This essay was originally published on the blog at Mindful Healthy Life. Happy summer to Jessica over there and thank you for the opportunity!
Here's a confession: part of me has been dreading this summer. It sounds rather awful, I know, but the thought of my kids tearing down the stairs at 7am demanding my full attention while I try to write one last sentence at my computer and then have a whole entire day laid out before us for which we have to fill, well, it strikes a bit of fear in my heart and stirs up my anxiety.
This summer is going to be a new experience for me. For many years I've been a full time working mom, kids in daycare and then camps and then babysitter and then a hodge podge of cobbling together whatever I could for summer. My professional life shifted significantly this past fall as I took my dream job. The thing with big goals and dreams is that they don't always show up the way in which you expect. So, while this opportunity was my dream job, it was also part-time.
It aligned perfectly with another, newer dream of mine that had been percolating - the idea of starting my own business. It truly felt like the stars had aligned and the universe was handing me a beautiful gift. I could take a chance facing drastic changes in family finances, new childcare decisions, and some pretty long days getting cozy on the beltway and 95 instead of getting the kids off the bus and making dinner (I was working full time from home). Or I could ignore the beautiful gift and keep doing the comfortable thing that wasn't bringing me the fulfillment I sought. So I leapt. I took the new part-time job and I launched my personal storytelling business,.
I've loved it. I've grown as a person, coaching myself to do new things and put myself out there. I've met amazing people in the DMV that I never would have had the opportunity to meet had I stayed where I was.
And now, summer. We all know that Washingtonians start thinking about summer plans for our school age kids in early winter, just as the holidays end. For several months now the voice inside my head has been challenging me with questions like, How are you going to keep up momentum with your business and take care of the kids? I've been responding by growing increasingly anxious with, I have no idea? How can I do all of these things? It will be impossible to find the time I need to get work done!
Meanwhile, I have always wanted to spend time with the kids over the summer outside of our one week of beach travel. To be at the pool instead of the computer. To have a real summer. One like those I remember from my own childhood, my mom relaxing on a lounge chair on the back deck, iced tea brewing in the sun, while we ran wild in the neighborhood. I'm also keenly aware that this time is a gift. This may be the only summer I have with days where I am not expected to be reporting to someone else.
I've been writing about how we all have stories on repeat in our heads that convince us of things, true or not. With some time and attention, we can rewrite these stories. You know where this is headed, I'm sure. That story about how the summer is going to be so hard and it's going to be a struggle to get any work done? It's time for me to rewrite it. I teach that the first step is recognizing the story floating around, so I'm already on my way through the process. Next step is the re-frame, where you ask yourself if the story is true. Since I've never had a summer with this set-up, I suppose I don't know how hard or not hard it will be. It's definitely an opinion of mine and since it's my opinion, I guess it's not a fact. Which moves me towards constructing my new version, something like, I'm going to do my best to live in the moment this summer and think of this time as a gift.
It sounds all well and good, but wow, tough to implement. Just this week, one morning before school, the kids had an argument over who would get the last of the milk for their cereal. There was screaming and insults and slammed doors. From all three of us. The bus pulled away and I took a deep breath of relief for the quiet that enveloped me. Then the voice said, How are you going to manage full days this summer?
Part of this internal work is going easy on ourselves. I won't be able to respond to the harsh critic inside my head with my new story every time. My hope is with practice, I'll start coming around to it before Labor Day.