She’s got those other coast blues
When we drove away from Los Angeles to move to Washington, D.C., my husband and I stopped at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. O’Keeffe loved the western United States but let go of desert landscapes to marry Alfred Stieglitz and wasn’t able to permanently return to New Mexico until age 62, after Alfred had died.
A terrible feeling crept along my stomach. In my 20s I, too, felt the call west. I flew to Los Angeles and spent a December weekend dining outdoors and watching sunlight sparkle like static on the Pacific. Living beneath Ohio’s gray clouds, I often joked I had seasonal affective disorder (SAD). During my visit to L.A., my heart leapt for the sky like the palm trees, shouting, yes, indeed -- you’re made for sunshine. By August, I’d returned to L.A. for good. Ten years later I’d built a career, adopted a puppy and married a portfolio manager.
And then my husband took a new job in D.C.
Skidding through Oklahoma’s rainstorms, I felt my ambivalence about the move east morph into panic. When we arrived in D.C., winter hit me hard. I hated wool sweaters and heavy coats. In California, my winter hobby was rollerblading along the beach. In D.C., my winter hobby was picking up a copy of USA Today and comparing the color-coded weather map: East Coast days were a frigid blue, with rain, storms and snow clouds. L.A. was always yellow with one description: “abundant sunshine.”
On the worst days, I couldn’t lift myself from bed until late morning. I missed the sun’s warmth, its radiance, its energy. Without it, I felt like I carried a ton of weight in my chest. My jokes about SAD no longer seemed funny.
This summer, when the light reappeared, I soaked up the rays and spent as much time outdoors as possible. My spirits soared. Then an unexpected thing happened: When November arrived, my emotional “high” stuck around. I realized that I like my life in D.C. I’ve made good friends, found solid writing gigs and enjoyed trying “East Coast” sports, like rowing along the Potomac River.
I still miss my Tuesday night book club, but now I have a Tuesday morning tennis group. The fresh zucchini bread from my L.A. breakfast spot has been replaced with the pumpkin bread from the local farmers market. And I admit it’s beautiful to walk the streets after a snowfall.
I’ve decided to plow into this winter with no fear. To help with the depression that haunts me, I’ve come up with a list of remedies: warm veggie soups, full-spectrum light bulbs and a commitment to continue outdoor activitie
I don’t know whether my approach will work. I have tentative plans to escape to L.A. for an extended stay in February (O’Keeffe often retreated to New Mexico), but I’m trying not to think about the weather. I’m still feeling the rush of a sunny fall, and I want to milk it for all it’s worth. Just because I’m no longer living in California doesn’t mean I can’t ride a wave.
My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience or air an opinion related to health or fitness. Submissions are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Read other My Turn columns at www.latimes.com/myturn.