As summer is ending I have been thinking about how we, as human beings, structure our lives.
My husband and I live in the Pacific Northwest, and because of this, when July rolls around we are in an outdoors, socializing, “go”-mode for 2.5 months straight.
Floating on the river, camping with friends, outdoor happy hours, you name it! Portland is alive and awake all summer. It is like every party that could be taking place throughout the 12 month year is condensed into one season.
This summer has been especially overwhelming for us both, and, we have very different temperaments. I could be with people 24/7, if I had the choice. Trevor could be without people 24/7, if he had the choice.
A lot of great circumstances have taken place for us this summer: We adopted two baby goats; I have facilitated 5 Coaching workshops; we’ve had wonderful family visits, etcetera. But, we are exiting this season both physically and mentally exhausted.
I can speak best of this exhaustion in the form of my own experience. What I have been feeling is there are too many good things happening to actually take time and savor each activity’s individual taste.
There is much to enjoy and feast on in this world, but when we get it all at once, it blends together. Then, we can’t appreciate any of it.
After realizing this, I needed to figure out what to do and how to move forward with events on the calendar for September, leading into fall. One powerful movement I knew I needed to make was to say no to anything coming up and cancel plans that felt less significant than my own well-being/self-care. When I put it this way, into the perspective of my own well-being, I realized I had not only permission but an obligation, to say no and cancel everything on my calendar. I get to choose how I show up to my life and live it. It is my responsibility to show up well. Since my schedule has been so full, I was not showing up well to anything--a ghost of a human holding a drink at my friend’s house, half-smiling.
What does it mean to show-up well?
This is different for each person. I show up well when I am present, attentive, and warm toward those around me. I would rather do less and have less friends, than engage in 101 things to fill my weekends, even if they are good, fun things. When my social life is full, I don’t show up well. This is okay occasionally, but it shouldn’t be the norm.
I had a professor in college once say, “If you don’t say no, your yes will mean nothing”.
I am learning to put my people-pleasing “Ashlee” aside and have “no” be my default in this season. This potentially sounds harsh, but it is also a step toward my “yes” gaining back its strength and meaningfulness.
We live in a world of fast and social media. Noise---world events, an acquaintance’s birthday party you weren’t invited to on Instagram, a kayaking trip worth reliving on a friend’s Facebook, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. So much noise we take in. My internal self is telling me to slow down and be discerning about what’s entering me in both the forms of internet and face-to-face interactions. When I try to take it all in, I end up living a mile wide and an inch deep. I want to be living 100,000 miles deep and swim in the most refreshing, least-frequented waters! But hey, maybe that’s just me.
When we are in “a mile wide and an inch deep” mode, we tend to forget why we are living. Intense, I know. If my purpose was to have fun and as many ‘friends’ as possible, Trevor’s and my summer was a success. But that is not my purpose, nor my husband's.
I wish to live a grounded and thoughtful life. One where I am able to not only see, but experience the faces of the people right in front of me. I want to grow in my character daily. I think growth is learning how to suffer well. I think growth is learning how to love solitude and embrace the loneliness we each encounter in our deepest selves, when we are by ourselves and without all the accoutrements that constantly swirl distractingly around us.
My hope is that these wonderings spur you on in the reflection of how you structure your life. What needs to change this month? Do you think it best to lean into saying ‘yes’ to more? Or ‘no’? Are you living out of your purpose? What is your purpose? What could it be? What societal expectations are being thrown at you through social media, family, past senses of what life is “supposed” to look like?
I end these thoughts on a quote by Eddie Cantor and an excitement for fall. The leaves have already begun to die on the trees in my neighborhood, and I am reminded that the trunks will grow stronger in this time of internal strength and cold reflection.
Sending hope to live a countercultural, truth-filled, and wonderful life,
“Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
― Eddie Cantor