What You Really Did This Summer

The summer is wrapping up and with that comes a natural shift of gaze from one set of to-dos to another. If you’re like me, you’ve already started a back-to-school shopping list, outlined your morning routine, and purchased stickers for the new and improved chore chart that will revolutionize your children’s work ethics, and so on and so on…without the slightest pause to acknowledge our most recent accomplishment: surviving summer.

If I’m honest with myself, part of the reason for this springboard into the next big event might be an effort to distract from the fact that we got through by the skin of our teeth: that the road trip I so painstakingly planned through the winter months went significantly less swimmingly than planned, the camp-out destined to forever impress upon my littles’ hearts and minds a sense of awe and admiration for nature ended in rain-soaked tears. As women, mothers, or maybe just members of the human race, we have this tendency to rush from point A to point B, one list of to-dos to another, without pausing to internalize or celebrate an accomplishment before diving into preparations for the next. That constant buzzing and internal dialogue to do better can fuel a whisper that perfection is the only acceptable outcome.

“So what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things.
One at a time.
Just let your pile of good things grow.
—Rainbow Rowell

But here’s the mind-blowing fact: the perfection we repeatedly strive for and heartlessly expect of ourselves is not only overrated but makes for the most boring of memories. As a kid we spent a significant portion of our summer camping in the wild places of Idaho, and I can honestly tell you—knowing each of my siblings will support me in this—that there was not one trip that the heavens didn’t gape wide open and dump buckets on our garbage-bag-clad little clan; somehow the idea to purchase reusable ponchos never occurred to my parents. Our photo albums are filled with rain-soaked faces—some smiling, some far from it—but at this year’s family reunion we talked and laughed for hours swapping memories of pushing massive puddles off the tent ceiling and trying to light fires with frozen fingers and wet firewood. As kids who are grown up now, these are some of our favorite memories, and we weep with laughter, recounting the details and painstaking plans our own parents must have made only to see them go terribly awry.

“It’s all messy: the hair. The bed. The words. The heart. Life…”
—William Leal

What if, rather than dedicating the bulk of our time and energy to preventing the mishaps, we allowed ourselves the space to be what we are at this moment instead of the one where we achieve enlightenment? Removing that pressure does an incredible thing: it erases the tally of laments and allows us to be pleasantly surprised when quirky, strong, and wonderful things happen on the journey. Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This art form is an excellent example of embracing the flawed or imperfect, the idea being that the piece is all the more beautiful because it was broken rather than in spite of the break.


“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
—Leonard Cohen

So I’ll put a pin in the fall plans and revel in what we really did this summer. Realizing we only brought water shoes for my son at our pre-scheduled, out-of-state family photo shoot got me loads of photos featuring tiny toes that will all-too-soon grow up. The swarm of biting flies and mosquitoes threatening to destroy our beach time drove us into the waves for hours of family bonding. And what really matters isn’t my mistake of booking the Roswell hotel for a month before we arrived, but the giggly, mad dash turn off the highway and climb through a hole in the fence to take our picture with a family of aliens before sunset. Maybe, in this effort to embrace my present self, I’ll start a new inner dialogue—one where, instead of perfection being the goal, living is what I’m after.

Roswell Aliens

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