Yesterday was supposedly the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. As a So Cal girl living in Wisconsin, you’d think I’d be thrilled. Summer to me means sunshine and beach days and exploring new parks and lakes. I should have been thrilled. Instead, I brought my son and my bulldog to a park where I could sit and figure out how to mentally pick myself up.
I blame a long week of traveling for my mental low point. I was in Atlanta for a conference – a successful conference where I got a lot of complements on my work and met 5 wonderful people who could help me take my research and consulting business to the next level. I should have come home high with excitement. I should have felt energized and happy to be home. Instead, I felt mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Everyone has days where they feel emotionally drained. The goal is not to prevent these days from happening but to have a game plan when they do come along. I need a new game plan. My usual plan of action for a down day like this is to walk to the beach. I find walking listening to the waves crash calming and therapeutic. Now that I’m away from the So Cal beaches, I find listening to waves on YouTube is helpful but it doesn’t get me all the way there. I need another way to recharge and get myself back to my confident, positive mindset.
I would love it if the weather would cooperate. By this time last year I’d already gone swimming in the lake a few times, survived a case of swimmer’s itch, and discovered a few new parks like Nashotah. I’ve been fortunate to have a lovely vacation in Florida, but I want more “swimmable days” here in Wisconsin. I’m growing tired of the “should I do [X] or is it going to rain” arguments I have in my own head.
Okay, so what am I going to do? If you know me, then you know I have a plan. I always have a plan. Life may not follow my plans, but my plans are my security blanket – I feel better just having it, even if I don’t use it.
Step 1: Make a new list.
Part of what made Wisconsin so wonderful my first year here was all the new places I got to explore. Exploration has been curtailed significantly by having a child who needs to be carried, changed, and fed.
It’s time to make a new list of places to explore and to get better at packing a diaper bag with a stroller or carrier so I can go explore that place immediately after work. Part of my frustration with this particular Wisconsin summer is that the sunniest days have been weekdays. By the time the weekend comes around, the weather is overcast and cold again.
“Wait, you mean after days with -20 degree weather, you still consider 50-60 degrees cold?”
Yes, because I’m still a So Cal girl. If it’s not at least 70 degrees, I’m either cold or wearing several layers of clothing.
Step 2: Replace the Drama Queen with the Octopus
Someone told me the other day that being a mom is the most important job I’ll ever have. I almost cried – not just because I love my son more than I thought possible, but also because I jumped to a depressing conclusion:
That’s it? That’s all my significance in this world comes down to? So nothing else I do matters? It doesn’t matter that I speak to college students, it doesn’t matter that I’m a small business owner, it doesn’t matter that I’ve written a book – my only legacy on this Earth will be that I had a kid.
Sitting at the park on the summer solstice yesterday, I had to take a moment to remind myself – it’s not that the other things don’t matter; it’s not that my other roles aren’t important, it’s just that some people would consider raising a child who will go on to live their own life a different kind of significance than the other work I do. In many ways my business is like my baby so I still struggle with this ranking-of-importance.
I need to stop thinking like a drama queen and start thinking like an octopus.
An octopus has a soft body and the ability to change its color and surface texture. This makes the octopus extremely good at adapting. It can alter its shape, size, and color to fit its surroundings and the situation at hand.
Next time cold, rainy weather threatens to derail my outdoor plans, I could try to adapt. I’ll say, “Great! I wonder how many puddles I can stomp in. I wonder if I’ll see a rainbow. Swimming in the lake will be this much easier since I’m already wet. This weather will keep the crowds much smaller.”
I don’t know if this positive spin will be effective every time, but I have so much in my life to be grateful for, it seems silly to let a little weather have so much power over me. Rain or shine, beaches need clean-up volunteers, parks need explorers, and Gjalla needs more hills to roll down.