In honor of the solstice and full moon coinciding yesterday to welcome summer – a once-in-lifetime event, by the way – I’d like to share something a little different. This is a piece that I wrote a year ago about the way summer entices us to shirk our duties and indulge in being deliciously irresponsible. I needed to remind myself that it isn’t a crime to surrender to summer’s sultry wiles. In fact, it’s something of a virtue. I’ve been putting in some extra hours lately, trying both to catch up and to get ahead; but while my inner writer wants to be super productive and diligent, I have to remember that all work and no play make Jill bitter and angry (not to mention exhausted). And when Jill is bitter and angry (and exhausted), her creativity suffers.
So, time to think about getting out from underneath the weight of the world. Even writers need to goof off once in a while.
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“How’ve you been?” someone asks.
My default answer is almost always the same, “Busy, busy but good.” It’s a knee-jerk response that pops out of my mouth before I’ve even had the chance to properly process the question.
I’m usually sorry the minute I’ve said it. It’s an impersonal and somewhat self-important reply that doesn’t really mean anything.
“Busy” has become a sort of modern virtue. If we are not running late for something, we feel inadequate. If we are not multi-tasking, we feel incompetent. If we are not buckling under the weight of a massive To Do list, we feel deficient.
We sit, each of us, at the center of our own personal universe of responsibilities and obligations. With a magnetic pull worthy of mighty Jupiter, we draw an endless procession of cares and concerns into orbit around our already-spinning heads, enough to keep us running in circles forever and then some.
We commiserate with each other over the undeniable demands on our time, lamenting our inability to extricate ourselves for more than a moment.
Even our children are too busy. With the best of intentions, we rush them from here to there and back again. We enrich their lives with all manner of events and activities, cramming each minute of each day full to bursting. I cringe thinking of how many times I utter the words, “Hurry up!” in the course of any twenty-four hour period.
But just in time to rescue us from ourselves, here comes summer – the season of playing hooky and letting things slide, of long lunches and impromptu evening get togethers that stretch out across the hours while the kids run amuck in the dark, hoping the grownups won’t notice the lateness of the hour.
Summer gives us permission to loosen our grip. It makes it easier to believe that we are not, in fact, responsible for holding the world together through sheer force of will. We regain our perspective, and most of our sanity. We are suddenly open to opportunities for play that until recently seemed too ill-conceived to even consider.
In the summer, almost anything seems possible.
As we slow down and come to our senses, time moves at a more leisurely pace, creating the illusion of longer days and nights. Our minds embrace a new kind of logic that makes it easy to justify choices that favor ease and indulgence over duty. We abandon the vacuum cleaner for a swim in the creek, accept being late to work so that we can enjoy an impromptu coffee with a friend, and find every excuse imaginable to knock off early so that we might savor just a little bit more of summer’s plenty.
The warmth and light, intensified by our increased proximity to the sun, seem to affect an involuntary shift from our usual pragmatic and responsible Yankee outlook to something more suited to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, or perhaps the south of France.
We relax. We let go of expectations. We rediscover the joy and contentment that can be found in simple pleasures like unplanned meetings that blossom into afternoon adventures, the smoky taste of food cooked over an open fire, the gritty warmth of sand between the toes, and the magic of fireflies in the field.
Yes, here comes summer, our chance to be delightfully irresponsible. Our chance to give up being so busy all the time, and just surrender rebelliously to the spontaneous impulses of the season. In these sun-dappled days, we can recapture, for a moment, what it felt like to be a kid without a care in the world. I can hardly wait.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.