Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Humid in the city: When the heat gets to you, give it a month

Lots of Abu Dhabi windows look like this right now.

You can’t really go outside. You haven’t been able to do so in as long as you can remember, not really, not in a way that gives you any relief. Any fresh air. Any respite from the oppressive heat that has enveloped us for months.

What does that do to a person, really? Terrible things. Probably very unhealthy things, mentally and physically. Fresh air grass, water, sand, green things, nature: they all seem so terribly far away right now. What do you do when you can't escape the wet, foggy blanket that is enveloping you at every turn? That's basically smothering your face? 

Not much, I'm afraid. Not for another very hard couple of weeks.

I had a beautiful vacation in Bhutan at the start of August, one of the most amazing experiences of my life and ever since I came back, life has been hard. 

And so the person on the phone who doesn’t understand me bears the brunt. The shop keeper who seems to know nothing about the product I need - but they so should - is the recipient of my quietly simmering fury. It doesn't matter what the issue or the person the heat makes it worse: The irritating co-worker, the job that’s not going that well right now, the wobbly relationship, the child who needs that last ounce of patience no one has at the moment. 

The last few days here have been among the most horridly hot most people have experienced. No one can quite believe it, even those of us who have seen it repeatedly. The humidity is beyond belief. The simple trips from the car to work to car to home drain the life out of you. Knowing that it will drain the life out of you drains the life out of you. September in Abu Dhabi is like a long, dark, Ottawa, Canada winter, except you can bundle up against that, put on your snow pants and your toque and your boots and walk through the snow, and get yourself some fresh, clean air in those cells and when you get back home, rosy-cheeked and tired out, the world is right again. There is no way to do that in the depths of an Abu Dhabi summer. 

And because of that, you question everything. 

I see the havoc this weather wreaks emotionally every year, in myself and others all around me, see it playing out in all sorts of ways, watch as we all get pulled hither and thither, reacting, not responding, despairing, but not really knowing why, and still, knowing intellectually what’s happening, I have myself have succumbed yet again to the September crazies. 

Sure, many of us choose to live here and there are benefits that take us far beyond some heat, but that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? 

So what to do? The only thing you can do: give it a month. It will pass. Promise yourself you won't do anything drastic, like yell or quit or make any big changes you can't be sure you actually want. 

In the meantime, do anything you have to do to grab some patience and peace: have a long hot shower in the a/c, go to bed early, swim, do something amazing for yourself, go outside, even if it feels terrible, come back in and sigh gratefully at the cool, sweet, inescapable air conditioning, stop and breathe when you can (I like overly dramatic meditations myself), watch something gently funny, like Jerry Seinfeld interviewing some of the world's best comedians, seek out cold places, like movie theatres, the driver's seat of your car or the best Abu Dhabi summer antidote I've come across, listen to some gentle tunes to help you relax - I love this one - and just hang in there and do whatever you have to do to get through it. 

A friend and I sat outside for several very uncomfortable hours the other night by the pool at the Eastern Mangroves Resort & Spa by Anantara (I love that place, it's like my local hangout, can you imagine?). One of those giant mobile fans was blowing hot air on us, but not doing much other than drying our eyeballs out. We were very uncomfortable physically, each of us sweating profusely, but somehow, we just muscled through. I'm not sure it made anything better, but we needed it. 

On a trip to Dubai over the weekend, another friend and I realised we needed butter to complete dinner. The store was around the corner, and we walked. It was the hottest 10-minute round trip in recent memory. We actually panicked. But coming back inside? That was one of the most amazing chills I've had in quite some time. 

It will get better. I’ve been here for seven years. I can tell you with absolute certainly that it always does

So give it a month. Just trust me on this. It won't take that long. One morning you are going to go outside and there will be a sweet, gentle reprieve floating in the air, and you will be very glad that you did. 

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