me; things have been happening in my church that I am disconnected from, and my friends have been busy doing their own thing.

How I have missed them all!

But there have been joyful connections here in Hilton Head. Dave and I have had a surprising connection with a couple of beautiful souls from France. Jan (pronounced ‘yawn’) and Ada (pronounced ‘ah-dah’) hold court at a coffee shop we call the ‘office’ from 11 to 12 every day, drinking their espresso from tiny cups that were bought just for them. A few times a week we join them and several other displaced Northerners. Can you believe Jan is 90 and Ada is 88? They remind me of my parents! They are well read, quick witted and about as opinionated as anyone else, and we have some good conversations at the office most days. They walk on the beach as well.

In fact, the first year Dave and I were in Hilton Head, we saw an older man walking on the beach. He wore a fur vest and leather pants (it was a cold winter, even down here), and his hair was longish and combed straight back. I said to Dave that he looked like he was French. Sure enough, when we met Jan at the coffee shop, he turned out to be that same man and he is indeed from France!

jan

For the first couple of years Ada used to laugh at me for all my thrift shopping, until one day in January I showed up at the office wearing a beautiful blouse. She loved it and when I told her I got it at a thrift shop she said, “The only problem with that blouse is that it should be me wearing it.” I showed her where and how to shop at the Bargain Box, the best thrift shop on the island. Now she sports a few beautiful blouses of her own.

Jan and Ada bring joy to my life every day! My prayer is that they will be able to come back next year.

 

Dealing with SAD

Positively No Negativity Challenge

Day 64 of 84

“ Here you are doing a no negativity challenge and you’re being as negative as before you started. And you’re intolerant as well.”

That’s what Dave said to me on the weekend. It stung, it hurt; it was a slap in the face, but it was true. I could feel myself getting tense over the past few days and was powerless to do much about it. Some days just don’t progress in a good way and I end up hating everyone, everything and am generally grumpy. When I lived in Quebec, on those days I would tell people, “ Je ne suis pas un cadeau aujourd ‘hui.” In other words, if you don’t want to get hit by a bomb of negativity, just stay away.

 So I retreated to my office and tried to sort out what was on my mind. Initially the negative thoughts just kept on coming, to the point that I didn’t even like being with myself. As I thought about it, I realized that there was nothing specific that was bothering me; it was a general grumpiness, sense of foreboding, sadness.

I remembered feeling a bit like that last January. I thought it must have been the letdown after Christmas, or maybe the weight I gained over the holidays. When I really thought about it, most January months have found me with the same malaise.

Ah, the dreaded SAD, or seasonal affective disorder.

Past experience has taught me that if I don’t get proactive, this SAD will just spiral out of control. Although the winter has just barely started, so far it has been brutal, with five major storms already, and it’s only January 5th.

The experts are not sure what causes SAD, or this sadness at the same time each year, but they all agree that it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. The usual symptoms are what I have described above, but also less interest in regular activities and a craving for carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.

The solution is usually light therapy, and I would add to that a healthy diet, some form of exercise, and getting outside every day, no matter the weather. That usually helps to keep the negativity at bay and to be more positive.

That’s my plan anyway.

 walk

Today I am grateful:

1. For a husband who can tolerate my moods

2. For a reprieve from the cold temps

3. For a little outing with Aaron yesterday

4. For a lavender bath and a good night’s sleep

5. For food in the fridge and gas in the car

Everyone Has A Story…

Last Sunday there was a new person in church; a woman, alone, kind of stern looking. Well, I don’t know if she was new or not. It’s just that I had never seen her before. She was kind of plain looking with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and she wore a longer length skirt. She appeared to be middle aged.

She sat right in front of me and didn’t speak to anyone at all.

There is a point in the service when everyone passes on greetings to each other. It used to make me nervous when I didn’t know anyone in the church, but now it’s a time I look forward to: greeting everyone, shaking their hand or giving them a hug, a connection. So I went to shake the hand of the mysterious stranger in front of me. I wished her good morning. I smiled in welcome at her. She wished me good morning but she did not smile. At all.

Hmmm…

So I asked her if she was new to the church. She told me that she used to come but hadn’t been there in awhile.

Awhile…

Well, I’ve been here almost four years and I had never seen her before.

So I said, “I’m Christine, nice to meet you”, and she said, “I’m Bonnie.” But she still didn’t smile. I wondered if she was angry, sad or uncomfortable.

And then later on during a scripture reading I noticed her with a Kleenex. Wait- she was wiping her eyes.

I remembered a time a few years back, being in church and avoiding everyone. I remembered having my Kleenex at the ready, and wiping my eyes discretely. That was when I was newly divorced and felt quite hopeless.

I wondered what had brought Bonnie to church that morning. Maybe she decided that since it was a nice day, she would go to church, or maybe, just maybe, like me some years ago, she was searching for some comfort.

I’ve heard it said, ‘Everyone has a story, and some have two.’

You never know what’s behind a stoic gaze. It might not even be stoic; it might be sad.

So I prayed for Bonnie that morning.

sun