How to Savor Summer, Not Squander It

So here we are in August, and summer, like us, isn’t getting any younger.
Here’s a pop quiz to determine where you sit on the continuum of savoring <———> squandering the most sacred season of all. What statement sounds most like you?

  • “Summer is slipping through my fingers, like grains of sand at the beach I haven’t made time to get to yet.” (It’s never too late to get sand in your shoes, orifices, and in your Chapstick tube. We’ll get you sandblasted in no time.)
  • “It’s summer? I went underground in March 2020 and just came up for air.” (Welcome back to civilization! Go get a vaccine [they make those now] and then let’s talk.)
  • “I’ve been paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and bodyboarding since the first day of summer; I am so bronzed, and more fit than a lifeguard.” (And now you need to add water boarding to that list.)
  • “I’m holding out for December; I really come alive in a deep freeze. Summer schmummer.” (To each their own. Just read along anyway, Frosty, and pretend it’s December.)

Assuming you’re feeling even a wee bit anxious about making the most of the slipperiest season of the year, I’m thinking we should talk about shifting you from the squandering end of the spectrum to the savoring end.

If your angst builds after June 21st (the longest day of the year) because every successive day gets infinitesimally yet oppressively shorter, in a visible time crunch kind-of-way, then you might want to focus on making summer matter, so the shorter evenings feel less ominous and more like a fair warning and motivator to soak the season in.

Let’s be clear and calm about this, though: this isn’t about making a quantum leap from having The Dullest Summer on Record to The Most Epic Summer Ever (although who am I to stop you from wandering into epic territory?), but more about the small yet intentional adjustments to live like you mean it. It’s easier than you think, and the payoff is greater than you might think. (Big happiness returns on small investments of effort are my kind of ROI. Life’s too short for happiness to be excruciatingly sweaty.)

So how do we make the small-scale adjustments that promise big-scale life impact? You might want to try what has worked for me. Every summer, long weekend, Christmas break, and vacation (remember those?), The Husband and I get a piece of paper out of the printer and make “The List of All Things Whatever the Thing Is.” (By way of example, we’re working on “The List of All Things Staycation” right now, because we’re doing one of those here in Chicago — and the risk of waking up and letting two days off work feel like just another unremarkable weekend is perilously great. We need a list of ideas to keep us on track and to make sure we do in fact go to Chicago’s first ever hot dog joint — apparently it’s a total dive and that’s what’ll make it fabulous.) These seemingly simple lists are the number one way we make the most of our lives — dreaming up and planning around our summers/ trips to wherever/ etc.  — and I’m certain if we didn’t make them we’d have died long ago from Netflix overdoses.

Four outrageously easy steps to not squander your summer (and any other season/ event/ vacation/ lifetime you have at hand):

  1. Draft your own version of “The List of All Things Summer 2021.” Start wide and ridiculous, just to get the ideas out of your head about what would make Summer 2021 feel like you were actually alive, rather than in a coma, when you look back on it from Thanksgiving. Ideas include:
    • Eat one of those 3-colored popsiclesPicnic It Up
    • Run through a sprinkler
    • Have a picnic with egg salad sandwiches on a checkered blanket
    • Grill all the meats (chicken souvlaki skewers, to start)
    • Go to a baseball game and do the wave
    • Day drink on that patio by the pool with the inflatable flamingos
    • Fall asleep outsideToasted Marshmallow
    • Celebrate National Toasted Marshmallow Day on August 30th (it’s a thing)
    • Act like a tourist in the city for an afternoon
    • People watch at the beach (unweirdly)
    • Get a non-melanomic sunburn (just a hint of pink)Strawberry Ice Cream Cone
    • Watch a movie outside at night
    • Stay outside ALL DAY LONG
    • Wear your bathing suit ALL DAY LONG
    • Read a sublimely silly + superficial summer novel
    • Ride a Ferris wheel
    • Make strawberry ice cream (yes, homemade)
    • Take a day trip to the nearest big city for a patio lunch, then drive home with the windows openPina Colada
    • Make it a mystery whether you smell like coconut because of your suntan lotion or all of the pina coladas
  1. Highlight the ideas that you actually want to follow through with. Don’t be 100% ridiculous at this stage — 33% ridiculous is fine — just highlight the things you feel compelled to do, and what is reasonably, fathomably, possibly do-able between now and what’s not summer. This is now your checklist.
  1. Go do the things. I don’t want to overcomplicate this, but you’ll likely have to schedule many of the things from your highlighted list into your calendar (because driving to Milwaukee doesn’t just happen on a whim for most of us… although the popsicle could totally happen tonight).
  1. Cross the things off your list and revel in the well-deserved, smug satisfaction that you’re the kind of person that makes Great Summers happen.

Popsicle Melting Like Your LifeIn case it’s not abundantly clear, your fear of missing out on All Things Summer can act as a metaphor for your life. Just like summer, the evenings of your life will get shorter (anyone else in bed by 9:15 tops?). The leaves of your life will change colors and then gravitate to the ground. Things will go from balmy to brisk to downright brrrr in your life, and you’ll ask yourself if you enjoyed the ride, if you wrung everything you could out of your youth, if you made the most of your time. Did you?

When we don’t want to slip into autopilot and miss out on our lives — not because we’re degenerates, but because that’s just what our species is prone to do — we need to take our lives by the reins. Sit down and dream up your List of All Things Summer 2021. Pick the top few things you want to do (even one thing will add incremental joy to your life), and then… slather on the sunscreen and get out there. Summer — like your life — is all there for the taking.

Jodi Wellman

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