Summer is almost over, the yellow school bus stops in front of my house each morning and afternoon, and one day soon I will wake up, the morning will be chilly, and I will know in my bones that it will not be getting much warmer for months. I’m okay with all of this because the summer has been pleasant—travel, family reunions and visits, long walks along the river. I began this summer with a few goals in mind and I have met most of them.
Setting some goals was helpful, and through this practice I examined how I spent my time and which things I said I wanted to do but did not finish. I felt a shift, a prompting to change direction and I am clear about the stuff I do not want to do, or at least that I won’t do for the next few months. Here are just a few:
- More walking, at least until the weather is too cold outdoors for my liking. Less (fewer, as in “no”) trips to the gym before November. I have not been to the gym since July 5th; my journal entry on that day said that I did exactly 14 minutes at the gym because “I didn’t feel like more on the treadmill.” Good enough reason for me. Why waste time indoors when the view outside is always changing, when I can choose the playlist, the music, the sound of morning birds, passing cyclists, or be still with my own thoughts?
- More Pilates, less pounding. This summer I realized that I wanted to spend more time on my Pilates practice, at home or with my great instructor (thanks Judith!), mixed in with a little yoga. I did not want to run, so I stopped running. At first I worried about gaining weight but it did not happen. I feel looser and more limber than I have in years, and I can do this type of movement at home if I cannot get to a studio.
- More time writing, less time in meetings. I set a writing goal at the beginning of the summer, intending to complete a certain number of essays. I reworked this goal, completing several short essays, writing and submitting a couple of longer ones, and developing ideas for two larger projects, maybe pieces that end up as books. To get the kind of writing done that I want, I took a hard look at my commitments and decided to streamline a bit, and reduced my involvement on a couple of committees and projects.
- More water, less sugar. I did a weeklong fitness challenge to drink much more water and take long walks (an hour and a half or longer) every day. Something happened after the third day – I looked forward to my walks, I came up with many writing ideas, my appetite seemed to settle down, and I was sweating more than I have in years. Maybe I have been walking around in a slightly dehydrated fog for a while and just did not know. I accept that while modest amounts of sweets can be part of my diet, when I eat them daily, I feel less alert; I have more energy when I back away from highly processed food. When I eat too much sugar, the cravings kick in, I don’t sleep as well, and I gain weight. These days I am paying attention to how these two parts of nutrition, water and sugar, make me feel.
- More “want to”, less “should.” I cannot only do the things I feel like doing, but there are a host of tasks that I undertake because they fill me with joy, remind me of the beauty in the world, are a form of self-care or because they come from my care for another person or organization. These are the things I want more of in life. But the “should” stuff – I am watching out for those commitments that come from misplaced responsibility, or an assumption that I have to do it because no one else can, or that they will not do it the way I would. If no one else will do it, I need to ask myself if it is really that important. If my heart is not in it, maybe that is a sign that I need to find something that inspires me so that I bring my energy and enthusiasm to the task.
- More time reading, less time watching TV. I used to believe that I needed to watch at least some of the morning news so I would know what was going on. But weeks and months of political coverage made me realize that it is better to start my day in peace. One morning I was so agitated after watching the news that it took the better part of the day, when I could have been writing, to shake off a nagging case of news flu.
- More wearing clothes I really like, less tossing on any old thing because I am in a rush. This one might be harder as it gets colder because I prefer warm weather and summer clothes, the dresses, bright colors, sandals. But I remind myself of something I realized years ago about dressing well. I have to put on the same number of pieces regardless of whether they are shabby or nice, so when I have time, I go for the pieces that make me feel like I made an effort, such as a simple sheath, a soft sweater in a pretty color over jeans, the right earrings or shoes. Toss clothes that don’t fit my body and dress for the life I live now, not the one I had years ago when I had to step into an office every day.
- More yes, less no (unless it is something I do not want to do). I spent several days this summer with my granddaughter and she taught me a few things. Stretch before you get out of bed. Don’t let anyone rush you as you rise. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. It is always a good time to go outside for a walk. Ride the merry-go-round twice, just because you like it. Go down the slide at the park, again and again, because it is fun. Laugh. Say goodnight to everyone in the house before you go to bed, sometimes twice. I learned so much from a two and a half year old, played more than I have in years and went to bed each night tired, yet I was happy and ready to go at it again the next day. She even taught me the power of encouragement. Each time we climbed the stairs of the slide she sat on the top platform, “You go!” she said, motioning for me to go down first. I hopped on, whooshed down and waited at the bottom to cheer her on as she slid down.
Summer has been like winding down that spiral slide—I knew where I wanted to land, but first I had to climb a little, rest on the platform, and then position myself before taking off. I am looking forward to more in life, simply by omitting some of the things that give me less joy, time, or energy. It took a little while to get my bearing, but I landed on my feet ready to go at it again.