Monday, April 20, 2009

Environment Matters

Late afternoon, San Diego: I step out of the airport terminal into brilliant surfer dude weather. I strip off my sweater and jacket, but even with a tee shirt and jeans I feel way overdressed. This is definitely shorts and flip-flop weather.

San Diego was unseasonably brisk when I left for a health journalists conference in Seattle five days before. The bracing Seattle spring - with some actual sunshine - was just my style, and I was very impressed by the parts of Seattle I saw, but I know I could never live there.

Way back in the mid-70s, I lived for a year in Vancouver BC. Beautiful city, lovely people. But the whole time I was there we had maybe 20 days where the sun made an appearance. Back in those days, people didn't know what seasonal depression was. I never knew what hit me. Now that I do, I would never expose myself to that situation again.

I collect my car, and an hour later I'm 3,500 feet up in the mountains in an environment that has nurtured and healed me the last 28 months. (The picture you see is typical of the views I get when I take my daily walks.) Generally, our surroundings get thrust upon us. I found mine serendipitously after my marriage broke up in late 2006.

I know the climate of the Pacific Northwest is a tonic for a good many people, and there are days here where I wish I could import some of that in short bursts. SImilarly, anytime I'm in New York, I feel I have been re-equipped with fresh batteries. Never underestimate your environment. The right job with the right income in the right relationship in the right neighborhood in the wrong part of the world for your particular psyche may be a disaster for you.

Me, I'm staying put.

On a similar note: My Seattle trip was my first air travel in nearly a year. I may have moved to a nurturing environment, but I nearly blew it in 2007 by going on the road 11 times, including four cross-country trips. By late summer I was showing clear signs of brain fatigue and by the end of the year I was running on fumes.

In 2008, I cut my road trips to one, not counting going to New Zealand to attend my daughter's wedding. For the first part of that year, I also pretty much stayed put on "my mountain," keeping my local and regional travel to a bare minimum, with a reduced work and social schedule.

I'm pretty much back up to full strength, but I would be crazy to go back to my 2007 killer routine. There's a conference coming up in San Francisco next month and another one in Pittsburgh in June. I will have to think very carefully about what else I want to include on my schedule. There are many things I want to do, but my brain clearly has limits.

Environment matters. Know thyself. Live well ...

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