How was your summer? As teachers are returning to work, this question is being asked over and over. In fact, all month long, people have been lamenting that the summer is over. I get it. Completely. There is likely an alarm clock involved now, a schedule that’s been created for you instead of by you, and you can’t enjoy an activity of your choosing or decide to do nothing, spontaneously in the middle of the day. Yet I personally don’t accept that summer has ended. For my summer is still happening and I continue to celebrate.
Summer, to me, is as much a mindset as it is a season. As someone whose main career has been working in schools over the past 25 years, summer means freedom. It is liberating on so many levels. Deciding my own sleep schedule. Learning new things that interest me. Summer means embracing my adventurous side. Travelling where and when I choose. Saying yes to new experiences. Long days which I am able to fill in any way I desire. Summer means being my most authentic self. No makeup or professional clothing. Being silly. Lying in the grass, staring at the sky through the tree tops and feeling completely satiated. Summer means carving time for what’s important to me. Seeing friends. A new romance. Taking steps to create the future I desire. Summer means permission to play. Eating ice cream, swimming, climbing on rocks and digging in the sand! I’m seven again! Summer is a glimpse into my most fulfilled me. What a gift!
It is a time to refuel. I fill my body and soul with new experiences, belly laughs, fun memories, private jokes, and bonding with the people I don’t seem to get around to see during other seasons. I picture my body as a vessel shaped like me, like the bottle of syrup, and visualize the sweetness of summer joys and positive energy slowly filling me up from my feet to my head.
In past years, I was barely bumping along on fumes when I got to the filling station of summer. This year I’d say that my tank was already half-filled and now I am brimming over. I realize that how I receive this fuel is as important as the time I spend refueling. The fuel that gives me the most strength is the one that I accept with no feelings of guilt. It’s when I am in the moment and not thinking of anywhere else I need to be. What fills me up the quickest are the deep conversations, laughter, and love. Enjoying beautiful scenery gives it longevity. Remembering to feel grateful tops it off.
I know this replenishing is important for me and I take it seriously. As soon as I am completely filled, I consciously choose to lose as little of this energy as possible by remaining mindful. I will not allow fleeting thoughts to surface about what awaits me when the next season begins. I know that I am filled with as much resilience and optimism as I need, in order to face what typically stresses me. It’s empowering.
My summer energy is much more important for me to hold onto than the actual story of the summer. The story of this summer has, for the most part, been a great one. But I’ve stopped assuming that those storylines will continue throughout the year. I realized this lately as day after day, I’ve regrettably felt the need to reject sharing any beautiful memories that pop up on facebook from years past on this date. It’s not sensitive to share any pictures from when my daughter was pre-transition or in early transition. It doesn’t make sense to share pictures of moving my kids into colleges that they left during freshman year. Now they are all enjoying other wonderful journeys. My life’s experiences are not sequential and, in my life, what happens one summer seems to not even be related to what happens the next.
I need to live in the moment and face each plot line as it comes. I am open to change and I know that my rejuvenated self will see the opportunities as they arrive, and will be able to reframe what seems difficult.
I also know it is up to me how fast I deplete again. If something is very stressful and pushes my buttons, I am in danger of losing my inner joy and strength very quickly. This would be such a shame, since I savored every drop that filled me up so carefully. When I find myself feeling overwhelmed or defeated, I try very hard to consciously conjure up the senses from the summer. If I can feel the bubbles of giggles or sense the warmth of the sun, I can bring back the gratitude. I can know the joy of having my only questions be, “What do I want to do today?” I can return to being completely relaxed, filled with joy, and excited about life.
So I choose to ask my friends, “How is your summer going?” I choose to continue to feel free and to say yes to adventures. I am still going to be authentically me, whether I’m in flip flops or heels. I am excited to carry this Summer of Me throughout all of the seasons, as I make time for what is important to me, and I give myself permission to play all year long. I am going to metaphorically (and, as long as I can, literally) continue to drive with the top down!
What does summer mean to you? What mindset do you adopt in the summer that would serve you well to hold onto in all seasons?