Updated: Nov 8, 2019
That’s the sound of summer flying past. One minute you are looking forward to Memorial Day, the next, Labor Day is just around the corner.
Have you ever experienced that?
I certainly have. The regret (“how I wish I had spent more time relaxing with my kids!”) and wishful thinking (“how I wish I had more time to do it right!”) over the years have finally made me pay more attention.
And that--paying attention--is the solution. In other words, practice mindful summering.
Of course that’s a word. If that's not a thing, well, it is now.
If you’re having a moment of cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the carefree vibe of summer with the seriousness of mindfulness, remember this: mindfulness does not equal meditation. It simply means paying attention to what you’re doing now.
Imagine, instead of spending June and July looking forward to your August vacation, you could notice the carpet of tiny yellow flowers during your walk with your dog. Instead of wishing for the week your kids have summer camp (‘fess up, no parent would judge you) and immediately start missing them the moment they leave and then spend all your time waiting for their return, you could pay attention to the actual moments you are together.
Aha! I hear you think. All this good intention can only go so far. What happens when you’re running late and Kid 1 and dog drag in mud, Kid 2 drops the milk carton while drinking from it, and the dog bowl is empty and the sink is full, again.
Well, if nothing else, you won’t feel summer disappearing without your noticing.
I do have a snark-free answer. Let me explain.
If you’re like me, in this scenario, you’d be:
controlling your anger;
grabbing the dog;
getting a towel to wipe up the milk;
wondering if you should ask Kid 1 to mop and risk having mud spread to the rest of the house and feeling guilty because you should teach them how to deal with the negative consequences of their thoughtless actions instead of choosing the easiest thing, which is to mop it up yourself;
figuring how to explain your lateness at work;
wondering where you’ve gone wrong because neither of your kids remembers anything you tell them;
feeling put upon because you’re the only one who does any work around the house;
debating different parenting strategies you’re read about while simultaneously doubting any of them works and then chiding yourself for thinking that just because they didn’t work for you.
With all of those activities in your mind, you pull on the dishcloth much too harshly, removing the adhesive and paint along with the hook from the wall, stumble over the stool you kicked aside moments ago in your hurry, and setting the muddy dog loose on the rest of the house.
I exaggerate. But only a little.
On the other hand, If I remember to pay attention--to the mud, the dishes, the blissfully unaware kids, the emotions rising within me--I am forced to pause. In this pause, I give time to my more highly-evolved self a chance to wrestle control away from the immediate-reaction self and to offer perspective. I have less space in my mind for distracting thoughts and their trajectories. I am less likely to cause more trouble while trying to solve the current one.
And if I pay attention, I won’t just notice the mud and spilled milk, but also the rest of that picture, in this case, the kids. I stop thinking about them as mere bringers of trouble but as children during one moment of their multi-faceted lives.
So you see, paying attention to even the unpleasantness of life has its benefits. At the very least, paying attention to all your senses makes life so much richer.
And memorable. You won’t be surprised by the end of August.