From Sun Worshipper to Cool Weather Girl

Self Portrait - Christmas Day 2008

When I was Younger...

I was an outdoorsy girl. I grew up in Southern California, and I loved being outside in the sun all day—at the beach, camping, hiking, shopping at Venice Beach. I have memories of body surfing with my dad, floating down the river in Yosemite on family camping trips each summer, lying out in the sun all day at the beach in my teens (yes, I was one of those crazies that didn't know better back then and slathered on the baby oil, I kept it in a spray bottle!). I love the way I look when I am tan, the kind of tan you can only get from time spent in the real sun. And I loved the way I felt at the end of a day spent having fun with the sky as my ceiling and the sun as my warmth. Many of my best memories have the great outdoors as their backdrop—summer camp in the mountains, barbecues with friends and family, relaxing vacations. For years I felt that this was where I was supposed to be. And it isn't that I have grown to hate the sun, I just don't get the happiness that I used to when spending the day out under it. The heat begins to get to me really fast now, and I hate the way it feels to be sweaty!

And Then There Was Multiple Sclerosis...

My diagnosis with MS is what first caused me to spend less time out in the sun. If it’s hot enough to be lying out in the sun to get a tan then it is too hot for my body to be out for very long. I have moved to an area with cooler weather than Southern California, so there is no more body surfing—though I don’t think I would go in the water along most of the beaches there anymore anyway, it is so dirty. I do still go camping, but I spend most of the time in the shade or in the air conditioning of my parents' RV.

At first I felt like this was a punishment, like I had been robbed. But backing away from that life let me have the broader view of things you need to see the other directions life might be able to take you in.

Coming to Terms With Where I'm at Now...

In some ways, I miss my sun worshiping days. Having a tan tends to make you look slimmer, running around in the heat all day is a great way to work off calories, and there is nothing like a good long day out in the sun to make falling asleep easy, and the sleep you get peaceful.

But in other ways, I don’t miss it. My move has brought me to a place where rent is lower, things are a little less frantic and stressful; and, here I am finally able to catch a glimpse of a future I may be able to embrace. Here in Colorado I get to marvel at the beauty of seasons changing, the first green buds on things in the spring, the leaves changing in the fall, and the first snowfall of the winter. One of the biggest surprises was when I realized I love the snow--not snow you head to for skiing like we did in Southern California, but snow that is there on your regular days and watching it fall. I have discovered there is nothing more peaceful than sitting outside while it is snowing watching, listening, and feeling.

Here I can also take peace in knowing that skin cancer is much less of a concern for me now that I spend so much less time in the sun. And the increase of time spent indoors has brought me back to my writing, and reading, and learning, and crafting—things I had not realized I missed so much!

In Colorado I have discovered kinder, gentler people, and a slower way of living. I never realized how frantic it always felt living in Los Angeles. In L.A. there is such a constant drive to try and beat those around you, to try and make more money than the next person, to try and be more attractive than the person next to you. Face-lifts, breast enhancement, fancy cars and huge houses. Here it is more about the quality of life and whether or not it makes you happy, there is less focus on "keeping up with the Joneses."

So I thank MS for bringing me this shift in my life…

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Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware

Hi Valerie, I have to say I love the peacefulness of a heavy snow, and also the peace I feel listening to the waves splash ashore. I would miss not observing a change of seasons, as it is all I'm used to I suppose, so I can see why you appreciate the differences. Anyway, I'm glad having MS has given you something positive to appreciate.

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