Being slow in a southern summer

TiOne of my favorite aspects of Florida living is that it is indoor-outdoor nearly year round. I have a front and back porch, and spend much of my time on one or the other depending on season and hour of the day.

I love being able to have my windows always open. True, this means I must constantly deal with the fine black dust that coats everything. And this year, the laurel oak pollen gave my furniture a nearly nuclear yellow-green glow. I’m often sneezing from allergies. But it’s worth it.

Except it gets a bit hot here in the summer, which is everything from April to October. Yesterday it was 88 degrees inside my house by 3 in the afternoon and stayed that way until 8 p.m., when it went down to 87 degrees (oh, the relief!).

I refuse to use the air conditioner for as long as I possibly can in the summers. I’m getting better, year by year, with how well I tolerate heat and humidity down here. I love my slow, sultry Southern summers.

The magnolias are just beginning to open.

There are many hours in which it is too hot to do anything but porch sitting.

And I am contemplating in my hours of slowness what it means to be strong in myself, and not chase after a behavioral or psychological ideal. For many years I have believed that there is something wrong with me because according to psychologists I have “disorders.” (Anxiety and depression.) I fail to live up to the happy, healthy, self-actualized individual that we should all try our darnedest to become.

Only recently have I begun to accept that in fact, much of what I “suffer” from is simply my personality. I was born the way I am, and while I do believe nurture has an influence, I also think nature in large part determines who we are.

I was born highly sensitive, intuitive, introverted, thoughtful, creative, and with a strong awareness of the melancholic: an inherent existential angst.

In another kind of society, or perhaps in eras long past, there might be a role I could inhabit that valued what I am. Mystic, future-seer, wise woman, hermit philosopher, truth teller, storyteller (one supported by society! If only!). Or maybe not. But what I do know is that the society I live in now classifies me as damaged, disordered, imperfect. American society, in particular, does not value introverted, thoughtful, quiet people. I found some acceptance of who I am during my years in Asia, and that’s when I began to realize that maybe how I am is okay.

I think my anxiety and depression are a reaction to my inability to fit. That is to say, although I was born prone to feeling nervous and melancholy (as many writers are, and these can be good things for creative people), the severity of these in my life is due to my failure to deal with the way our society is set up.

So I work on creating a life for myself that suits me. And the hot, slow Southern summers suit me, because something opens up inside and I begin to breathe a little easier, and who can find the energy to fret when it’s 88 degrees inside the house?


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