Happiness challenge day 1 – Go Outside

Why is it every time someone is depressed or has anxiety the first thing people say is go outside? Have you ever been outside during fall in Southwest Missouri? Yes, it can be pretty with all the leaves. The temperature can be nice and pleasant. And that all lasts about three days. Ninety-eight percent of fall is too hot, too cold, or too wet. Think the term fall comes from the leaves falling from the trees? Nope. It comes from when you slip on the wet leaves while you’re walking outside to make yourself feel better.
I get it. I do. Vitamin D is good for you. But don’t get too much or you’ll get cancer. Fresh air is good for you. Unless you’re standing downwind of the cattle farm. Let’s not get started on turkeys or pigs. There is nothing relaxing or uplifting about the wind coming from a turkey farm. My husband says it’s the smell of money.
I used to work in child care. We had designated times and temperatures to go outside. There is a distinction between fifty degrees and sunshine and fifty degrees and cloudy. Add wind into that and you‘ve got a grumpy train wreck. And still to this day I will never understand parents who wear layers, coats, gloves, scarves, and hats but send their kids to school or daycare with a t-shirt and jacket. Most likely, the parents have an indoor job. They don‘t go outside though out the day. But the kids do. And nothing is worse than a cold four-year-old. They are whiny. When they whine they cry. That means wet faces. Tears, snot, and drool pouring from their faces. Wet faces in a cold wind just makes for a more miserable situation. It‘s enough to make a teacher drink.
Now I have a desk job. I spend a lot of time sitting. I get breaks. Thank God I get breaks. If you‘ve ever worked at a call center, you understand the need for multiple breaks.
So I try going outside as much as I can. The problem with working in a call center is that you’re on your butt most of the time. That’s when you develop something called call center body. If you worked in a call center, you know what I’m talking about. Couple that with the fact that snacking at your desk is a thing because you’re bored when the calls don’t come in and you put on a bit of weight. In an active attempt to stave off this issue, I took up walking on my breaks. This is a great when it’s nice outside. When it’s cold out, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of worms. If it’s cold, then I don’t go outside and then I wind up looking like a psychopath because I walk inside.
Our building is shaped weird. You can walk circles around the middle part which is the bathrooms. It doesn’t take but a minute to go around this middle part that just sticks out. The person who decorated the floor needs to be tarred and feathered. The design is an OCD sufferer’s worst nightmare. There’re curves. There’re lines. There’re diamonds. It cuts off. It‘s uneven. It‘s the thing of nightmares for someone like me who needs that balance and pattern recognition.
And the colors – oh my God – the colors. I know there’s been lots of studies done about colors in certain environments. Red and yellow for fast-food restaurants. Schools have pink and gray. Can we talk about work environments looking like the inside of a battleship? It does not make for a creative, energetic, or mind stimulating environment. I’m not saying make everything bright vibrant red, yellow, and orange because that’ll burn you out faster than anything. Colors are supposed to calm the brain instead of make us feel like we work somewhere that isn’t a padded room. If it is a padded room, can I get a jacket so I can hug myself? Or at least some better coffee because damn that coffee.
I try to go outside as much as possible. Today is not looking like a good day to go outside. Today is every day in the fall. It’s cold. It’s 46 degrees. The wind is knocking leaves everywhere. This is not the ideal time to go outside. There’ll be people out there smoking. I don’t understand that compulsion. That’s something I’ve never taken up. I’m grateful that I have never done that. I see these people every day huddled underneath this little tin roof, huffing and puffing and hacking. I’ve just never felt the need or desire to become that kind of person. If you smoke, I’m not I’m not criticizing you. I got my vices too. You should see my nails. In all honesty, I have never understood this desire to inhale something and make myself feel worse than I did before. Especially if it requires me to go outside in weather like this.
Need and desire for money is what’s driving me outside today. I have to drive in this. and this is nothing compared to driving in winter weather. People around here go around operating devices of driving in winter weather like they’ve never seen a snowflake. They completely freak out when it’s time to drive in winter weather. The people that never cease to amaze me are the people who insist on doing 70, 75, 80, a hundred on the highway. The highway is is not meant for that kind of speed in dry weather let alone icy, slippery, wet conditions. Most of these people can‘t drive on dry pavement let alone one that’s having some meteorological events occurring on it. It never ceases to amaze me when the person in the passenger seat is gripping the oh shit handle hard enough to break it off. My ex swore he was the world‘s best driver. He claimed he had never been in an accident. And that might be true. The people behind him, in front of him, and next to him have been in plenty.
The weather around here definitely doesn’t make it easy to drive. We can experience all four seasons in a week. I mean just this week we’ve had temperatures willing to the 80s and by the end of this week we’re going to have temperatures well into the 30s. That kind of thing does not make sense. To have a 50 degree temperature difference, I feel bad for my kids. They have to wait for the school bus outside. And by outside I mean the covered porch that has windows and is inside. They keep the door open. When I was a kid, I had to go stand on a bus corner and wait for a city bus. It didn’t matter if it was 20 below zero or if it was 110°. I was out on that corner. I can’t wait to see what the winter is like for these kids. I know last year there were several days called off because it was too cold, I never had school called off because it was too cold. I sure as hell don’t get off work because it’s too hot or too cold. I get that not every school in the country has heat and air conditioning. But, the school my kids go to do.
Now, the school bus is different. The school bus probably doesn‘t have heat or air conditioning. I’m not making that up. Some of these busses do not have heat or air conditioning. It is what it is. I do feel bad for the kids in that situation. But again, that goes back to the first point of parents sending their kids without coats. So your fifteen-year-old is too cool for a coat and you’re trying to let him make his own decisions. I did the same thing too. Bonus daughter HayHay was 10 or 11 when she was living with us. She knew best how to dress. She knew the school would be warm. So she didn’t have a problem with it being 19 degrees outside. She was wearing biker shorts and a tank top. You heard me. 19 degrees and she decided to wear biker shorts and a tank top. Instead of fighting that fight I picked my battle and said, “OK. Go ahead. You want to wear the biker shorts? You want to wear the T-shirt? Go ahead.” I have no problem with this because I knew where it would lead to. I’m sure someone is just staring at this in DFS, questioning my ability to be a parent. That’s OK. I’m kind of used to that by now. But in all honesty a lesson was learned. At 10 in the morning I got a phone call from the principal asking why I had sent that child in those clothes and I explained the situation. The principal laughed. I didn’t get in trouble. She didn’t get in trouble. The next day that child wore her snow boots, a long shirt, and the coat bought for her at Christmas. It was still 19 degrees outside.
It never ceases to amaze me how much you think you know when you’re a kid. Looking back at it I remember the times when I was 14, and I thought I knew everything. Now I’m 41 and I know nothing. Where did I put my glasses? Where did I put my keys? How are they teaching math in school? I don’t know what’s going on with the world. The people I talk to on the phone everyday let me know I don’t know what I’m doing with my job. Some days I’m likely to agree with them.
That‘s when the walks outside help the most. I take walks outside to clear my head. To get back to a normal place of thinking. That break is the only thing that’s keeping me from breaking. Fresh air does it for you. I will give it that. Being able to step outside, away from the filtered, recycled air of a building helps put things into perspective. Getting outside lets you know it’s all temporary. This time of year is good for that. The leaves on the trees and the weather, it’s all changing. It’s all very fleeting. We get very caught up in the moments that frustrate us, anger us, and cause us to lash out at people we like. That stuff doesn’t matter. I do need to deal with it to keep my job. Yeah, but what happens at work – unless I lose my job or get a raise – should not affect the outside things.
And that’s why I take a moment to go outside. I guess it is a good thing. Be in the moment to take in the sounds reality. Of things around you and get in touch with things that matter. Take a breath and appreciate that you can look around and see the things. You see the trees and sky and buildings and people around you. So many times we are stuck with our heads down. I’m guilty of that so much. Heads down in a phone. We’re not looking around and seeing what’s around us. There is beauty out there and if nothing else, now is a great time to learn that the death of things isn’t always the end of things. The leaves changing color is a beautiful thing and yet we know that it signifies death. I mean the leaves are dying The trees – for lack of a better phrase – are dying. They’re just kind of going to sleep. They’re hibernating. Hell. I wish I could hibernate. I’d love to hibernate. How is that not anyone else’s idea of perfection? Are you kidding me? Eat, get fat, and sleep through the crappiest part of the year.
Let’s not pretend. When people think of winter, everyone thinks of colored lights and pretty trees and presents and family time and yay. Bullshit. No. It is not. After December, which winter does not start until December 21st, winter is just one great big gray bucket of suck. Let’s not pretend that winter is amazing. Cold is terrible. Driving is terrible. The weather, it’s just dreadful. There is nothing good about winter. Don’t even get me started on snow.
Snow is cold. Snow is wet. Snow is dreadful, and that’s just where it’s at. My kids love snow and I’m over here like, “No.” I do not want to go out in the snow. I feel bad for my kids. I feel bad they have me for a mom.
Sometimes I have sat in my window before the snow gets all gray and slushy. Before it’s become a nightmare for me to drive to work.  I have sat and looked out my window and appreciated the snow for what it is. A beautiful soft white blanket. And it is an amazing blanket. It muffles sound. It protects things. For as cold as it is it insulates and keep things warm.
There is beauty out there to be seen. Beauty in the ugly parts. You have to know how to look at it. Search for it today. Even though today is cold and wet and all the pretty leaves are not on the trees but on the ground. I will go outside today. I listen to the rain of the smokers’ section roof. I will listen to the rain on the cars. I will listen to the cars splashing through the puddles. I will appreciate this for what it is and enjoy it. Because even though there have been better days and worst days, a little rain has to fall now and then so we can appreciate them both.
Today, I will go outside.


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