20 Oct Does my country-city flip-flop remind you of yourself?
I’m a daydreamer. I love to imagine what my life would be like if I lived someplace else, had a different lifestyle and even a different job.
But, I’ve noticed that the content of my daydreams changes with my cycle.
I realized this yesterday as I was driving around town running some errands with my husband: As we passed suburban house after suburban house and homogeneous strip mall after homogeneous strip mall, I began fantasizing about moving to the English countryside dotted with quaint cottages that were hundreds of years old surrounded by acres and acres of lush green grass and adorable wooden fences to keep some neighbor’s fluffy sheep from wandering off. We’d have as much quiet and privacy as we wanted, but when we did go into town (which was an assembly of teahouses and ribbon stores that hadn’t changed a bit since the 1700s and looked like a scene out a Christmas postcard or miniature train set) or bring neighbors baskets of freshly-baked
muffins scones for tea-time, everyone we’d encounter would have the most precious accent that made everything they said sound like it was coming off the page of a Jane Austen novel. And life would be perfect.
“Would you mind if we moved to the English countryside?” I asked Douglas.
“You’d hate it.”
I laughed at that since he clearly hadn’t just experienced the idyllic pastures and warm blueberry scones in my head that were making this the absolute right reason why we should renew our passports and start looking at home sale ads in England immediately.
“You’d be bored in a day,” he explained.
That halted my country reverie in its tracks and made me think of my other common daydream: Moving back to New York City.
I’d lived in Greenwich Village and SoHo for about a decade–right in the heart of the hubbub with sidewalks teeming with salty New Yorkers, naive tourists and businesspeople who skirted in between all of them on their brisk way to and from brightly-lit offices.
Douglas and I moved to Florida nine years ago, but I often find myself missing the nonstop action and colorful, smart, sophisticated, off-beat residents with their thick, rough-hewn New Yawk accents that make them sound hard-edged and streetwise, prompting surprise and relief at any kindness and softness they show.
In my daydreams of New York, I’m back in Chinatown with all its exotic foods and smells or in Washington Square Park watching advanced chess players hustling unwitting less experienced players or I’m spontaneously taking part in some kind of previously unfathomable activity that unexpectedly presented itself and will no doubt be worth blogging about or simply staring out my small apartment window watching the unending throngs pass by.
But, as I remembered these New York-centric daydreams, I realized something:
I nearly always daydream about New York City during the first half of my monthly cycle–my Week 1 and Week 2.
And I nearly always daydream about the English countryside during the second half of my monthly cycle–my Week 3 and Week 4.
Which, when I think about it, makes perfect sense:
During Week 1 and Week 2, rising estrogen prompts a higher output of brain chemicals that make you crave thrilling excitement, lots of people and entirely new experiences. For me, this is New York City.
During Week 3 and Week 4, lower estrogen combined with sedating progesterone prompts brain changes that make you prefer a quieter, more serene environment, fewer people (and preferably those you already know well) and a predictable routine over anything new. For me, this would be life in the English countryside.
But, Douglas is right. I wouldn’t enjoy a lifetime of living in a remote country cottage with no one nearby and nothing to do.
And when I long to move back to New York, he reminds me why we finally moved away: I was tired of living among too many people because it meant no space, no privacy, no quiet and no peace. I was sick of the rank smells of urine, trash, vomit, cigarette smoke and rotting food that cloaked the densist parts of the city like a sweaty sock. And I was done with spending an hour to travel–via two subway lines, a bus and a long walk in the rain and snow–to get just five miles from downtown to uptown.
The town where we live now, Saint Petersburg, Florida, is small but bustling and boasts world-famous beaches on the Gulf of Mexico that showcase beautiful sunsets every night. Our house is in a friendly neighborhood where you can watch neighbors come and go, but still enjoy a peaceful, quiet walk by yourself. Sure, there are humdrum houses and strip malls around. But, there are also plenty of historic neighborhoods, buildings and parks to enjoy. And thanks to its thriving arts and music culture, there’s always something interesting and fun to do here.
So, it turns out that my reality–a compromise between country and city life–is actually the perfect choice.
And the daydreams I get during the first half and second half of my cycle are just fantasies that look better when viewed through the prism of my hormones.
If you get these kinds of opposing fantasies–where you’re wondering what life would be like, say, single or in a long-term monogamous relationship, in a technical profession or as an artist or making your home in the country or the city–try to keep in mind where you are in your cycle when they pop into your thoughts. And think about how your hormones could be influencing how much rosier they appear than the reality would be.
Then, if you have a friend or confidante who knows you well, talk with that person about whatever life change you’re daydreaming about. She or he can help remind you of what really makes you happy.