Remember I wrote recently that I wouldn’t be a 15-year-old girl again for the world? Well, maybe I would. In fact, I AM. This has been the best July since I was 15, before I had summer jobs. Wait, scratch that: July of 21 years ago was the best ever, the year I married the love of my life and was a princess for the whole summer. That was awesome. I’ll never forget it.
Other than that, though! This summer rocks. July should be celebrated. So listen, start planning for next summer immediately and follow these steps. I highly, majestically, incredibly and vociferously recommend it:
Step 1: Take the month of July off from work. Don’t check email. Don’t think about what you should be doing. Plan ahead, make sure your bases are covered, and then step away.
Step 2: Stock up on frozen meals for the family. Also, it is high time your 13-year-old son learns to make his own damn sandwiches. A PB&J every day for a month (made by his own hands) isn’t going to kill him. Also, it will prepare him for college.
Step 3: Do not allow your father-in-law to have shortness of breath followed by news that his heart is functioning at 20% followed by news that his kidneys are failing and he might die in two days followed by news that his kidneys are actually fine but he needs a pacemaker followed by pacemaker surgery. But if that does happen, roll with it. Spend time with him, help him, help your husband, and then step away and go back to enjoying life.
Step 4: Let laundry pile up. Hire a housekeeper to pop in every couple of weeks. Enforce the kids’ chores. It is not your life’s work to take care of everybody all the time. It is okay to take care of YOU. More than OK. Necessary. I mean it.
Step 5: Have a margarita on the deck and play with your bunny. Let her nibble on the rabbit-safe flowers you’re growing. Let her enjoy her first rainstorm. Enjoy it with her. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Take nothing for granted.
Step 6: Go camping with the kids. When your son captures two small shrimp/fish/insect-type creatures in a tin camping coffee cup and presents them to you as pets, name them Fred and Schmidt. Add a Taki (sort of a rolled up Dorito) and a stick, for food and atmosphere. (It helps if nature adds a miniature pine cone by dropping it out of the tree you’re sitting under, directly into the shrimpies’ new habitat.) Then, and this part is very important, spend at least two hours doing nothing but sitting under the tree, by the river, watching Fred and Schmidt explore their world. Watch them climb on the Taki. Watch them swim on top of each other like synchronized swimmers (or wait, are they having sex?). Introduce them to everyone. Explain that Fred is the larger one, Schmidt more petite. Catch a couple of minnows and add them to the mix. Watch them awhile longer. Name the minnows Peter and Janice. Decide the ecosystem has gotten overcrowded and set them all free. Realize you miss Fred and Schmidt and console yourself with a campfire and hot dogs cooked on a stick. No dishes! Make the kids put the hot dogs in the cooler and clean up everything else while you drink a margarita. (I really, really love step 6.)
Step 7: Go for walks with your husband in the evening. Don’t talk; just hold hands and walk. Every now and then, say to one another, “God, what a gorgeous night,” or, “Wow. What a gorgeous night.” When you get back to the house, relax together in the den and say, “Isn’t it a gorgeous night?”
Step 8: Sleep with the windows open.
Step 9 (This is another really important one): Have your orthodontist fit you for a mouth splint that you have to wear 24/7 for your TMJ issues. So what if you lisp and you have to eat babyfood. You have: No. More. Pain. Life is good again. Rejoice in feeling good. Your body works. Celebrate it.Step 10: Run away to the lake as often as you can. Remember: the kids can make their own lunches. Your husband will be okay if he has no clean socks (he can wear dirty socks or run a load of wash, totally up to him – we enjoy freedom of choice in our family!). Wear sunblock. Wear a hat. Take your hat off often and let the sun bleach your hair as blond as it was when you were, yes, fifteen.
Step 11: Rent a paddleboard every time you’re at the lake. Realize you’re spending so much on rentals that it makes much more sense to get your own. Ask for a paddleboard for your birthday. Get it two weeks early so you can enjoy it before you go back to work in August.Step 12: When the sink starts to leak, fret not. Call a plumber. Use it as an excuse to not cook, since you can’t do dishes (but remember that this month, you don’t even need an excuse not to cook, because you’re only 15). Leave the sink; go to the lake. Invite family members. If they come, show them how to have fun. If they don’t, no big deal (freedom of choice, remember?). Have fun without them.
Step 13: Because you’ve never taken a yoga class, give it a try. On a paddleboard. Fall off a lot. Enjoy the silky feeling of the water. Enjoy trying something new. Enjoy not being good at something.
Step 14: Speaking of enjoying the water: enjoy everything. Take nothing for granted. Loud scary thunderstorms? Revel in them. Walk in the rain. Too hot? The better to enjoy the cool lake water. Kids crabby? Take them to the lake with you. Or treat them to a pizza lunch. Or a milkshake. Or leave them at home and go to the lake.
Step 15: Test yourself: think about work. How do you feel? Frantic? Worried? Anxious? You’re not playing hard enough. Relax some more. You still have a couple weeks. Go for a drive and listen to music. Lie on your back and watch the clouds. See if you can find Mickey Mouse. Or a fire-breathing dragon. I bet you can find both because you’re only fifteen and you have a ton of imagination.
Step 16: Take a nap when you need one. But I bet you won’t need as many as you think you will because you are having so much fun.
Step 17: Guilt is a useless emotion this month! If anyone is feeling abandoned, don’t let it get to you. Sing another song. Whistle a happy tune. Throw some of the fresh tomatoes from your tomato plant at them (no, wait, don’t do that – make tomato bisque and, if they don’t like it, tell them to make a PB&J). Go to the… (Quiz: where are you going to go? Yes! The lake!)
Step 18: Substitue your own happy-place every time I write the word “lake.”
Step 19: Test yourself again: think about work. Surprise! You actually find you’re looking forward to it! Or at least some of it! Bring on August – you’re ready to face the world. But face it gently…
Step 20: If you feel like it, slowly do a few things you need to catch up on before August 1st: couple loads of laundry, grocery shopping, clean the guest room for your sister-in-law and nephew who are coming. Don’t go overboard. Don’t lose your vacation mojo. Remember what it feels like to relax. Remember what it feels like to let go of mother-guilt. Gently, gently begin looking at the month of August and plan how you might ease into it and through it without getting lost in the daily routine and forgetting your love of life. Keep living, not just existing.
So, I challenge you: take a month off next summer. Figure it out. Work with you family, your employer. Make it happen. Then, don’t fill it with chores! Fill it with life. Have fun planning.
Til next time!