I recently celebrated a milestone birthday at the end of April which, understandably perhaps, caused quite a bit of soul searching. I spent considerable time looking back at my wild and crazy life and came to some rather important conclusions about the future.
First and most importantly, I decided that I needed some reminders about being present and treasuring the moment, rather than just rushing through, always looking forward to something else. Therefore I decided to declare this coming season The Summer of Me.
This summer, for the first time since I can remember, I'm going to set aside the biggest chunk of non-work-time for me and my creative projects. Writing. Photography. Dreaming. Planning. Suddenly, it has become non-negotiable that it be all about me right now.
Even though my college years ended over three decades ago, being on the trembling cusp of summertime still causes a frisson of delight in my soul. This has continued to be the case though there is no school year to mark the beginning of autumn. The months of June, July and August seem to stretch ahead like the California coastline: pristine and beautiful with a horizon that's so far off in the distance it almost can't be seen.
I'm conducting a summer experiment; instead of working on freelance projects on weekends so I can more easily meet my bills, living in New York City and having a chronic health condition, I'm going to concentrate on me and what I want and need. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.
The aforementioned chronic health condition is Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, which I was diagnosed with exactly four years ago, the week of my birthday. Yes, I have cancer. But it does not have me. This is what is known, classically, as burying the lede.
Being diagnosed with cancer, by anyone's reckoning, is a watershed moment. It divides your life dramatically and cleanly into before and after. And if you, like me, tend to get all metaphysical during moments such as these, then you may be able to relate to how much I have learned to value the air on my skin and the feel of the sun.
I also need to remind myself that, now that the weather is finally urging us all outside after keeping us captive in its wintry thrall, it's time to put aside "liking" other people's Facebook posts, pick up the phone, call and make dates to meet up. It has become way too easy to hide behind our screens; we need to look in each other's eyes, hug each other, talk for hours, perhaps even stay up all night and see the dawn paint the sides of buildings with its rosy fingers.
For The Summer of Me, I've written up a list of the things I plan to accomplish before Labor Day sounds that mahogany-colored bell tone signaling the end of the season.
Hold me to it. Keep me honest.
And if you can, make this The Summer of You.
Here's my list:
Finish my first novel and publish it
Go for walks
Start juicing again
Learn how to roast radishes
Meditate in the mornings
Watch the full moon rise white like a bone over the ocean on the Jersey shore
Drink lots of water
Read lots of books
Go to the movies
Make avocado toast
Work on my one woman show about what it's like to live with cancer
Eat fresh fruit
Go to concerts
Watch birds stitch across the sky in a jagged black line at twilight
Be grateful, all day, every day