Be Careful What You Wish For
(Our Boring Summer - The Epilogue)
Yep, it’s September! Back to school and all the rest of it. Except for this time, it feels a little (or a lot) different around here.
Back in June, I wrote about how we planned on having a boring summer, free of major commitments or big plans. One where aside from regular work duties, we did a whole lot of whatever we felt like, whenever we felt like it. One where our kids would have to find ways to occupy themselves without constantly being shuttled to day camps or other activities.
When we decided to do this, it was mostly because we were spent. We needed a break from several years worth of juggling too many commitments and having too much on our plates. We just couldn’t fathom another summer that felt like an extension of the busy-ness of the rest of the year. And although we’d already taken some steps to say no to a lot of things that wanted our time and attention, it just wasn’t enough. Once you get a taste of that kind of liberation, you want more. Also, with me working at home, it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to us (financially or otherwise) to send our kids off to camps all summer.
It turns out that we got a lot more than we bargained for. Sure we got more down time than we’ve ever had. Which was the point. But what we weren’t expecting is that the last few months have been kind of like hitting the re-set button for our family in so many ways. We never anticipated it, but we’re all feeling pretty damn good about it right now.
Here's what happened...
At first I thought we’d be doing a lot of day trips to the beach, walking the local hiking trails and stuff. But seriously, it was humid. Like, really effing humid. ALL. THE. TIME. So, no day trips to the public beach (except one short one) and also no hiking on the local trails, because of the aforementioned effing humidity, and because we’re lucky enough to have a camp on the lake to go to when we can get out of town (think cottage, but way less fancy). But mostly we didn’t go to the beach or hiking because we just never really felt like it. And that was the whole point see. Not to do shit we didn’t feel like doing. So, no beach, no hiking when we were at home. However, we did do both of those things when we were at camp on our ‘official’ holidays…. Because we felt like it then.
When we did get to our camp, we enjoyed it more than we have in awhile. Well, except maybe a few nights sleeping because of the effing humidity. Did I mention that? But it’s definitely better at the lake. So mostly, it was awesome, including the sleeping. We had a nice balance of seeing people, having a few visits from friends and family, and just hanging out doing our own thing. I spent more time in the lake this summer than I have since we’ve owned the place (for 9 years), because this summer, I felt like it.
While at camp, we also did a couple of really enjoyable day trips, including the one where we went hiking and to the beach. It was a place called Misery Bay and let me tell you, it’s so not miserable there! We packed a small lunch (forgot the wine though, damn!) and took a short trail, not a longer one, because humidity, but we ended up at an awesome beach and there was nobody else there! We had the whole place to ourselves for several hours before a few other folks showed up. By then, we were ready to head back to camp anyhow, so… perfect.
That kind of serendipity seemed to happen a lot over the summer. I’m convinced it’s because of all the ‘going with the flow’. It was like we were channeling Taoists or some magical shit. Mostly good, enjoyable stuff happened, because we let it. We weren’t trying to force our own agendas, stick to a schedule, please other people, keep commitments we wished we hadn’t made, or cater to other people’s requests (except our kids sometimes, because parenting). Mostly, we let the universe and our inner guidance take the lead.
The whole, do what you feel like, when you feel like plan, even led me to having less guilt about spending time indoors when the weather was nice. We have so little summer around here that I always used to feel pressured to be outside whenever the weather was nice. This summer I decided to let that shit go and only go outside when I actually felt like it. So liberating! I’m a bit of a homebody (introvert) and I kinda like being in my house. I also discovered that particularly when it’s warm out, being outside is most enjoyable for me if I’m near the water. I don’t’ really love just being outside in the heat when I’m landlocked. I’m blaming it on my watery Pisces Sun/Scorpio Moon, and I’m totally done apologizing for it. I told Sean we may have to think about putting a pool in at some point. Not sure he’s buying it though.
After we got back from our second week off, Sean went back to work at his day job and I attempted to get some work done at home, in between making sandwhiches and managing kids. I also intentionally took time off just to hang with the kids and do things like go to the (air conditioned) library or book store. This may sound like a total drag to you, but we're all book junkies in this house, so it was something we could enjoy together.
On Sean’s second day back from holidays, the universe threw us a total curve ball in the form of him losing his job. “Hope you had a nice holiday. Hope you’re good and relaxed because we have some bad news for you... you don’t work here anymore.” Maybe the universe thought, “Hell, they like this go with the flow thing so much, let’s see what happens when I do this.” Actually, I give the universe more credit than that. I’m one of those people who believes there’s a grander plan at work. I also believe that if we aren’t willing to listen to the signals, intuitive hits, inner guidance we get that’s nudging us to take notice and make change, eventually, the universe gets fed up and is like, “Screw that noise buddy, I have other people to deal with besides you, so if you’re not willing to do this on your own, I’m going to have to do it for you, because you and I both know it’s for your own good.” (Apparently the universe is a loud mouth in my world). Anyhow, BAM! You lose the job you weren’t that jazzed about anyway, and start focussing on living more true to yourself, like you should have been doing all along.
Sean losing his job meant we had the last few weeks of summer off together as a family. Not planned, but we went with it. We hung out, had laughs, enjoyed leisurely meals and got some stuff done around the house. Sean even ended up playing a gig out of town that coincided perfectly with him dropping our son off at a leadership camp in the vicinity… which was the only planned activity we had all summer. Like I said, serendipity. When the camp was over, we all went and picked Evan up, and the four of us went to Wonderland where the kids and their daredevil father had a blast while I mostly looked for shade, avoided passing out, and enjoyed the lazy river.
At this point, school was only a week away and we were starting to feel like we didn’t want to let go of this free and easy feeling. None of us was really ready for the back to school/back to routine craziness that usually begins in September. Then the unthinkable happened - Our daughter told us she didn't want to figure skate this year. She said she would like to try other things and maybe have some more free time to just do ‘whatever’. You know? Like we'd been doing over the summer. Whoa. We totally didn’t see that coming and at first we were hesitant to believe her and were thinking it was just a passing mood. She seemed to be really into skating. But sure enough, she was totally serious. Several days after the initial conversation, she re-iterated how happy she was to have made the decision. Good thing I hadn’t bought the new skate bag or outfits yet. My intuition clearly knew something I didn’t.
So… no skating. Instead, both kids will go back to acting class, which they love and have on the same night at the same time (yay us, yay serendipity). Mar wants to do some swimming which is relatively cheap, not too time consuming, and we only have to commit for 6 weeks at a time. Perfect. Both of them have also expressed an interest in skiing (which Sean loved as a kid and I always wanted to do more of) so come snow season, we have something to look forward to, but it will be on our terms and on our schedule. Again, perfect. Suddenly, our weekends will be our own, and the possibilities seem endless. Holy liberation Batman!
The kids started school in the middle of last week and at least for now, they have two parents who are self employed, work from home, and have reasonably flexible schedules. Ca-razy. Even though nobody was super stoked about having to set alarms, make lunches (o.k., that part was just me), and get back to routine, our boring summer reminded us that it doesn’t have to be the way it always was. We CAN get off (or be forced off) the hamster wheel. This is our life, and we get to decide how to live it. We have all lowered our tolerance for stress. A fact I’m proud of because I think we all need to start taking way less shit in our lives. We need to stop wearing how busy and stressed out we are as some freaky badge of honour. We need to say no more often. We need to rest and play more. We need to do more of what we love, and less of what we don’t.
Really, I was going to stop there because this is kind of a long post, but I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, that’s really nice for you. You’re lucky you can afford to make those choices. Not all of us have the luxury of doing what we want when we want.” And I just can’t let that misconception go.
Listen sisters and brothers, this is not about being able to ‘afford’ it or about having some secret advantage over the rest of you. It’s about making conscious choices and deliberate changes. It’s about making sacrifices, and sometimes it’s about choosing the lesser of two evils (having less money vs. being a miserable basket case with a stressed out family).
In the interest of making you believe me, I’m gonna be real transparent here. We’ve basically been living paycheck to paycheck like many of the rest of you for a long time now. We never got some major (or minor) inheritance, or won the lottery, or anything else. I quit my job about 18 months ago, not because we could really afford it, but because it was the right thing to do for our family, for my soul, and for our collective sanity. But building a business, especially one that’s a little different, and one whose focus is first on helping people and second on making money, doesn’t happen over night, and I haven’t exactly been raking in the dough just yet. So, we’ve been living on basically one income since then.
Yeah I know, cry me a river right? At least we’ve had one steady income (well, until recently). And you know what? You’re right! Which is why we make it a practice to focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t and why we always give whatever we can spare. It’s just good karma and in some meandering way, it seems to be working.
The point is, we don’t have a fairy godfather (although Sean's Dad, Poppa Guy, comes pretty close), or a money tree in the back yard. But we’ve survived and never once considered, even after Sean lost his job, that me leaving mine was the wrong thing to do. What we’ve learned from experience and what our boring summer has solidified for us, is that if you’re willing to go with the flow (instead of fighting against the current), follow your instincts and core desires, and not approach life from a place of fear, lack and negativity, things have a ‘miraculous’ way of working out.
Yep, less than three months ago we decided to have a different kind of summer. Suddenly, we’re welcoming in a different kind of life. Be careful what you wish for, because if you back it with some conscious choices and a willingness to embrace what unfolds, you just might get your wish!