I guess I should start off by saying that not everything about this summer has been terrible. We’ve played at the lake, went on a great vacation to Bend, OR and I had a really good birthday at the end of July. It’s not been all bad. In fact, bad is probably the wrong word to describe this summer. It’s just not been great.
Here’s how I pictured the summer earlier this year when I ordered a new outdoor dining table that extended to seat 10 people… I planned on having people over… often, making delicious summer inspired food, taking my kids on fun day trips and exploring together, feeling inspired by all the sunshine, connecting with friends I hadn’t seen much throughout the pandemic-ridden year… you get the point. I wanted a summer filled with connection, beauty and a lightness that I was craving after a year that felt heavy.
The reality is that this summer has been none of those things. We’ve had snippets of connection and beauty and lightness but the over-riding feeling of this season has been very hard for me. I can’t share all of the things that have made the last couple months so hard but here are some I can share:
- I was not ready for summer break this year. I wanted my kids in school for at least another month. My introvert self felt pretty drained going into the summer, especially after having family stay with us for 3 weeks… which I LOVED WITH ALL MY HEART… but I was very tired afterwards. So the full on days of my people asking questions for the whole day, plus the kid fighting and mess of everyone home has done wonders for my mental health.
- Once a year, I flip a house and my hard and fast rule has been that it will not be during the summer. And that rule got broken this year. I’ve been working on a flip this summer and my kids feel like a ball and chain. The amount of whining and complaining from them as I run errands for this project has been a total joy stealer.
- Someone who was very important to me during my growing up years passed away suddenly last month. It makes me cry to even type this now and I’ve been really sad about her passing. Her daughter Shereen was my very first friend and still my friend now and about half of my childhood memories are shenanigans that took place on their dairy farm. I hadn’t seen this person in several years but had planned with Shereen to go see her parents new home and say good-bye to the dairy farm that was sold this past year. The closed border made that impossible up until recently. It’s just a really sad reality that I won’t see her again.
- I’ve been sick twice this summer… at least 10 days of not being able to do much of anything.
- We have barely seen friends because of scheduling conflicts or just feeling plain overwhelmed and I’ve had plenty of moments of feeling lonely, even while being with people.
I’m not sharing all of this to complain or even to make you feel sorry for me. I’m going somewhere with this. A couple days ago, while I was sick, I was scrolling instagram and ended up reading a beautiful blog post by Studio McGee about their favorite summer recipes. The table was set so beautifully, the food prep was picture perfect and I had this moment where I just felt SO lame for not having made my summer look like that… the beautiful food, the table set for friends coming to eat, the sheen of a happy & light summer on display. And then I remembered that Shae McGee (of Studio McGee) has just had a baby and she’s probably very tired and her actual making of these dishes is probably a lot less beautiful. She has a team of people to make everything look perfect for the pictures but that’s just not real life. We can have moments like that but it’s not an everyday reality for anyone.
I was talking to my husband this morning about how I felt when I read that post and that I’d had a full stop moment in the middle of my emotional dumpster dive and realized that while my hopes for what I wanted this summer didn’t quite pan out, it was okay. It was okay to have a hard July, to feel grief, to be sick and even, to feel lonely. I could cut myself some slack. And if you know me well, this was a big moment because while I have plenty of grace for everyone else, I am not so generous with myself. It felt good to extend grace to myself.
Acknowledging that most of life can’t look OR FEEL like the shiny, beautifully staged photographs from (and here I date myself) Better Homes & Gardens… or (and maybe I redeem myself now) the non-stop scroll of instagram helps. Life is not picture perfect. Real life is messy. In fact, most of nature just grows out of control and seems to be just fine with that. We’re the ones often working so hard to tame it back into our preferred version of beautiful. Maybe there’s some beauty to be found in the lows. It can’t all be high moments, right? I mean, I want to say ‘YES IT CAN’ but if it’s always good, we’re going to want it better and best and then bestest… and then what? Maybe we need the low moments to appreciate the beauty of the sweeter ones.
While I can’t change the things that have made this summer what it is, I’ve decided I’m going to stop being mad about it. And look forward to what’s ahead. We’re heading to Canada next week to see family, bike in Whistler and do all the Vancouver things we have missed after 1.5 years of not being able to go. We have some swim lessons left at the pool. We have some sunny days and I happen to have this really great outdoor table that seats 10 people… But even if that table sits empty for this season, it’ll be okay. Sometimes it’s okay to just let things be what they are and know that it won’t always feel this way.