Since I've been out of work for the past couple months, I've gotten something this summer that I haven't had in years: a good tan. Now don't worry, I am fully aware of the dangers of sun exposure. I know, I know, I know. I probably shouldn't be in the sun as much as I am. I just can't help it. It feels good.
I grew up in the 80's, before we knew we should be avoiding sun exposure. I clearly remember my mother lying on one of those plastic tri-fold lawn chairs using coconut scented "suntan lotion". She even had one of those reflectors that looked like it was made from tin foil. She always had a dark tan. And yes, my mother has had skin cancer. So has my grandmother on my father's side and she's always avoided the sun. I recently asked my mother if she would have avoided the sun, had she known in the 70's and 80's that she was increasing her risks. She paused for a moment to consider and tilted her head to one side. "Probably not" she replied. She also smoked cigarettes for twenty years, quitting when I was about twelve and she developed asthma. I don't smoke. Although I gave it a try briefly when I was a teenager, it's never appealed to me. Why would I pick up on one risky behavior but not the other?
Maybe I'm over thinking it. I know we need sunlight to survive and that it improves our mood, among other things. I even have one of those "Happy Lights" to get me through the long dark winters. But for me, it's more than that. It's almost as if it warms my bones and keeps me moving. I like to be warm. I'd much rather be hot than cold. My other half is the opposite. In fact, when we first started dating I feared we wouldn't be able to stay together when I learned he likes to sleep with a fan blowing on his face! We've managed to make it work, although it seems like he's always struggling to cool off and I'm always trying to get warm. The funny thing is, my mom and step-dad are similar. When I visit in the summer, the central air is blasting and he's wearing shorts with no shirt while she's pulling on socks and a sweatshirt.
I'm quite curious about the discussion of nature versus nurture. In what ways am I who I am because I learned it from my mom? And what are the things she passed to me that I can't avoid? My love of the sun is one trait that makes me wonder, my anxiety issues are another. I've spent a lot of time blaming my mom for stuff like that. I've learned that it's unproductive and unnecessary. When my folks visited me last month, we were all sitting out by our pond watching the koi and chatting. At almost the same time, my step-dad and my boyfriend both declared "It's too hot, I'm going inside!" My mom and I stayed on the bench and sat together quietly for a little while by ourselves, something we haven't done in years. That was a moment I'll remember for a long time and I'm glad it was created for us by our love of the sun.