It’s just not my thing.

Summer is not my favorite season.  Actually, it’s my least favorite season.  Okay, full truth–there’s a lot I don’t like about summer at all.  It’s not something I say out loud that often.  I live in ‘Vacationland’, where people wait all year for the 8 or 10 precious weeks we can call summer–warm enough to swim even in Maine’s cold ocean waters, daylight that lasts even longer than most can be awake, and lush, green landscapes.  37 million people a year come to experience summer in Maine (about 30 times our year round population). I get it, this is an amazing place.  I do absolutely love to swim in our lakes, streams, and ocean waters and hike our many mountains.  Growing an abundance of food and flowers is a constant summer joy.  And the expanse of daylight that means it is perfectly possible to go for a walk with a neighbor at 8PM, or weed the garden at 5:30AM is pretty awesome.

It’s beautiful, but…

It’s hot.  I don’t like hot.  Seriously, sitting on a sunny, sandy beach is torture.  I know the vast majority of humans in the world live in way warmer climates and obviously we can adapt.  I do not do it gracefully.  Humidity is even worse.  And there are so many bugs.  Ticks take over the woods and my body feels like one big itch for months.  Plus, (and most relevant to this post) there’s this anxiety haze that rolls in for me with the heat and humidity.  It feels like we’re supposed to fit all the fun and joy into this incredibly short season.  And if you’re not out doing something to enjoy summer (which means beach-going, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, fishing, bbq-ing, or bonfire-ing), you’re definitely doing summer wrong.  Also, since there is so much daylight, why aren’t you taking full of advantage of every minute?  In December we’ll be mourning every lost minute of light, can’t waste it now!

That’s the thing that gets me.  Summer somehow feels all about ‘doing’ to me.  Being busy ‘doing summer’ does not make a whole lot of rational sense.  But the tension is definitely there, nonetheless.  Guilt for wanting to sit on the porch and read a book, despite the mountains I could be hiking or the weeds I could be pulling.  Exhaustion at even the thought of trying to schedule something with friends and family because everyone’s schedules are so busy in the summer.  Even some resentment…I love fresh berries and our yard is full of them.  But sometimes I just want them to done because when I can’t keep up with them all and some rot on the vine, I’m filled with guilt for letting their sweetness go to waste.  (I’m sensing a guilt theme here!)  Plus, there are so many beautiful, wild places I want to return to.  And so many I want to visit for the first time.  I can’t get to all of them, or even most of them, and what if I feel like being home instead of going on that hike I know I love but there isn’t much time left for hiking so I better go and should I bring a friend or two and who and are they available and then whether I go or not, I’m already tired of my thoughts and weary of the ‘problem’ I’ve created in my head of having too many beautiful places to be or people to be with.

Basically, I’m not present in the summer.  I let myself get pulled in so many directions that I don’t land anywhere well.

How could this shift?

It’s okay with me that it’s harder.  Given that our spring, fall, and winter (all of which I love) last way longer than our summer, I’ll take my discomfort in this short season.  But I do want to get better at ‘being’ in the summer, without the resentment, guilt, and exhaustion that all comes from some totally unnecessary internal sense of needing to be ‘doing’.  I might never love summer, but I would like to find an equilibrium.  Something in between the ecstatic joy that I feel I’m ‘supposed’ to have about summer, and the low level angst that actually exists.  What could that experience of summer look like?

  • Admitting that I don’t actually love summer is a good first step. Being honest about what is true makes it a lot easier to think about how to shift it.
  • Share this truth with others.  As I’ve started naming this more, turns out I’m not at all alone.  There are lots of us feeling summer reluctance rather than summer rush.  Having company in the struggle eliminates at least the part where I feel totally weird for not dancing when I only need one layer of clothing to get through my day rather than 4 or 5.
  • Give myself genuine permission to enjoy an afternoon reading by myself on the porch, even if it’s a ‘perfect’ day for a hike or a BBQ.
  • Accept that I can’t do it all.  There are so many mountains to hike, waters to swim, friends to see, meals to cook with garden veggies, and weeds to pull.  Even if I never again leave the state of Maine, I’ll never get even close to ‘all’.  Why get caught up in trying to do ‘all’ or, even sillier, feeling badly about not trying to do the impossible?
  • Practice being grateful for the tremendous abundance of summer rather than overwhelmed by it.
  • Pay attention to outdoor wonders in smaller chunks.  Choose a small, defined outdoor space to closely observe so that I can appreciate each piece of summer’s abundance instead of getting lost in the constant hum of green, buzz, and motion.  The poppy in the image above is pretty amazing.  It is surrounding by other amazing plants.  If I let my eyes take in only the whole, I almost can get over-saturated and a bit unfocused.  Choose a particular piece to fully enjoy.
  • Slow down and stay tuned into the wisdom of my body.  Turn inwards to help decide what actually would feel good and nourishing in free moments.  Movement?  Stillness?  Company?  Solo time?  Chores?  Play?  Give myself more data for decision making than the cognitive trap of ‘shoulds’.  And more time to step out of the cultural norm of packing a full summer schedule.
  • Embrace nearby adventures.  On a recent hot Sunday, my partner and I drove 25 minutes from home to a little used land trust trail that ends at a small, rocky beach with plenty of shade and abundant access to cool water.  We spent an hour there swimming and enjoying a picnic lunch.  This fully rejuvenating time required only the tiniest bit of traveling, planning, and packing, and had no crowds.  We saw one person on our way out but otherwise had our own beach on a hot Sunday in June.  And, refreshed by the cold water, we got home with time and energy to tend to the garden AND read a book on the porch!
  • Make plans for day and weekend outdoor time with a few people I really want to see and connect with more deeply.  Accept that I won’t be able to do so with everyone I want to, especially after months and months of everyone isolating and now all of us figuring out our current capacities for social interaction.  Focus on a handful of special days with people I love, in places I love.

I notice that just in writing this list, my energy has shifted a bit.  This list mostly feels possible.  Not particularly stressful.  Dare I say…fun?  I haven’t written myself into the space of summer lover yet, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m actually a little excited to stop trying to maintain the energy of doing summer, and practice simply being in it.  Stay tuned for updates on how this practice goes!