Outdoors/Adventure

The rain has been unavoidable. I’ve got plenty of negative coping mechanisms but some positive ones as well.

I’ve been told the following:

I have an infectious smile.

Ditto my laugh, even though it’s loud.

People appreciate my optimistic, yet “real,” take on life.

I’m leaning into the realness today. This morning, as I sat in a delightfully warm, dark sauna in the basement gym that is serving as a place of respite and focus right now, I pondered how I would approach this outdoors column given the state of my mind.

I don’t think I have a positive spin on this, I thought. I’m just taking things moment by moment.

So, in the spirit of sharing about real life and trying to zoom out to find the humor in trying circumstances that are just that — not dangerous for me, not harmful, just uncomfortable — I’m sharing about unhealthy ways I cope with rain.

ADVERTISEMENT

The rain that seemingly has not stopped since mid-July here in Palmer, which is coincidentally when I arrived back in the state after a few months away. I’m sorry, everyone. I feel somehow responsible, which is a special kind of superstition meets megalomania.

I’ll also say by way of context that this is nearly my third month of living full-time out of our new trailer here in Alaska, so the wall between me and the elements is quite thin. It’s aluminum-thin, in fact, in our tiny, shiny 19-foot Airstream. It’s a dream, yes, but there’s also a bit of a horror film element of the incessant pattering of endless water from the sky. We’re living this way partially by choice, but also because a while ago we decided to rent our house out on Airbnb for the summer and now those chickens are roosting.

Speaking of Airbnb, I present my unhealthy coping mechanism No. 1: Cozying up with Airbnb for hours on end. Nighttime hits, and I delight — seriously, delight — at turning on my little MiFi device, cozying up on the couch-that-converts-to-a-bed with some pillows and blankets, and navigating to Airbnb. I have three “GTFO” — I’m not unpacking that acronym in print — lists that I apparently created three separate times, and I scroll for longer than I care to admit through sunny destination Airbnbs, adding them to saved lists for a later that has not yet come.

Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 2: Scanning the weather app for changes in, or slightly better forecasts. In the morning, after another night of the no-longer-soothing-but-slightly-stressful pitter-patter of rain above our heads, I reach for my phone to check my weather app to confirm that it is, in fact, raining. This is the healthy habit of successful people they didn’t tell you about. It says 100% chance of rain right now and for the next hour, and I mutter about how the forecast changed from last night. The sunrise icon throws me, and I momentarily think that maybe we’ll have an hour of sunshine at 8 a.m. No. When I check the 10-day forecast, I screenshot it like I have so many weeks before: rain, rain, rain. Later, I’ll spend some time scrolling through other forecasts to see if it’s worth heading to somewhere notoriously sunny like, say, Valdez. Homer? Maybe Juneau.

Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 3: Telling myself to buck up because it could be worse. There’s an element of truth to this one. I am deeply saddened by the havoc wreaked in Western Alaska communities by a typhoon, which apparently will become more typical as the climate warms. I also feel grief over there being a legit wildfire and smoke season now in the Lower 48 Western states, as my stepdaughter starts her second semester in hazardous air quality in Reno. It could be worse, I tell myself. You are safe, warm, and dry. Objectively speaking, you have it really good: you have a roof over your head, and you just need to wait out some discomfort until you’re back in your house. Does the dreary weather have you down? Yes, and cry me a river. Thing is, this does put it in perspective, and on one level it is true. But I would tell anyone else to be aware of context but not let it diminish your own experience. Now I’m telling myself the same.

Unhealthy coping mechanism No. 4: Worrying about some of the ways it could get worse. Catastrophizing is a habit, like anything else. I used to worry that I was addicted to worry, and now when I catch myself fearing that the roof will spring a leak, or the truck will cost one million dollars to fix, or I won’t actually make it doing whatever latest thing I’m trying, I do my best to coach myself out of it. So far, the roof isn’t leaking. I can feel grateful for that, and if it changes, I’ll cope.

Finally, because I cannot help myself and truly, my life orientation trends onward and upward, I also, thankfully, have a suite of healthy ways I cope. These help get me through and by in a way that brings joy in moments, and assures me I’ll be intact on the other side of this stretch of life.

I use painting as a getaway. I pick a photo reference of a sunny or verdant place, and spend hours focusing on it and painting it. Seeing and working with the colors gives me not only something beautiful to meditate on, but it gives me a creative outlet that I’m proud of when it’s complete. It’s taking a discrete step to bring something new into being.

I play board games with my husband and friends. My favorite is Scrabble, but I also love a good game of Catan. Somehow, Pandemic doesn’t do it for me anymore.

It will come as no surprise that I get consistent exercise. I’ve realized recently that exercise for me is just as much about mental as it is about physical health, if not maybe more on the mental side. The only reason I sleep as well as I do is that I get those 10,000 steps a day, through running or walking, and recently I’ve started to lift with a gym membership my husband graciously purchased for us both at the outset of this bout of “van life.” Lifting heavy things creates focus and, again, purpose. I like being immersed in it, watching my progress, and feeling like I have an accomplishment I can point to in my day and body.

Finally, that sauna. I go there, lie down, and feel warm and dry in the darkness. It’s a brief, lovely getaway that I carry with me by way of residual warmth into the rest of my day.

Alli Harvey

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Sponsored