Despite the still balmy temperatures we have in September, the leaves are starting to turn, the kids have returned to school, and summer is quietly sliding into fall. Summer 2015 is the best summer I have ever had in life. I do not remember a summer like this since 1988. I tried to think about why this is so and to isolate the commonalities that seemingly exist between two so disparate years.
In 1988, I was still a child. This was before I started working at age 14. While my childhood was nothing pretty and everything I have been trying to overcome as an adult, I distinctly remember the summer of 1988 as having a slight respite from the challenges through which I lived in my youth. I remember reading lots of books. I was in Virginia that summer, and the people with whom I was staying had a pool membership. When I was not in the pool, I was next to it reading. Those were the most carefree days of my life. Granted, my tastes have changed. I did not re-read Jurassic Park and all the other Michael Crichton novels this summer, but I actually had time for leisure reading; a rare treat as a grad student.
This summer, I had the gift of time. For the first time in my adult life, I have employment that actually allows me days off. Prior to my current position, I was always working 7 days a week between two or three jobs. The only time I ever got a day off was a holiday. Holidays were not really holidays, they were days to be home and get caught up on school and everything else in the middle of my 60 hour plus survival schedule. My current position gives me at least one day off per week, and often more. I had several days this summer where I had the day off and the freedom to recreate that feeling from 1988 of being free from responsibility and worry. I spent many days this summer at the various parks in the state, on the beaches reading, and doing some light surfing.
Beach days were not relaxing at first. I was so accustomed to the schedule of having to pack school into every free moment due to my work schedule, that my first few beach visits I took my school work with me. Then, as I started to realize my current employment situation allows me privileges I have never before experienced in life, I made a conscious decision that I would not take any schoolwork with me.
That’s where the magic begins.
Beach days became carefree and reminiscent of that childhood summer of 1988. I simply put some food in a cooler, grabbed a towel, a book, and some sunglasses, and off I went. The most “difficult” decision I had to make was which bathing suit to wear, and even that was not hard: wear the dry one that is in the closest reach.
This summer was great because it was probably the first time since I started working at age 14 that I actually had “holidays.” Now I know what the Europeans are talking about. I took off for beach days this summer without school, without work, and without worries. That has never happened for me before.
In some aspects, I feel I was able to reclaim some small portions of my childhood lost due to the difficulties I faced as a child and being forced to grow up way to soon to face them. I felt a little irresponsible “blowing things off” and taking beach days, but in reality, all my work and schoolwork was done, and my bills were paid, so really I was not blowing anything off, I was doing the best thing possible. I was taking care of myself. I was able to experience childhood delight that I never experienced as a child, and able to fully relax and be present in the moment in which I was living. It was one of the best things I have ever done.
As summer slowly changes to fall, I feel I am also losing that feeling. I feel I need to recreate it somehow, so that I do not lose the beauty of my summer beach days. What I am learning, as I rewind real slow, is that peace and relaxation may not necessarily be about your location (although beaches and crashing waves are very helpful), but rather a state of mind that says: “I am here. I am at peace.” Most importantly: “I am enough.”
I have gotten caught up in the whirlwind of fall. The anxiety of back to school (although my grad program runs continuously until its conclusion); it’s that Pavlovian response to the change in season. I find myself trying to jam pack my schedule again.
Then I realized that having the best summer of my life need not be an isolated incident. It is also possible to have the best fall of my life.
Now I’m putting on the breaks.
In the next few weeks, my goal is to refocus myself for a new season not only in weather, but also in life. I am going to remember to enjoy my days off. While I may not be spending them at the beach right now, I need to remember to not fill them with useless and unnecessary things. That beach feeling is something I can recreate in other ways. I just need to figure out how.
Do you get caught up in the fall whirlwind? Is this the time of year you pack your (or your child’s) schedule with activities, meetings, and things to do? Summer is not the only season for relaxing and joy. Fall can have the same feeling of peace if only we know how to find it.
As the breeze blows gently, I am enjoying a fall morning now on my deck with my coffee, and some radio. If this summer has taught me anything, I have learned that it is ok to just sit and be. Doing nothing is not necessarily lazy. Sometimes doing nothing helps to replenish us so that we may fully do something.
What ways are you learning to slow down this fall? Are there things that help you to feel relaxed in the middle of the bustle of back to school and new schedules? Times of transition are often stressful. This is the time when we need to take care of ourselves the most.
Take time to rewind real slow.