It was a muggy morning, the kind that produces the kind of billowing clouds that seem to shout “Summer is here!” My second official day of summer. Thursday was a day filled with a range of emotions and goodbyes as I hugged my third graders one last time and waved the school busses. Not to mention the many dear friends and coworkers that won’t be returning to my school next year…
Saying that this was a challenging school year is putting it lightly. In a lot of ways, this year sorely needed to be done. I’m thankful for my career choice when June comes around, and I am very much excited for a couple months of watching the Today show, hanging out at coffee shops, having a significantly smaller to do list, and let’s get real: getting to pee when I want to. Taking the time to rest and rejuvenate is so good for my soul, but if I am honest, the summer comes with its own challenges and struggles.
I’m kind of addicted to productivity. To put a positive spin on it, I am the kind of person who thrives when I have a specific purpose and take steps to accomplish that goal. Sitting around doing nothing for days on end makes me feel squeamish. I feel guilty when my friends head off to work on Monday morning, and I am still in bed. Summer can also be a season of loneliness. Those days when your primary social interaction is with your hairdresser or the barista at the coffee shop.
What is it that lies underneath these anxieties and fears? The same old song and dance. I so often try to put my worth in places they don’t belong. I seek to find my worth in being productive: in “doing it right” and “being good enough”. I also have the tendency to look for my worth in being desired company, having cool things to do with people that I like. When the busyness of the school year comes to a close, I am bereft of the protection and structure I was operating out of.
There are many desires I have for this summer, but one of the biggest goals is to pursue wholehearted living. This is a phrase borrowed from the wonderful Brene Brown. Her hope-filled book The Gifts of Imperfection describes wholehearted living as “the capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace the imperfections of who we really are.” Who doesn’t want that? I don’t want to choose comfort, the familiarity of old patterns, or an illusion of control over Real Living. The moments where I’ve glimpsed this are the ones I cherish most deeply. The people I’ve met who do this well are the ones whom I want to be around. The choices I’ve made to take strides towards wholehearted living are ones I’ve never regretted.
As I woke up this morning, feeling anxious about a day with absolutely no agenda and no plans to hang out with anyone, I started to sink into a funk, despite my self-scolding to not have a pity party. I think it can be so dangerously easy to slip into the thinking pattern of “If only I had (fill in the blank), then I’d be happy.”
When has that ever been true? When will I learn that nothing on this side of heaven will bring constant, unwavering, deep and lasting joy? It’s not going to happen. I think that wholehearted living is built on a foundation of gratitude. To choose to believe that this current season, this present moment is exactly what I need. Gratitude grounds me in the present moment, making me aware of the beauty surrounding me right now, even in the midst of imperfections and ache. Being able to live in the present moment allows me to be fully engage in my life. Being thankful isn’t a fake slapped-on “Praise Jesus” to every circumstance, but rather a retuning of my attitude and disposition to a Reality bigger than me and my limited perspective. An intentional choice to focus on that which brings life. Gratitude rains on my pity parade and frees up my schedule to delight in others!
Armed with this fragile desire to choose gratitude today, I woke up and headed to the Farmer’s Market. Rather than feeling sad that I didn’t have a friend to go with, I focused on the vibrant colors and energy of the marketplace. I opened my eyes to the gentle old man who patiently advised me on which plants to buy for my garden. I marveled at the incredible produce that was heaped on table after table.
I came home and planted my first garden.
As I was tucking in the last lettuce seeds, I felt a few drops of rain. My fragile little plants were in need of some TLC in the sweltering days ahead. I made it back into the house just as it started to pour in earnest. His way of saying “Trust me, girl. I’ve got this. I will provide exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.”
I am grateful.