Part of the reason why summer is so wonderful is that it is fleeting. I can feel summer moving along, day by day. Sometimes she meanders, like a lazy river, but summer is going somewhere. She’s just visiting. She can’t stay for too terribly long.
In states like Minnesota, where the changing seasons are a big part of our lives, this can bring on anxiety. We must make the most of every summer day because they DO NOT LAST! Soon it will be February and we’ll all be popping vitamin D pills, scouring the internet for a SAD lamp, and planning (hopefully, if traveling is OK) a visit to a friend or family member in a warmer state. It’s so real! It’s ever-present! The doom of the impending winter sits just beside the appreciation of a gorgeous day.
This can be hard to reconcile. No one wants this kind of pressure, right? How can you simultaneously lounge in a floatie on a lake, sipping something cold, and contend with the vanishing nature of summer? I’ve witnessed a few different forms of how to manage these conflicting feelings. Let’s discuss.
One form of management is list-making. Your summer to-dos! 100 things you can do this summer to LIVE IT UP! This sounds great to me. Truly, I love a list. Just give it to me and I’ll get it done and I’ll get it done right. Completing a checklist invites a feeling of satisfaction. You can tick the last box and welcome fall, knowing you did all the things. It’s a formula and it’s genius.
The problem with the list approach is that lists are one-size-fits-all. Watch this movie, outside, on a projector, after a rainstorm, when the moon is full. Find a river, rent an old-school innertube, float down said river with your three best friends, make up a best friend song as you’re floating. Cook this dinner. Pick berries at a berry patch. Dance in a rainstorm.
You can’t force magic. You can’t always formulate the perfect experience. It has to happen organically and lists are the opposite of unprompted fun. They are scheduled, prompted fun.
I love lists, but spontaneity and other magical confluences of factors are necessary to make dancing in the rain fun. (Those “factors” are probably like edibles or something, right?) Otherwise you’re just dancing in the rain because you feel like you should. And maybe you made your kids or your partner dance in the rain with you and they’re halfheartedly moving their arms around and looking at you like, Um, I get what you’re doing, but can we just not? And this cheapens the whole summer list thing.
This is all because you can’t force magic. You can’t always formulate the perfect experience. It has to happen organically and lists are the opposite of unprompted fun. They are scheduled, prompted fun.
Another strategy for combating the summer blues is through projects. Garden projects. Camping projects. Yard projects. Party projects. Similar to list-making, projects offer a sense of accomplishment. Also, much like list-making, projects allow you to curate your summer experience so you can plan to have all the fun. Projects equal fun payoff. The main issue with this method is that a lot of summer may pass you by while project-doing and project-planning.
Having the best summer solstice party is a big effort! It takes a lot of time and money and maybe some grief. The results of all the work can be an amazing night of shenanigans or it could be a night of hives because you’re so worried about the kids swimming in the pool at dusk or because your mom had four margaritas and sh*t’s getting weird. It’s just like gardening: Having a lovely garden is great, but there are multiple, arduous steps in making and maintaining a garden. It takes constant tending and now you have 900,000 tomatoes you have to can (another maj project) or deliver door-to-door because they’re not going to go to waste for god’s sake! (Not after all the work!)
I know, I sound like a d*ck. And I am not here to tell you not to have a slamming backyard BBQ or a big, leafy garden if those things sound fun or relaxing. I just don’t want you to feel like you have to do them in order to have a great summer. Keep in mind that farmers’ markets and CSAs exist so you can reap the benefits of someone else’s garden. And parties will always be there, as an option.
Instead of lists and projects, I want to try something different. I want to appreciate what is. I know this seems very woo-woo, but bear with me. Instead of a list of what’s left to accomplish to achieve premium summer status, I’d like everyone to briefly close their eyes and think back to the top five things that have already been really, genuinely fun or fulfilling or relaxing so far this summer. Maybe write them down.
The things on your summer appreciation list can be big, like a party or a garden. They can also be small, like an early morning walk by the river or an afternoon alone at the beach or reading for a whole two hours on a blanket in your lawn with cherries that stained your teeth and so your partner thought you’d hurt yourself when you finally came inside because your teeth were all red and you were like, No, I just ate a full pound of cherries, but then you looked in the mirror and saw what they were talking about and you both laughed so. hard. Thinking over what has felt really (dare I say it?) nourishing for you this summer will help you mindfully pick out the activities that are next to come. Or, better yet, just let activities happen and do your best to mindfully enjoy them as they do.
Thinking over what has felt really (dare I say it?) nourishing for you this summer will help you mindfully pick out the activities that are next to come.
When I think over my summer, I have really loved sitting on the back patio with our good friends (our co-quarantiners, basically the only faces we’ve seen outside our family since March), our kids are playing in the lawn while we’re eating something delicious. I’ve loved nesting in our home, hanging pictures, doing laundry, and getting ready for our third baby (!!). Reading in bed at my parents’ cabin has been lovely. Taking the girls to play outside in the afternoon, watching them run, and knowing that they are going to be tired and ready for naps is so nice. Long weekend “nap drives,” as we call them, when I read out loud in the car and my husband drives and the kids snooze and then we get ice cream have been fun for us all.
As the final weeks of summer approach, I encourage everyone to make room for simple pleasures and embrace whatever moments present themselves. Maybe you won’t be in a berry patch wearing a new straw hat or slicing your own heirloom tomatoes for a socially distanced garden party, but I bet there will be some big sunny fun to be had, wherever you might find yourself. I have to encourage myself to be present and content with what is, too, because it can be difficult. However, I’ll say with confidence that sinking into the moment is worth the mental effort. Always.
If fall and winter still feel like scary storm clouds ahead, take a minute to think about your last fall and winter seasons and, again, tease out the best memories. We loved using our fireplace last winter! We got a huge delivery of firewood and used it all the time. I like making and eating soup. It’s my specialty; I always look forward to soup. We had an excellent Halloween last year with traveling hot toddies and lots of laughs with new neighbors. And colorful drives looking for leaves. Thanksgiving leftovers. The first snow.
There is more to come, more fun to be had. The trick is to let each moment be what it is and to not hold too tightly on to what you think it should be.
There is more to come, more fun to be had. The trick is to let each moment be what it is and to not hold too tightly on to what you think it should be. Reflecting helps me with this process; it helps me to look ahead with a deeper understanding of what makes life valuable for me. No matter how you transition from season to season, I hope everyone is able to savor the end of their summer and welcome fall with a relaxed smile. Any other tips are welcomed in the comments below.
BY Meggie Maas - August 10, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.