Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inversion again

Yet again, the inversion has settled in making for dismal daytime weather and bad air for those who like to breathe.  Before the sun came up this morning, I could not even see across the street.  Now visibility is slightly better, but there is no view of mountains or valley.  We are promised a snowstorm tonight, significant enough to blow away the stagnation.  I abandoned my plans to look for bald eagles this weekend.

Winter is not yet over.  The snow has been melting and temps have been in the high 30's and even 40's of late, which feels good after long stretches below freezing.  But the cold temps are also predicted to return by mid-week.  It's a reminder that winter extends into March here, and even after that continues to make appearances. 

Still, as January draws to a close, I resist the temptation to simply appreciate surviving it.  There has been good progress indoors on my projects.  Good things are happening at work.  And I can even see beauty in the fog through my windows (as long as I don't try to breathe it).  Life is too short to simply write off a month out of every year.  It behooves us to make the time we have worthwhile.  As for me, I'm sticking to the plan.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The air outside is unbreathable.  We are urged to drive less.  Burning in fireplaces and wood stoves is forbidden.  Those with respiratory conditions are advised to stay indoors / not exercise.  It's a "red air day" - common for January in northern Utah.  Often the worst air in the U.S. at the time.

The mountains in northern Utah form something of a bowl around the Wasatch Front communities.  Wintertime air stagnation causes fog from the lake and pollutants from vehicles, planes, and industry to become trapped at low elevations where most of us live, while the air higher in the mountains is clear and beautiful.  We look forward to storms that blow through and clear out the gunk from our valleys.  In between times, weather forecasters tell us whether it's a green, yellow, or red air quality day, and we adapt accordingly.

I've decided that since I feel somewhat confined in my home due to the bad air, I'm going to make the most of it.  This is a good opportunity to focus internally -- on both myself and my home.  I am lucky to work from home most of the time, so even that plays into my plan.  I am wrapping myself up, so to speak, inside my home, giving me a chance for some personal introspection, renewal, and preparation before setting off on new paths and pursuits in the coming months and year.

I will live inside a chrysalis of my own making and begin to do the work that later will bring about subtle or possibly even startling changes.  For several decades I defined myself as part of a couple.  Now I am finding out who the individual is that I am.  Wrapped up and somewhat secluded from the outside, I hope to grow further into a person who is all me -- carrying all of the influences of the past not as baggage, but as formative experience and wisdom -- and transforming myself to step into the next phase of my development.

In a few weeks, we'll probably have our typical return to winter after this bit of thaw we are enjoying.  There will yet be snow and freezing, though the temperatures will begin to rise gradually.  If you're a gardener, you know the rule of thumb in Utah is not to plant until after Mother's Day when we can usually count on no more temperatures below the freezing mark.  Winter lasts a long time here. 

Oh, but I won't wait for Mother's Day to emerge from my cocoon.  I'll begin unwrapping the layers gradually as spring approaches.  As I feel ready.  I will emerge from this period of transition, conscious of everything around me and my juxtaposition to those things.  I have an unexpected and profound feeling of freedom and renewal this year.  I'm eager to plunge into a warmer, sunnier world.

I don't know entirely what to expect when the new me emerges from my secluded period.  For now I'm focusing on the internal -- discovering, growing, preparing.  When I do emerge, I'll breathe deeply of the good clear air, I'll stretch out my limbs in celebration of my freedom, and I'll venture into the beautiful and welcoming spring.

And then, we shall see . . .

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Not going to sweat the small stuff

My daughter and I were talking the other day about how easy it is to get carried away with worrying about things big and small and what a waste it often is when you look back at the problem.  Almost all the time, the issue gets resolved and you move on and the worrying did nothing but take off precious minutes of your life.

As trite as it sounds, I think my one real resolution this year is to not sweat the small stuff.  And as my daughter points out (more triteness coming), it really is almost all small stuff.

I had a great boss once (then a lawyer, now a judge), who really embodied this practice.  When something would go wrong, he'd let off with a string of epithets that would wither a sensitive soul.  And then he was done with agonizing and was on to the practical problem-solving.

I have tried to adopt some of this approach in my own life - to get past any worry, frustration, anger, and other negative emotions that tend more to debilitate than to help any situation.  I've been relatively successful with getting on with the problem-solving phase quickly, and I am good at letting go of anger to the point that I honestly rarely even feel anger anymore.  But it has been hard to let go of the worrying.

This is something I really want to focus on this year.  And as a born worrier, this will be a real challenge.