Have you been enjoying the 4:11 sunsets? For the last 10 days in Boston, the sun has been setting so early that you need headlights to get home from a late lunch.
If you’re one of those people who enjoys this time of year, when our sun makes its earliest dive behind the horizon, then I’m jealous. And I hate you because for me, it’s when my seasonal affective disorder hits its nadir, completing a descent that begins, like clockwork, on the first Sunday in November, the day we set our clocks back from Daylight Saving Time. The time change makes me very SAD — that wonderful acronym for the disorder — and capable of dark thoughts like “I should move to Florida.”
I don’t hate Daylight Saving Time; I hate the idea that we abandon it in winter, at exactly the time when we really need to save daylight for something useful, like preserving our sanity.
Raise your hand if you like leaving work in the dark.
So I’m going to fix it. I’m going to turn my SAD around in a single day. It’s a dumb idea, yes, but so is setting our clocks so the sun sets at 4:11.
I read a ton of tips about combating SAD and made a list of the most popular suggestions. Taking the one that popped up most as my starting point, I began my day being blinded by a Happy Lamp. This so-called therapy light cost me 40 bucks at Bed, Bath & Beyond and promised to help me “beat the winter blues.” All I had to do was sit in front of it for 30 to 60 minutes each morning and try not to look directly at it, all while not getting up to deal with ridiculous requests from my children like “Can I please have some food?”
After 60 minutes, I turned it off and . . . you know what? I kinda felt different. I really did. Maybe I was happy. Or maybe I was blind.
Next, I exercised. Yep, I went to a class at my gym, where I ran and pushed and pulled (somewhat) heavy things in an attempt to pretend my forty-something body was still any good.
When that class was over and I was panting in a pool of sweat, I was flying, man. This was much better than my earlier plan, which was to call my buddy who just grew a bunch of weed.
Another thing that is often recommended for SAD is to take vitamin D supplements — you know, that vitamin you get from the sun if you actually get to see the sun.
A coach at the gym told me she takes something that’s called Liquid Sunshine, which doesn’t sound like a scam at all, so I drove straight to the hippie health food store, coughed up $22.19, then sat in my car drinking a fruit smoothie while I carefully placed one drop of concentrated happiness on my tongue.
Then, with rainbows emanating from the very core of my being, I had a genius idea for taking on my next task: thinking happy thoughts.
I drove to the local surf shop, bought the latest issue of The Surfer’s Journal, then hustled home, pulled the fold-out hammock out of the basement, dragged the Christmas tree out of the way of the only two windows in my house that actually get afternoon sunshine, popped the hammock, grabbed a coconut-flavored sparkling water out of the fridge because it kind of tastes like suntan lotion, opened the surfing magazine, and then fell asleep. (Tip #5: Get plenty of rest.)
Lounging in the lukewarm sunshine, I dreamed of blue-green waves in Oahu with its fancy 5:51 sunset.
When I woke up, it was time to “spend the last hour of the day outside doing something you enjoy,” so I drove to the beach in Gloucester and actually went surfing. I’m a lousy surfer, and the water was freezing, but I left the water feeling reborn. As I drove home in my wetsuit — marinating in endorphins and sea water — I figured I’d take a shower, eat a nutritious meal, then go to bed. Then I looked at the clock. It was 5:05.
This is stupid.
The next day, I abandoned all the rigmarole and did what I usually do: I fed the kids breakfast — they’re so needy — and spent the day working at a computer, got MAD, and again thought about real estate in Florida. But I still had one more thing to try.
I took the Southwest Expressway that afternoon, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic with my headlights on, and fought my way toward Quincy to meet one of my heroes.
It was close to pitch-black when Tom Emswiler walked out of his office at 4:40. He is the man who began, with a wildly popular op-ed published in the Globe in 2014, the first real push for Massachusetts to stay on Daylight Saving Time year-round. He is armed with things like public health statistics and logic (which means it probably won’t work).
“4:11 is the afternoon. It’s not supposed to be the night,” Emswiler said to me as we headed for the place New Englanders go to drink away darkness and depression: Dunkin’ Donuts. “It makes me feel bad. But I also feel optimistic. We’ve got momentum.”
A state commission has endorsed the idea in a 9-to-1 vote, and New Hampshire and Maine have passed votes in their legislatures that say they’ll do it if their neighbors do.
Emswiler said that if it goes through, the best thing about it is people probably won’t notice, in a good way, “the way you don’t notice if you walk into a room and the temperature feels right.”
But why now? Why, after we’ve been fiddling with our clocks since World War I, would we finally fiddle them in the right direction?
“Because I’m not the only one who feels this way,” he said.
I wanted to give him a hug. But I just shook his hand, then went home, into my darkness, believing that there just might be some light ahead. And there was, sorta. On Thursday, the sun sets at 4:12.Billy Baker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.