It was the summer of 2002 and I had just graduated from my master’s program. Moving home, I knew that my sole responsibility was to study in order to pass my boards when I sat for them in early July. I had attended a review course in the spring with three of my friends in San Francisco where we combined sightseeing/girls weekend with learning so I was prepared with all the right tools to “guarantee success”. The gravity of feeling that the rest of my life would depend on those two short months of studying was enough to keep me focused right up until the moment I sat down in the cubicle to take my exam.
Although the pressure of impending doom lifted after I took the test, the anxiety continued to mount until I received the results. Given a temporary license, I was able to begin working while I waited to hear if I had passed the exam. Thankfully, I passed and questions of my ability and my knowledge began to quiet inside of me momentarily.
That was the first summer when I realized that summer as I had known it would never be what it had been before. There was an intensity about that summer as I stumbled into the world of a working professional that was somewhat shocking and a huge taste of reality.
Working summers and weekends became tolerable as I immersed myself in my profession until the first summer that I lived with three teachers. Suddenly the hard reality that I had to work every day while they had the summer off became a platform for discontentment. I discovered a lot about myself during those years regarding my feelings when I am working and others are not. Truth is, I’m still discovering.
The first summer after we moved to Michigan, I had just returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. My friend was nannying for our youngest until we were ready to send him to daycare full-time and while I was grateful for her care of our little one, I was acutely aware of the summer that she was able to share with him in contrast to the one I was experiencing.
Through the years while my oldest was in preschool, I’ve been able to embrace the reality of our summers. There was something about this summer though, the one after kindergarten, that has been more difficult for me to hold.
Our lives have changed dramatically over the past year. We have learned that our oldest thrives on routine and because of that, we all need routine. We need less stimulus, more simplicity. We need quiet and rest and simple play. We do better in familiar scenarios, where the answers to the questions are already known. We need time and patience, grace and understanding if we are going to make it through any given moment.
The start of this summer took an unexpected turn when our potty trained three year old started having multiple accidents. If you had a chance to read the most recent searches in my google que you would have insight to the questions filling my mind and heart the last 7 weeks. “What causes wet farts?” “Can diarrhea be clear?” “Diarrhea after antibiotics?” “Bowel obstruction in toddlers?” “How to get my toddler to stop screaming at me?” “Constipation and diarrhea? “IBS in toddlers?” “What is a dairy-free diet?” “What is an elimination diet?” Our weeks have been filled with encouraging a strong-willed three year old onto the potty more often, procuring stool samples, doctor’s appointments, food diaries, recipe searching, and lots of education…Yippee! We continue to have no answers to this issue and although I am grateful that the things that would be most concerning are not present, a three year old with an upset tummy is quite a grizzly bear!
What you may or may not have picked up on is my anxiety in the midst of the unknowns. I find that in any given moment, I am on the edge of tipping mentally if I have not already tipped. To the outside observer, the intensity running throughout my body is often experienced as anger or harshness when what I am truly feeling is anxious and worried. When I perseverate on the issues in my mind, or when I abandon my feelings, I end up living extremely small and managed.
The good news for me this summer has been that there is an invitation beyond perseveration and dissociation if I choose to look for it. There has been a beautiful invitation to live into the intensity of the summer. Sometimes it has been in the choice to visit out of town friends that has brought a connection that we each have longed for. Other times it has been in saying yes to the invitation to try something new and hang out with friends at a campground for the day, even when the stress of the unknowns was enough to take all of us out! Lately, it’s been allowing a few late nights to play and catch lightning bugs. Today it was in calling our favorite ice cream place to see if they had a dairy-free option since we hadn’t been by all summer.
Summer is intense. The break from routine is necessary and exhausting. The days of carefree living are over for most of us and still we have a choice to enjoy the days that we long for even if we still work, keep a schedule, and eat dairy-free sorbet!
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.