Summer was long, y’all.
But mostly long and hard.
Ben started a new job in December this past year, which meant this was the first summer of our married life that we could spend holiday weekends – like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July – sleeping in and grilling and spending time with friends like normal people.
Ben determined that he was going to plan and attend as many cookouts as possible.
I planted flowers and determined to keep them alive this time.
We bought new chairs for the porch and a fire pit for the backyard.
We stocked our cabinets with bubbles and sidewalk chalk and jump ropes and even constructed a mud pie kitchen in the backyard for Cadence and her friends to play with.
Summer 2016 was upon us, the first summer we would spend without retail hours interrupting our weekends and pillaging the holidays.
We were so ready for it.
Cadence’s last day of school was June 10th. We woke up early and went to the fancy doughnut shop downtown for breakfast. I packed lunches and we went to the playground for her all-school end of the year picnic. I exchanged contact info with other moms and determined to keep Cadence in touch with friends, and make some new ones of my own.
Then that weekend I found out my grandfather had passed away.
I was shell-shocked and grieving, but this was Summer 2016! It was going to be epic!
Ben and I loaded up a van full of kids from church and took them to camp the day after I heard the news about my grandpa. A week later, we returned tired and smelly from camp. We dropped the kids off at the church building, picked Cadence up from our neighbors home and hopped on a plane to West Virginia for a whirlwind weekend trip to attend Papaw’s funeral.
We returned home late Sunday night, and early Monday morning I picked up the kids who were too young for week-long overnight camp, and drove them 45 minutes out of the city for day camp.
At some point in all the shuffle, a letter arrived letting me know I’d been selected for the prestigious fellowship I’d applied for at the seminary I attend. As the week of day camp wound down, I packed bags again for a four-day intensive in Chicago to kick off the fellowship.
On day three of class I found out my grandmother had passed away as well.
It was truly the best and worst of times.
Charles Dickens had nothing on my life.
Another whirlwind weekend to West Virginia for another funeral, and I returned to find I was a mere week away from the biggest event under my direction for the year (Vacation Bible School)…and I was up to preach as well.
I’m a big believer in strong self-care boundaries, of laying things down when they are too much to bear, of big heaping spoonfuls of grace – or at least I believe in those things for other people.
As I recounted my frantic summer to my therapist, I paused and looked up into her patient eyes:
“I should have found something to say ‘no’ to, huh?”
She gave me a pained nod, but reframed my question to something more constructive than guilt-filled recollection.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
What I’m learning is this:
I can “should” myself to a miserable, pained, but very responsible death…
…or I can embrace the mess, the mistakes, the letting-others-down-sometimes, and actually enjoy my life.
I’m internally driven by a desire to be the best,
create the best,
host the best,
and when “the best” alludes me, to reform the shit out of whatever I find myself in.
Make it better, always better.
I find myself incapable from a simple enjoyment of life.
I don’t think of myself as greedy, but whatever is happening is never enough.
This dinner is nice, but it would be better if my linens weren’t stained and our chairs matched.
This date is fun, but it would be better if we’d made reservations and hadn’t waited for thirty minutes to get a table.
The house is clean, but we really need to wash the curtains and deep-clean the carpets, too.
Always room to improve.
It took juggling all the pieces this summer –
self-care (ha) –
at a feverish pace to help me to see that perfectly maintaining my life doesn’t yield happiness – for me or anyone else.
Furthermore, YES. There will always be room to improve, recipes to tweak, chores to do, systems to reform, but it’s also okay to just enjoy what’s happening right now, as it is.
Instead of hopping into every new and improved, latest model idea that pops into my mind, I’m constructing a mental parking lot for them.
There’s a time to reform and perfect, and a time to shut down the “should’s” and enjoy.
My grandparents were hospitable, warm people. They were the kind of folks who encouraged lingering.
Sunday afternoon lunches lazily dragged into reheated Sunday evening dinners.
Both of them, in different ways, taught me that there is no such thing as “wasted time” – so long as you spend it with those whom you love.
I lose sight of those whom I love in favor of tying to make the meal, the experience, the home, the service, the anything and everything better.
Most often though, people don’t want better.
They want present.
They want you here.
They want what they’ve brought to be enough.
And nothing feels present and here and enough when you’re drowning in “should’s.”
I’m learning that it’s okay to enjoy your life.
And just enjoy it.
Grief and loss seems like a funny path to find that lesson on, but who am I to say how something (ahem) should happen.
Just enjoy it.
Even the messy parts.
Even the parts that need polishing.
Even when you know something could be improved.
There will be time for that.
Remember to take the time to enjoy it.