It’s been a glorious summer here in Chicago, and I ought to know: I haven’t left town since our mid-June family trip to my college reunion in Minnesota. Yes, we have stayed home all summer, catching up with local friends in between their trips to all corners of the earth, and serving as a stopover for families on long road trips, hugely enjoying seeing them on their way to faraway destinations. We had plans for this summer, all of which fell through; none dramatically, just in the ways that plans can fall through sometimes. And so here we were.
It was lovely, being here for long, warm summer days. In the end, it occurred to me that summer is exactly the time to stay home when you live here. Late winter is when I want to be far, far away, but summer? Flowers blooming, the neighborhood yards lush, the lake perfectly swimmable, fireflies glowing and cicadas buzzing into the evening. Why leave?
August was a quieter, calmer month for me. The kids were home more with their sitter, not requiring me to rush them to day camp every day with lunches and water bottles, swimsuits and towels. Many of my clients were on reduced schedules, allowing me to work three days in a row and take four day weekends all month. In the past, this is the month we’ve left town, in effect leaving at just the time when we could be home and relaxing. I’ve loved being home this year.
I’ve gotten some projects done around the house – cleaning out drawers and closets, setting up a budget for our family, and getting the boys on board with a set of expected household chores. But more importantly, the spaces in my days and nights have opened up my mind and creativity in new ways; I find myself with ideas that excite me about my work now and in the future. These margins in my days have also given me the energy to tackle the challenges we have had all year with our dog, and help us move in the right direction with him. We’ve made great strides with him in the past month. I’ve seen my friends often, and I found a yoga class I love, something I’ve been wanting to do for the past year. I also started swimming in the lake with a friend or two at least once a week at sunrise: now that is the best way imaginable to start a day. If yoga and sunrise swimming don’t leave you feeling zen and ready to take on the world, what will?
I can see the impact on my whole life when I have this extra time; indeed, the impact on all our lives. And I am managing to keep some blocks open in my schedule this year, something I was unable to do last year. That’s going to be time for me. Maybe I’ll swim, or go to yoga, or take a walk. I’ve arranged everything around those blocks of time: they’re non-negotiable. Because for so long, everyone else’s needs and wants have been non-negotiable, but what I needed came last time and again. Not because anyone asked me to put them last, but it was what I did.
And so the summer wanes. But this year I’m not scared of the fall routine, the full impact of demands at work that go from 0-60 in early September, because when I look at my schedule I see some days when instead of driving the carpool I will have time to run to the gym, and other days when I will be stopping home for lunch and a dog walk before seeing afternoon clients.
It’s become easier to shift the kids’ summer bedtime closer to their school bedtime this week because it’s getting dark earlier already; only last week that task seemed impossible. Their school supplies have been dropped off and we’ve seen their new classrooms. The sun comes up a bit later each day, and our sunrise swims – those that we may have left – will have to be timed just so. But I welcome the changing light and look forward to the golden trees and a new school year. And I welcome more days of this life that thankfully seems to keep spinning in sync with the amazing world we live in, year after year.