Archive for October 5th, 2020

Seattle is the only large city I’ve ever lived in.  Oh, I spent an appreciable fraction of my adult life in New Orleans, but that hasn’t been a large city (by North American standards) since the Second World War.  New Orleans is also slow, quiet, friendly, and highly idiosyncratic – all of which Seattle is not.  But when I made the decision in December of ’14 to move there, I assumed I would adapt.  After all, I easily adapted to New Orleans after a childhood spent in a town of 6000 people; I just figured it would be a similar scale-up.  And I didn’t even realize that I was mistaken until a few weeks ago.  Oh, I have always known that I prefer rural living to urban, which is one of the reasons I bought Sunset rather than a house somewhere in Greater Seattle; I figured I’d retire there one of these days, and spend relaxing weekends there in the meantime.  But when everything shut down for the pandemic, I started spending most of my time there, only returning to Seattle for appointments or other practical reasons.  And as the summer waxed, I noticed something peculiar: I wasn’t nearly as agitated by the long, bright days as usual, despite spending a great deal of time outdoors and not keeping the interior of the house as dark as I keep my Seattle apartment.

I noticed in my first summer up here that the anxiety was much worse than it was in Oklahoma or Louisiana, but I put that down to the considerable stress I was under and the fact that at these latitudes, the contrast between the lengths of summer and winter days is much greater.  But though my stress levels decreased throughout ’18 and ’19, my summer anxiety did not.  And though the days were brighter at the farm, the anxiety did not climb to the levels I had come to expect over the past five years…except for the days when I was in the city.  Every time I was in town during July, August, and September, my anxiety increased, sometime to the point of needing a little chemical assistance to manage it; every time I headed back to Sunset it decreased again.  Finally I realized that the problem isn’t Seattle’s geographical location, but rather its size.  Those who have visited my incall have certainly noticed that it’s a kind of psychic oasis; its darkness and masses of sound-dampening fabric tend to shut out much of the noise and bother trying to force their way in from the street.  When I lived here full-time, I always felt better upon returning from work or shopping and deliberately closing and locking the door.  But that was only relative, and my brain was still tense and racing; out at Sunset the blaring sirens and glacial traffic flow are two hours away, and it makes all the difference in the world.  So it’s a good thing I’m semi-retiring before next summer; I can handle the stress and commotion a few days at a time, a few times a month.  But it’s better for my brain not to marinade in that for weeks or months on end.

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