The Silver Linings of Summer
By Lori Welch Brown
The Silver Linings of Summer
Like many of you, this is definitely not the July I ordered, but somehow the one I did seems frivolous. It’s hard to concentrate on which tankini to order when the world feels heavy, scary, and perhaps a little lonely. Like you, I have friends and family I haven’t seen in months, and I’m unsure if/when I’ll ever be able to hug them again. What we don’t know feels scary, and what we do know has been terrifying. Who needs a summer blockbuster horror flick when one is unfolding in real time? Seriously—you can’t make this stuff up. On top of everything, my father’s health has been declining, and we have spent the past couple of weeks in and out of hospitals. I’m afraid for me that it might be the end. I’m afraid for him that it might not be.
And yet, the world keeps spinning and summer is here. I’m grateful for Mother Nature’s reminder that in the midst of tragedy, heartbreak, and a pandemic, the summer solstice arrived as planned. Somewhere out there dolphins are swimming, hydrangeas are blooming, and fireflies are lighting up the night’s sky.That alone is reason to be joyful. As with every change of season, there is a smattering of hope. Hope for something that was different than before.
There is a lot to be sad, anxious, and fearful about, but there are also things to be grateful for. I’m disappointed my summer plans didn’t materialize, but I am grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with neighbors. I am empathetic for the seniors who were robbed of proms and last hurrahs with their classmates, but it was awesome to see the creative celebrations that ensued. I get teary eyed every time I think of all the geriatrics like my dad who are sequestered away from their families, but I am thankful for the amazing caregivers who have gone above and beyond.
While the things I would normally do such as go to the pool or an outdoor festival aren’t available, I can pack a lunch and go for a hike. I’ve been wanting to explore plain air painting and this is my opportunity. I can go kayaking. I have options, and that is a blessing in itself.
Admittedly, Zoom has lost its luster. I’m tired of seeing my own image on happy hour and yoga class screens. Can you say, “Botox?” I’m actually considering a special Zoom mask—maybe one with fuller lips and no fine lines. Months of quarantining and social distancing are beginning to wear on everyone, including this introvert. As much as I like my ‘alone’ time, I’m running out of things to talk to myself about. Falling into the rut of staying home where it’s safe is starting to feel like it has its own perils. When you have to give yourself a pep talk and muster energy to travel the three miles to Safeway, it’s a problem.
Summer is supposed to be breezy and easy, and this one feels anything but. I’ve been a student of yoga and practiced meditation for years, and I find myself feeling anxious, worried, and projecting worst case scenarios. Lately, I’ve had to remind myself to get back onto the mat and just breathe. I’ve also found myself mired in conflicting emotions. I recently listened to Jennifer Pastiloff’s audiobook, On Being Human, and my ‘aha’ moment came when she talked about being two things at once.
“Sure, once I published a piece or once I closed my notebook and left the cafe or stopped daydreaming, I was scared again, but while I was writing, while I was telling the truth, I was unafraid. I wanted that again. Fearless-ish. Afraid and not afraid. Scared and doing it anyway. Holding more than one thing. Two things at once.”
I can be sad, but I can also be present and enjoy life’s blessings as they arrive. I can be anxious, but I can also be helpful and supportive. I can hold two things at once. I can hold fear and joy. I can hate the crap out of what’s going on in the world, but still enjoy the blessings of summer. I can grieve my dad’s decline, but I can also pray for his peaceful journey home.
Reading and watching the news unfold left me with a sense of helplessness which is not a useful emotion because everyone can help. Everyone can find a way to do their small part. Lots of small parts make big movements. Trust me—I’ve had to remind myself of that daily. Start small. Do little things. Donate $10 to an organization you support. Foster a kitten. Deliver a meal.
This isn’t the summer I dreamed of—there are no plane tickets to Italy or packed movie theaters or festivals, yet there are silver linings. Watching the neighborhood kids play out in the cul de sac brings me joy. Watering my plants is a lovely way to start my day. Putting in my ear buds and listening to a podcast while I take my morning stroll energizes me. Rituals of any kind ground me, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for finding joy.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the midst of life and you think, I don’t remember starting this, yet here I am, and sometimes you literally have to wake up and say, It’s time. Despite everything pointing south, I must go north.” —Jennifer Pastiloff
Well—maybe not too far north. Baltimore? Don’t forget to pack your mask, and maybe some sunscreen.
If you would like to read more of Lori’s work, you can follow her on Medium at Lori Welch Brown.