One summer, a long time ago, I couldn’t sleep. I was maybe ten years old. That one summer gave me some insight into how terrifying insomnia is. It is singularly frustrating because drifting off should happen naturally, and the more you try to force it, the more unattainable sleep becomes. I would go to bed (when you’re ten, your parents don’t give you much choice in the matter) and lie awake for h o u r s. I would get hot. Or my back would be itchy. I would listen to the drone of a small mosquito that would instantly stop when I turned the light on. I don’t think my parents got much sleep that summer either because at about 3:00 a.m every night, I would helpfully let them know that I couldn’t sleep. They tried to help me, installing a big fan at the end of my bed, sitting with me so I wasn’t awake and alone, and encouraging me to mentally focus on images that might bring me some peace of mind. I don’t recall whether any of it really helped, but as the summer wound down, sleep returned. And since then I haven’t had any issues with it, which I’m extremely grateful for.
That was the last summer before we got central air conditioning installed. As anyone knows, trying to sleep in extreme heat presents all kinds of challenges. When flipping your pillow to the ‘cool’ side doesn’t work and the single, thin sheet becomes oppressively hot, it can be enough to make you rip out your own (sweaty) hair in frustration. A coworker’s unit gave out on her in the middle of the heat wave in late July and it was a Code Red situation. She worried about how to sleep, to cook, and if her dog would make it through the day. Air conditioning has become so central (heh) that we can’t live without it. Sometimes though, I think we overdo it. When I went to see Spider-man: Homecoming in July, I brought along a sweater and socks because the theatre is always frigid. Same thing with the office, no matter how cute my summer clothes are, I always end up wearing the same over-sized sweater at my desk. And I never shop as quickly as I do when I’m standing in shorts in the freezer section of Superstore. And yet, when the metal part of the seatbelt is hot enough to use as a brand, it’s hard not to let the Max A/C do it’s work. In our house, we set the thermostat to about 24 º Celsius. That way it’s cool enough to still be comfortable, but not so cold that in the middle of August I have to wear a hoodie and wool socks.
I know we’re all more comfortable being cold, or at least temperate, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we remind ourselves how to live with the heat. Provided that heatstroke isn’t imminent, being hot can be a good thing. Acclimatizing is preferable to trying to air condition the weather away. The environment would appreciate it, and so would our wallets. Why not use the weather as an excuse to slow down? Summer goes fast as it is, we should stop and take it all in. For one day, turn off the A/C. Enjoy an icy cold treat while spending the day lazing in the heat. Soon enough we’ll be missing the dog days of summer and the heat that we wait for all year. Let’s try not to let it get away.