The End of Summer
Sometimes I feel like I’m this negative person who, instead of being excited about the end of summer and start of fall, looks at the end of summer as a grieving period. A time to lament the loss of summer. (glass half empty, anyone?)
At times, it almost feels like I’m the only one who lets such silly negativity get to me. In fact, I was hesitant to write this piece for that very reason. It’s not that I am going to get depressed over it, but I can still hear how ridiculous it may sound to dwell over the loss of summer. And then, upon conversations with others, I find that I’m not alone in this. Moreover, I realize that maybe it isn’t the worst thing to allow ourselves to be sad that summer is over.
We so often shy away from—and want to get rid of—our sadness (or any negative feelings, for that matter). We judge ourselves. For instance, right now, I’m thinking that my sadness is childish and something that I just need to get over. At the same time, here is the thing: our feelings are there and we can’t actually deny them. (I mean we can, but how often does that work? Exactly.)
This love letter to summer is not based on deep pain; this isn’t exactly consequential. However, I am bummed out! And I would like to allow myself—and others feeling similarly—the space to be bummed out! How do I go about this? First, instead of focusing on getting rid of the feelings, I just sit with them, and do my very best to let go of the judgments. Interestingly, even though I’m a therapist, this can feel bizarre for me. Embracing my sadness? My sadness that summer is over? (My judgmental brain reminds me loudly: “Oh please… It’s just summer. There are way worse things happening in the world to be sad over.”)
Then, as I start to sit with this, I’m confronted by my resistance: “Wait, I’m going to let those negative thoughts and feelings come to my mind? To my body?” It feels backwards, I know. But what the hell, I’ll try it. Let’s sink in. I realize that if I embrace this sadness, instead of judging myself for being negative, I’ll process it and move past it more peacefully. Or maybe I’ll continue to be nostalgic, and perhaps that’s okay too.
Some questions and thoughts that often come to mind for me at this time of year:
- I’m so frustrated with myself. I wasted my summer. I always do that.
- I didn’t go to the beach like I said I would do this year. (I live in LA. I always say I’ll go to the beach. Wait, do I even like the beach?)
- Was it fun?
- Did I do enough? Did I do anything new or different this year?
- It went by too fast. It always does.
- There goes another year. What did I accomplish? Or rather, what didn’t I accomplish?
I believe many of us also associate summer to a time of fun and plans. Like it is supposed to be more fun than any other time of year. I think we associate summer to summer vacation in our childhood. It is viewed as vacation time. And if we didn’t go on those vacations that our friends and colleagues went on, or didn’t do all the fun things we had planned to do or said we would do, we feel like we failed our fun selves (and maybe our inner child, who is certainly holding on to those sweet summer memories).
Healing and New Perspectives
Okay, so I may still be judging myself a little as being ridiculous for thinking this way. And I may still feel sentimental and disappointed. The difference is that after allowing the space to lament about summer, I feel that it’s okay. (And let’s be honest, this sadness is obviously more than about the loss of summer. Might it bring up feelings about other, deeper losses in our histories? Other regrets?). It seems that after I let myself sit with that disappointment, I am better able to use it to inspire a shift in perspective. I could use this information for next summer. For the rest of the year.
In other words, summer can be a marker. An opportunity to mark an end AND a beginning. While December may be the end of the calendar year, I think I will never get over summer feeling like the end of the year and August/September feeling like the start of a new year. From this viewpoint, if summer is the end, then fall is the beginning. It is the January to my December. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start. So yes, I’ll never get back the summer of 2018, but I do get the fall of 2018. I won’t get to relive the past or redo it, but I will get a shot at forming my future and my present. So now that we sank into our negativity, let’s sink into our opportunities.