One of the first new-to-my-vocabulary, local-to-the-Northwest terms I quickly learned after moving to Seattle was the term “sunbreaks.” I remember having the local news on one evening in our tiny Ballard apartment and hearing the forecast, which, I’ve found, is a very common forecast for Seattle at least 9 months of the year: “Tomorrow will mostly cloudy with occasional sunbreaks in the afternoon.” Sunbreaks? Why had I never heard of those before?

Well, most likely because I had previously lived in a place where the weather was one way or the other– blazing hot sun or cool cloudy weather. Sun and rain didn’t exactly mix in Georgia. Sure, a day could start off sunny and then in the heat of the afternoon you’d see thunderheads on the horizon and know what was in store– but once the storm was over, the skies would quickly clear and that would be the end of it. Not so much in Seattle. We even have days where the sun is shining and it’s raining at the exact same time. My husband taught my kids the South African term for that: a monkey’s wedding. šŸ™‚

While living here, I’ve learned to very much appreciate sunbreaks. Some days, I’ll be sitting at my dining room table, feeling that the misty gloom is just about going to overwhelm me… and then– brightness! And I look up at the sky, and streaks of light are coming down out of the clouds, and there’s a hole in the sheet of grey where the sun is peeking through. A sunbreak!

I’m sure glad for sunbreaks in the sky, and I’m glad for sunbreaks in my anxiety-ridden life. I’m thankful that when I feel like I can’t take the worry, the stress, or the panicky feelings for one more second– the clouds part and the sun shines in, if only for a few moments.

The sun takes the form of my daughter’s laughter.

A fireworks display on the 4th of July.

Watching my kids do something they love.

My husband’s mere presence, his arm around my back, letting me know things are really ok.

Sometimes living in Seattle is hard, especially when it’s January and the warmth and light of the holidays has passed and it’s 5 long months until clear, sunny summer. Sometimes living with anxiety is hard, when life seems overwhelming and I can’t fully enjoy a day out with my family for fear of a panic attack and I wonder when my emotional summer will ever come. In both situations, one thing is true: A brief sunbreak makes the cloud cover a little easier to bear.


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