Ahh, the sunny days of August…. Time to enjoy the warmth, sit by the beach or the pool, fit in one more summer family get-away, do some back-to-school shopping, go on a hike or bike ride, and plan your Thanksgiving dinner…. Wait, what?!
One of the Real Women in my life texted me this photo from the grocery store THREE WEEKS AGO – which was the beginning of August. Yes, that is a display of Thanksgiving-themed napkins. She included just one word in the text: “Really??” I find it appropriate that the turkeys are tilted and upside down, because that’s how they made me feel.
It is easy to blame the Retail world for pushing us into holidays and seasons well before our time. After all, we know we’ll be seeing snowmen and Christmas trees mixed in with the witches and pumpkins on store shelves in October. And it all feels just a bit…. well, ridiculous. But are the merchants all to blame?
I remember a few years ago I was hosting a birthday pool party for my son, and had planned a couple of backyard games and activities to add in to the fun. Immediately upon finishing the first activity, a couple of the kids started asking me “What’s next? What are we doing now? Are we going to play another game? What do we do next?” I was frustrated and wanted to respond “can’t you just go and play and relax and enjoy being with each other?” And I thought for a long while about how kids these days are far too anxious, too programmed, that they are always too eager to know “what’s next.”
But since that day, I’ve started to believe that we adults are to blame for this. After all, we lead by example, right? We seem to have become a nation of “what’s next”. As soon as we have completed an activity, it is like we make a big check mark next to it and move on without a backward glance. We are always planning and preparing for the next thing – the sooner the better. This is why we see back-to-school supplies in the stores in July. And why as soon as the kids are in class, we say summer is over, and feel pressured to get their Halloween costume planned. Just the other day one of my BFFs and I were talking about holiday plans this year. Do I need to mention again that it is August??
We Real Women spend enough time worrying and thinking and planning and second-guessing….do we really need to add on the additional stress of worrying about something that is still four months down the road?
Now, please understand, I realize I am being a hypocrite – because as soon as we celebrate the New Year, I’m looking forward to spring. I don’t mind in the slightest if the Retail shops start putting out Easter and Spring décor as early as the beginning of February, and I’m anxiously out buying cut flowers to put in vases in my house and doing my spring cleaning… But that is just because of my feelings about winter…. I’ve heard there are folks out there who love snow and cold and winter sports, who want that season to last a good long time. (I don’t understand them, but hey, it takes all types to make the world go ‘round.)
With all this time spent looking forward, I fear that we have lost the art of savoring the moment. Are we spending so much time in the worry-and-plan mode that we are ignoring the day that currently exists? Yesterday, my husband was looking for me; I had just finished some gardening, and he found me next to the pool, my feet in the water, the rest of me just laying there, still in my dirty garden clothes. He made a gentle inquiry which I think was something like “um, what’s up?” I told him that I was savoring the moment. Because that feeling, of warm sun on my skin, a nice fresh-air breeze blowing over me, my toes wiggling in the cool water – that exact feeling is what I’ll miss the most during our winter months. And I just needed a few minutes to stop and savor it before it was gone. Like so many other R.W.’s, I had spent much of the day running around trying to be productive, my head constantly thinking about the “next thing” on my to do list, and I decided I needed to stop, even if briefly.
Ironically there is a flip side to our population, one that includes a whole lot of procrastinators. Filing taxes is usually an annual last-minute rush activity; we put off going to the doctor for regular check ups, and we spend a whole lot of time running up against deadlines both at work and at home due to poor planning. All you have to do is glance into a mall on December 24th to see that not everyone of us plans ahead. I laugh every year when my husband tells me that Christmas “snuck up on him.” Really, did you not see the Frosty sitting next to the Jack-o-Lantern in Costo 12 weeks ago?
There must be some sort of happy medium that we can all find. Some pleasant world of peace and tranquility that lives between “worrying and planning three months ahead of time” vs. “stressed chaos and last-minute rushing. “ Perhaps we can take small steps towards finding that sweet spot by once a day, slowing down long enough to just BE. Draw deep breaths, and really notice where we are at that moment. Feel it. Appreciate it. I am quite certain this will take a lot of practice – we Real Women are really bad at shutting our brains off, even if it is just for a few minutes.
So I have come up with a plan….and I ask you to join me. Mostly because I’ll need the peer pressure to make this a success. The next time we ask ourselves “what’s next?” let’s force ourselves to stop, breathe and answer: “savor.”