I can't remember when I started to dread summer. When I close my eyes and think as far back as my mind will allow, I have a hard time pinpointing that exact moment when my excitement in the fresh springtime air would evaporate, only to let my stress and anxiety levels rise as quickly as the temperature outside.
My earliest memories of the summer months are idyllic, borderline Norman Rockwell porn - weeks spent in Northern Minnesota, lazy days by a lake. We'd spend hours in the morning, dangling toes in the water feeding the fish, followed by a lake swim and swatting at horseflies in the afternoon. Evenings up north we often pleasant, cold even. At dinner we'd inhale ear after ear of fresh corn on the cob then sit outside, listening to haunting loon calls on the lake coupled with the chirping of frogs and crickets.
These memories did not include an irrational fear of being too hot, clothing not fitting properly or downright uncomfortable. Sure, I rarely escaped summer without a nasty sunburn, but that was just the cost of doing business and by no means did that temper my time spent outdoors.
Each year summer has become more and more unmanageable in my life. The obvious conclusion is that I am no longer a child and that #adulting comes with very real responsibility - stress, and frustrations that may detract from the simplicity and freedom that summertime months once promised us.
Given I’ve been at war with this season for the last decade, clearly it's a lot more than the monotony of being an adult and annoyance at hot, sticky nights. This is some next level hatred that is evident in nearly every aspect of my life - it affects my mood, my quality of life, my wardrobe, my attitude, even my activity level. Without understanding the origins of this hatred, it manifests itself in how much I loath getting dressed for the heat and humidity. I suddenly feel 20 pounds heavier and totally exposed. My fear in showcasing my arms leads me to cover up on even the hottest days, leaving me beyond uncomfortable and cranky. I become so focused on my comfort level that I miss out on the moments I'm in which prevents me from bonding in any way with these hot months.
All I want to do is hunker down and wait it out. While many of us are happily skipping through the summer months with Pinterest-worthy dreams of watermelon, dripping ice cream cones, and trips to the beach, I'm inside shaking my fist up at the sun like Nosferatu. I experience cabin fever during these months, days spent indoors, afraid to step outside for fear of feeling sick and exhausted.
Honestly, this is no way to live.
Since diagnosed with cancer, I admittedly have been looking into alternative ways to view the world. Mindfulness, in particular, has struck a chord with me but has been somewhat difficult to implement. I know that practicing the act of mindfulness has all sorts of benefits and on the surface, it feels like a good fit for the path I am unfortunately on. But getting started requires a significant shift in priorities and perspective, two challenges that I've committed to yet still get caught up in the rush of daily life (yes, even with cancer) and the notion of being mindful can suddenly feel like a weekend activity only.
Perhaps it is because I have cancer that I long for the cooler months, my favorites, in the hopes that I will add one more autumn, one more winter to my years. Those seasons tend to blaze by, hardly allowing me time to relish in fall's vibrant colors or snuggle up into winter's icy breeze. I also feel stronger, both mentally and physically, during these months. I get out more, indulge in hot beverages and long walks, feel more confident dressed in layers of leather, wool, and suede. My personality does a complete 180, and I feel comfortable in my skin once more. I spend most of the summer months counting down the days to fall, creating an autumnal advent calendar of sorts in my mind. Each day ticks by and as July turns into August, and August into September, I feel my old self slowly crawl out of hibernation.
Again, not the best way to live a quarter of the year.
Despite these issues, I've become determined to seek out a solution to my hot weather doldrums. While some people approach a more mindful lifestyle with meditation, I felt the best way to get myself out of this self-imposed exile was to acknowledge my feelings towards this season but participate as much as possible. I reasoned that once I gave myself permission to hate these months, it would become easier to look for ways to grab a moment of happiness, satisfaction, even a little fun.
What I have achieved so far may seem odd, even ridiculous to the average reader. Proudly, I've agreed to iced coffee dates while sitting outside in the shaded sun and enjoyed walks back from our farmer's market munching on fresh nectarines. I've felt hot summer rain on my bald head during a freak cloud burst, causing a rapid increase in the already oppressive humidity, but I embraced that uncomfortable situation as well. I've been able to sneak outside before it gets too hot, breathing in the fresh air and acknowledging the beauty of the season.
These are little things to be sure and by no means have I gotten to a point where I can honestly say I've embraced summer. Even with these deliberate, mindful moments, I still have work to do from a more intentional standpoint. I'm not rushing to plan any road trips (everywhere is hot!), I still waffle on the occasional poolside party invite, and the idea of a dinner out, exposed to the late summer sun, fills me with anxiety. Honestly, it's doubtful summer as a whole will ever be at the top of a list of favorite things, but there are a few things I don't want to take for granted: afternoon thunderstorms, Rainier cherries and fresh peaches, and planting our city garden.
And the best part? Those magical days when the summer heat evolves into the autumn breeze.