Thursday, June 24, 2010

Accepting Summer's Limitations

I always get a little bummed out this time of year. Seems ungrateful, right? I daydream about my unclothed limbs and sleeping with the windows open all winter long and now that summer is here, I have the nerve to complain. Alas, I guess I'm just a spring and fall kinda lady, though I did love the sound of the storm passing over my house this evening, and the lightning and firefly display before my living room window. Maybe I am better able to appreciate these things because I resolved this morning that I must accept summer's limitations if I want to be happy.

In a previous blog post, I talked about my friend S's resolution to accept winter's limitations and that, in adopting that philosophy, I was able to find some peace during those brutally cold months. The circumstances are different, even opposite, but the overall challenge is the same - how do I deal with extreme weather and its potentially negative impact on myself and others?

Springtime, with all its new life nectar, feels like constant, drunken exhilaration and summertime feels like the inevitable hangover. Literally, many people I know seem to be perpetually hungover during the summer. And when people are in that seesaw mode of nighttime stupor and daytime headache, they tend to have volatile tempers. This is the best explanation I've found for the phenomenon I call "Summer Crazies". Every year, I notice that there is a much higher propensity for drama in June, July and August - at work, amongst friends, in my brain, on the bus, etc. For instance, very bad things happen every summer at work (not only at my current job, but at pretty much every job I've had since I started working seventeen years ago). Last summer, these bad things ranged on the scale of lost jobs to lost lives. Of course, not all of these unfortunate events are alcohol-related. Some can only be chalked up to the tough-luck drama that life randomly hands us at times. But it doesn't help when the players are overdosing on mind-altering substances and sun. Too many of my acquaintance eagerly throw themselves into the cauldron because admittedly, the Summer Crazies can be very entertaining. But mostly I find it exhausting and I would rather just read a book. Honestly, I think that's the best I can do. I can't control the way other people react to unfortunate situations. I can't keep them from acting out or making it worse for themselves. But I can control my own alcohol and drama intake, and choose to amuse myself with fiction, instead.

In doing so, I just have to remind myself to read those words... very... slowly. Just as my brain starts to shut down when the temperature is below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it has a similar reaction to temperatures around 90 or above. I get frustrated when my mind isn't as sharp or quick as I want it to be, but again, I must surrender to the elements and just accept that I may need to reread that paragraph a second time or that it might take longer to find the right words to say. I take some comfort in knowing that everyone has this problem. Oh, and conversation? Waste of time. No one seems to have the attention span for it. Several times in the last week, I've been talking to a friend and mid-sentence they'll randomly say something like, "Hey, look at that squirrel!" I was getting annoyed about it until I recalled the number of times I totally zoned out when someone was talking to me. Just like a meal on a blazing hot day, it's best to keep the chit chat light.

In my quest to keep the season from getting me down, my most surprising discovery is my new appreciation for afternoon naps. I'm like a little kid. I never want to go to sleep because I worry I'm going to miss some fun. But for a whitey like me, that period between 1:00 and 5:00 pm on a hot summer day is no fun at all. Unless I arm myself with a tank of water and a thorough layer of SPF 50, stepping outside equals instant sun stroke and blistering. On recent days off from work, I've found myself snoozing on the couch in the afternoon and it's absolutely glorious! I get to skip the harshest part of day and feel completely refreshed in the evening and nighttime, which is the best part of a summer day, anyway. I guess this is what the "siesta" is all about. It's freakin' brilliant. Obviously I can't do it all the time, but I'm going to take advantage of it as much as I can.

I'm curious to see how people behave in a place like Chattanooga, where the summers are much hotter, but the people are more used to it. Are we like the southerners we mock in the wintertime? You know, the ones who shut down their towns when they have an inch of snow because they don't know how to deal with it? Are we missing some basic summer coping skills that southerners know instinctively? Perhaps that's why I'm more inclined to embrace this season despite all the mischief it brings. Now that I've learned to live through and even like a Michigan winter, I'm ready to take on a Tennessee summer.


  1. Great post, Tara! I bet your adjustment to summer in Chattanooga won't be too hard. I always felt in Michigan that I had to pack as much fun, drama, and craziness into the summer months because they were so fleeting. In the South a person can come to expect 70 degree days in February so it doesn't feel like you have to ENJOY THIS NOW, IT MAY SNOW TOMORROW!

    Also, I've noticed that many Southerners hate the summer the way Northern folks hate winter. They have tragic childhood memories of mowing the lawn in July like Michiganders have about shoveling the driveway in January.

    I really hope you and Dan love living in the South as much as I do. It really rocks!!!!

  2. Thanks, Mary! In typical salty fashion, most people I know here have this reaction - "Ha! You don't like this? Just wait till you see how it is where you're going, sucker."

    Yeah, I do think there's so much pressure to love every moment of summer while it's here. it's sort of like Christmas. "This must be the best day ever, right? RIGHT??" Egg-zausting!