Thursday, January 15, 2009

What's your Mood Enhancer--Food or Sunshine? ...And Hopes for a Sunny Inauguration

We each have something that gives us particular pleasure.

For my husband, it's food. His idea of a festive evening, or an escape, is to go out to eat at a restaurant. When he's in, say, New York, with its plethora of kosher restaurants, he carefully plans out which ones to try. When he describes his day on the road to me, the highlights are his descriptions of savory dishes; he names each item he ate and evaluates it, adding swoons where appropriate. When his meal, especially if expensive, isn't satisfying, he rues consuming it. Why add unworthy calories? Such a waste is more endurable, however, when someone else pays for it.

My particular happifier is good weather. If it's sunny, I'm happy; if it's warm and sunny, I'm downright manic. My energy doubles and my zest for whatever I'm doing soars. I can get almost obnoxious raving about a beautiful day, pointing out the magnificence of everything I see. My son is like that, too. When the winter arrives with its late sunrise and early darkness, with its constant shroud of gray, I push myself with affirmations.

Last week brought Seattle record downpours. Rivers overflowed their banks; houses washed away. Driving on some freeways caused foot-deep puddles to wash over cars like tidal waves, blinding drivers. I must have heard from ten people during this deluge, with anticipation in their voices, "but the weatherman says it's supposed to be clear next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!"
Even Barack Obama could not have instilled more hope than the weatherman's prediction. But I suspect that the longing aroused by both prognosticators have similar likelihoods of fulfillment. This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were dreary and dark, with gray cloud-blankets emitting occasional drizzle, and short sunbreaks too brief to budge disappointment.

Meanwhile, my husband, in Washington, DC, reported a bright and sunny day that mirrored the capital's excitement and eagerness for the new Presidency. Brilliance outdoors energizes and enlivens, enhancing the festivities that welcome a fresh approach. If it were, say, 75 degrees outside instead of 10, that enthusiasm would expand even further.

Interestingly, yesterday I was fortunate to attend a get-together of a women's education group comprised of mainly conservative women. We heard a superb speaker tell of her frustrations as a US government appointee in media relations charged with making sure news outlets know about our humanitarian efforts in the mid-east and Asia. After the talk, as the group disbursed, I overheard two ladies: "I hope there's a blizzard for Obama's inauguration!" one snickered. "Yes, a blizzard so thick and cold we don't have to watch him take the oath of office!" the other replied with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, President Bush offered his farewell address tonight. It was sweet and poignant and gracious. Perhaps the aspect of his character I admire most is his determination to follow a moral course without regard to polls or pressure, and with sole regard to values girded by his religious faith. My favorite part of his speech was:

"...America must maintain our moral clarity. I've often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense -- and to advance the cause of peace."

Even though President-elect Obama won with his mantra of "eight years of failed presidency" he's soon going to see that a president's choices are shaped by experts' briefings, and that the facts will push his actions not so very far from President Bush's. I do hope the new administration can begin with a sunny day.

Which brings me back to my theory that each of us has his or her own special mood enhancer. Beside my husband's joy in food, and my reliance on good weather, other than the obvious sources of well-being (eg health, children safe, financial stability) what elevates your mood?

As I look out my window to see...well, nothing, as it's dark and densely foggy, I take comfort in knowing that here in the Northwest, things are always changing. The only reliability our weatherman has is in being wrong. And perhaps that, too, brings a smile, because there's nothing quite as much fun as a surprise.


  1. Oooh, I've gotta go with Michael on this one. Even though I know there are plenty of other mood enhancers out there, food is definitely what makes a day better or worse for me.

  2. When the morning sun peeks through the trees and I witness a bright sparkle to the east, that can set the tone for my day. It has been a few days without a sparkle in the morning light. I miss the sunny snow days.

  3. I agree with both of you! I love a great dish, and my kids roll their eyes when I rapturously exclaim over a beautiful and crisp fall day (you know - the kind of sparkling day with clear air that makes you want to take deep breaths). But my favorite high comes from being with friends I haven't seen for awhile; spending an evening with beloved friends is tops!

  4. Cam: Love your honesty!
    Shawna: could there be a gender correlation? Are women more visual and men more, um, taste-ful?
    Deborah: (wink!) Yes, friends are best, but I'm talking about the kind of upper that works by itself; no need for anyone else around!

  5. I was born and raised in Mich. When I married my husband 35 yrs. ago we moved to southwest Fla. It took about 10 yrs. for me to like Fla. and now I've even learned to love it's unique landscape.
    I would not be able to live somewhere that is overcast and grey so many days after growing used to so many sunny ones.

  6. I don't drink coffee everyday, but on the mornings I do, I feel happy because of it.

  7. “…frustrations as a US government appointee in media relations charged with making sure news outlets know about our humanitarian efforts in the mid-east and Asia.” I suppose you mean supplying Israel with all that white phosphorous. Does make you feel good doesn’t it….

    Says Bush: “Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.” Takes one to know one.

  8. I have to go with you on the sunny weather. I like it when food tastes good, but really only eat it because I need it as fuel. The sunny weather, though? That is good for the soul and the psyche.