How do you make the most out of the longer summer days? Do you feel a change in rhythm when school is out or when we reach June 21st on the calendar? Are there other signals that notify you or give you permission to live differently in that season? No matter your official work hours, we are all given the opportunity to switch things up during these longer days to dive into things we often feel we must put on hold.
While summer doesn’t officially begin until June, the end of the school year is when summer officially begins for us. With the anticipation of a shift in our routine, longer days, and later nights I found myself last week preparing me for the shift in our routine. While in years past I did not have any hard commitments that others were counting on me for, this summer is one in which I do. And not only for others, but also for myself making this a summer where a balance of fun and work will need to coexist together.
The other weekend, our daughter was at a sleepover and our son, Landen, decided to sneak into her hammock on the porch while my husband and I had our morning coffee. Landen laid there with his legs hanging off the side of the hammock with his shoes still touching the ground and Aaron, my husband, said, “Why don’t you take your shoes off and get all the way in the hammock?” I saw something in that small moment. Do you ever find yourself wanting to relax or enjoy something, but you just can’t jump into it without holding on to everything else that you think should be done? It’s certainly not easy or possible to go through life walking straddled with one foot in what you desire to do and another foot in those commitments that seem to hold a stronger precedent in our lives.
While watching Landen lay in the hammock that same morning, I had found myself floating back and forth between soaking up the beautiful view from our porch to the tickertape in my mind that was running with everything that needed to be done and then realizing with the end of school year events that had been scheduled well over a month ago. I sat overwhelmed. In that moment I realized I was just like our son. I too was trying to relax but my mind had me tethered to a mental to-do list. How often do you find yourself in a similar position?
identifying a beacon for summer
I’ve identified the uptick as being a sense of urgency to hurry and get organized before our children are out of school in hopes of orchestrating somewhat of a well-oiled machine that satisfies my needs, our family’s needs, and the commitments I hold. With having been out of a strong form of routine for nearly six years now, I’m finding it quite a climb to get back to somewhere in the middle of my previous career schedule and the stay-at-home mom schedule in hopes of forming an environment where both work and play can exist.
While my planner and notebook are my go-to for organizing my commitments, I have been informally collaborating with the kids on a list of things they would like to do this summer ensuring those long but quick summer days are soaked up in ways they all desire. While we haven’t done this yet, we will soon be choosing a word for the summer that will likely be posted up on the chalkboard in the kitchen that will in a way serve as the melody or beacon throughout the summer. Do you ever choose a word or phrase for as season or a year? Sometimes it may come easily to you while other times it may take a while to find you as I have found that to be the case for me this year.
While these two words are somewhat common and not all too unique or surprising, I found that I kept running into two words that had been subtly grabbing my attention over the past months- Intentionally undistracted. For some intentional may be a word that cues more forethought into marking out days on the calendar to attend fun summer activities or festivals, concerts in the park, or a day trip while the word undistracted may remind us to leave our phones in our purse or pocket or it may cue us to make a concerted effort to leaving work behind at the office
For me, these words go hand in hand in this season. While in the past summers I have chosen to let go of schedules and routines and let the days unfold on their own, in attempt of breaking me from my rigidity of planning, I have found myself in a season of wanting to intentionally plan for my non-negotiables that at the end of the day bring me a sense of accomplishment and joy. I want to be able to give those things my undistracted attention when they are planned for so that I can then be even more available, intentional, and undistracted while being with the ones I love.
In this season I am committing to leaving behind the “all or nothing” attitude that had good intentions in the past but left me feeling depleted and further and further away from who I am called to be. I’m reinstating routine this year into our summer in hopes we find a rhythm that allows us to not only engage in all the fun parts of summer, but to also, carry out the work that must be accomplished to help us grow our character and sustain us in the days to come.
This past summer had a typical beginning. The garden we had planned for in February and March was planted with excitement and anticipation and after a few times of harvesting our bounty and filling up our farmstand to share with the community what once filled everyone with excitement led to a lack of interest. Weeds weren’t pulled as frequently as they should have been and when the weeds were out of control the work it would take to get things back into order was tumultuous. The lack of routine and flying by the seat of our pants proved to not be helpful in the garden that year and left me feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Two words that shouldn’t be a part of summer.
Finding balance through routine
While in the past I had been told I was a rigid planner and a bit over the top with routine, I have found over the past five years of trying to “let go” that it is something that may work well for some but not be a healthy alternative for others. While we may like to occasionally take off our shoes and soak up the sun in a hammock giving ourselves permission to take a much-needed break, we can’t always stay in the hammock and expect other areas of our life to continue to grow and flourish. Those intermittent breaks where we can table everything else for a short bit, are kind of like having dessert. If you have dessert all the time, it truly loses its sweetness or in the case of taking sporadic breaks, loses its effectiveness. It’s a balance that is unique to each of us, some needing more while others need less to maintain a contentment within.
With just a bit more time to prepare for summer break, I find myself carving out undistracted time to intentionally prepare my calendar rather than closing it. I’m starting with the easy things to mark out such as scheduling when laundry and housework needs to be tackled eliminating the sound of it running each day because we didn’t have something we needed. And instead of turning off my alarm, I’m setting one. I’m setting one so that my morning coffee can be fully enjoyed without the to-do list running in my head stealing the view of the pond or the cuddles with our kids. It’ll allow for time to wake with morning devotions, make a thoughtful breakfast rather grabbing what’s convenient as well as walk through the garden each morning with the kids and pulling weeds avoiding that tumultuous jungle.
In the past I would set my writing as well as other hobbies aside during the summer months but have found that once everyone transitions back to their routines of school and sports, l typically have fallen so far out of routine that I swindle my time trying to figure out an entirely new routine again. This year it’s my hope that keeping a firm grip of my commitments and non-negotiables, such as writing and podcasting and my morning routines of coffee and devotions, the transition into the fall won’t feel so abrupt. Most importantly I hope to look back and see that by being intentional I was able to be as present as possible in the many facets of each of those summer days.
With roughly a month until the official start to summer on our calendars, is there any time you need to carve out to think about how you want to spend the season ahead, so you are not trying to straddle both your commitments and the things you enjoy? What commitments or non-negotiables do you need to keep hold this season and is there a word that seems to resonate with you that you could post somewhere to help guide you? With the longer days what can you intentionally plan for so that you can have some undistracted R & R?