I am one of those backwards human beings who hates summer and loves winter. There are others like me, I am sure, who don’t do well in the heat (my beloved, deceased grandmother), but in general, I think that people trend towards the season of summer, and I am definitely the exception. However, over the last few years, I am learning to love summer. Okay, maybe not love, but accept???
I mean, I get why people love summer, sort of. Not really, actually. The heat makes me so uncomfortable. My body feels sluggish and heavier than normal, and I don’t like the feeling of my body dripping with sweat (or any kind of perspiration for that matter). At times, the heat can even make me nauseous. I also sunburn extremely easily and have been known to break out into intense skin rashes from too much sun exposure. I can last maybe an hour in the sun and then I want to run for cover, preferably to a room with air conditioning. I’ll settle for a high-powered fan, if I must. (apologies for the high-maintenance, diva under and overtones)
MY LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BEACH
I do love the beach, I really do. But this has a lot to do with the fact that the only time I go to the beach is for my annual vacation at the Jersey Shore with my entire extended family. We have been honoring this tradition since I was born and it’s incredibly fulfilling and sentimental every year.
However, I typically only go to the actual beach, like sand in my toes, for about half of the week. My body just can’t handle any more than that. I try to stay out there as long as I can so I can spend quality time with my family. But every 30 minutes or so of towel-sitting (under an umbrella the older I get), I must take a quick dip in Mother Ocean in order to cool off, which is ultimately so lovely, it’s true—the cool water, not the sun-poisoning. But yeah, the sun is not my friend, and we’re kind of on different life paths I think. It’s nothing personal, he’s just on his journey, and I’m on mine.
Left: A view from the cabana at the Jersey Shore. Middle: Cool as a cucumber. Right: Trying to enjoy myself, but counting the minutes until I can go back to the house.
THE REAL REASON I STRUGGLE WITH SUMMER
For years I wondered why I hated the season of summer so much. And I didn’t just struggle with the physical sensations of heat. I also struggled emotionally whenever summer would circle round.
Inevitably, my anxiety would actually hit at the beginning of every spring. The very first warm-ish day around March/April/May, when people would start celebrating and prematurely pretending it’s already summer (wearing shorts in 50 degree weather), would honestly give me intense feelings of dread. The feelings were oddly nostalgic in nature and felt tied to my past, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
It was also strange, because my body was most definitely enjoying a bit of relief from the cold. The springy breezes would feel refreshing, and I am a flower’s number one fan. Like seriously, I’m the person who walks a half mile off the trail in order to track down a lilac bush and bury my nose in her blossom. So, my body would feel revived like everyone else’s, but my heart would feel a heaviness.
From years of introspection, I deduced that my childhood trauma became painfully awakened in the warm summer months. Seasonal smells, sounds, and sights often triggered long-forgotten memories of my young and innocently fragile years with my alcoholic mother. Her unpredictable actions and my much-needed routines of stability to root me into an emotionally secure state of being, were utterly absent. I craved them, but they never arrived.
Neighborhood children—from other families with stable parents—would squeal with carefree cackles as they ran through their backyard sprinklers. Their glee taunted me as they danced in anticipation for the ice cream truck chugging down the block. They had no idea what it was like to not feel free of terror. Summertime for me, when all was well and life was good for other human beings, became a painful reminder of what I did not have.
My summer life as a child was instead filled with anxiety-ridden porch-sitting stints, and trepidatious trips to the public pool with my un-sober guardian. How could I have fully enjoyed my licorice shoestrings when my mother was passed out on the towel next to me, Banana Boat oil glistening on her goddess skin? Other children had their mothers playing with them in the pool, or waiting in line with them for snacks. I had to get snacks on my own, and my sister and I were left to play together, desperately trying to distract each other from the truth of our lives, if only for a few hours of fake fun.
Back at the house, at least we were no longer in public. But the stale urban breezes coming through the open upstairs window felt so lonely to me, their hot breath an indication of the passing hours of the day. Soon it would be nighttime, dark and scary, with my mother at her drunkest.
WHEN ONE WINDOW CLOSES, ANOTHER ONE OPENS
My beautiful, complicated, sensitive, sweet, wounded, whacky, incredible mother passed away on December 20, 2017. After years of my own personal healing, and well before her death, I was graced with the miracle of forgiveness. Because of this, I experienced her passing as a divine transition filled with unconditional love and sadness. We had assured each other of our love for one another and then let each other go in peace. To read more about my process of forgiveness, you might like my article, 4 STEPS TO FORGIVENESS.
You may also enjoy my article about ART AND HEALING, which I wrote two months after my mother’s passing.
Two major things happened in the months directly following my mother’s death. For one thing, after a lifetime of searching for true love, I met my now partner in August of 2018, less than one year after her passing. Secondly, I experienced summer for the first time without any anxiety, dread, or nostalgic sadness.
Death is such a crazy thing. It is truly a vortex of openings and endings, both equally powerful and transformative for all parties involved. Logically, my mother’s aliveness never seemed all that obviously connected to our sad childhood. We were all grown-ups now, right? We were all older, wiser, and consistently sober. But for whatever reason, her existence in this realm of the living, in some small way, must have kept my childhood pain ablaze. Her parting gift to me was a much-needed freedom from sadness and fear, and I am forever grateful for her generosity.
WARMING TO SUMMER
Of course, I still feel sadness and I still feel fear, but they are not so much wrapped up in an entire season now. Those feelings come and go and I can still get triggered by certain events or situations. But summer is no longer ruined for me. And with every year that passes, I have begun to recognize why people make such a fuss over summer. I’m kind of getting it. Sort of.
All I know is, when I smell those old house summer smells, and see strangers in their joy-filled togetherness, my heart no longer caves in and deflates. I no longer feel that rush of dread. And, there’s a part of me that now wants to actually join in the fun!
I love Mother Nature and I trust Her completely. She knows what She is doing, and summer has a place in our life cycle, just like all of the other seasons. I get that. I welcome these changes, I really do, and I am becoming better at not throwing shade directly at summer proper.
This season of swelter is also a time of pure and explosive forward movement, utter saturation, growth, abundance, energized passion, and unforgettable adventures. Summer is just over the top sometimes. But then again, so am I. So maybe this season and I are not on such different paths after all. Maybe I’ll give summer more of a chance this year. After all, I met my love in the summertime, and have spent almost 40 years of beach happiness with some of my most favorite people in the entire world. And seriously, what else is there but love and family?
Left: Beautiful beach waves on the Jersey Shore. Middle: Dad on the left and Uncle John on the right, two of my favorites, waiting for dinner reservations after a long day at the beach. Right: Heading over the bay drawbridge at sunset.
What do you love about summer and/or what do you hate about it? I know there are some non-lovers out there! And I would really love to hear what the lovers say about it. It helps me “warm” to the idea of liking summer someday 🙂
Me on the left and twin sissie on the right, June 2018, Jersey Shore.
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Featured photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash
Photo of lilac bush by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo of window by Marisa Harris on Unsplash