Today, it is beautiful out. Setting the espresso machine to on, I strolled through the apartment and popped my head out onto the patio. It’s one of those crisp, spring, slightly chilly days. I thought of my mom saying that very thing, “It is beauuuuutiful out!”, the way she does when she comes in from a short early walk outside or after completing an early yard project. The summer I lived at the cabin, I loved grabbing a thermos of coffee, my iPod, and our dog, Dutch, and going out for a long stroll in the forest while I listened to a motivational or self-help podcast. Those early mornings on the lake in the forest always seemed so saturated with color. And with hope, I think now, as I breathe in the air and remember exactly how I felt, on those mornings.
Selective memory. I look back on that summer and I think about how lucky I was then…that I had a whole summer on the lake, with nothing to do but write. And work out, and meditate. I devoured Jack Canfield and Arielle Ford podcasts and books like it was a full-time job, eager to carve out clean spaces in my heart for what was to come. I meditated every day, usually at the lake on the dock. I’d go for long walks in the forest in the afternoon or early evening, laughing along to the Nerdist podcast and thinking about how great it would be to create something for yourself that was always fun and hilarious and creative. I’d write at night, struggling to string together ten years of material into something cohesive and succinct. I listened to a lot of Angus & Julia Stone and the new Bon Iver album, grabbing my iPod and a bottle of beer from the fridge in the cabin before I headed down to the dock to stare up at the stars. I dreamed about my future and I worried about what would happen in the fall.
And there it is. That little stone of truth, the one I sometimes miss when I’m waxing poetically about that summer. I think there are periods in everyone’s life when we feel like we’re at our absolute best selves…or at least are closer to it than we’ve ever been before. And for me, it’s easy to look back at those times and think about how perfect they were. But it’s important for me, especially now, to realize that all that saturated color was at a brighter hue because there was also dark stuff to contend with. It created the contrast. My heart was exhausted from a dramatic and ill-fated entanglement earlier that spring. I worried about where I was going to go and what I was going to do in the fall. I didn’t get half as much writing done as I thought I would because I was still a partner for Groucho, which was basically a full-time job (but since it was a start-up, I wasn’t making any money at it, so I also worried about how I was going to pay bills). I struggled with my body, which didn’t seem to change no matter how many runs or bike rides or swims I embarked on each day. I was lonely, with all my friends but one still living three hours away in the cities. I often grew frustrated with my family, with the push-pull of our relationships now being forced into close proximity and the bristling over the things that were said – and still worse – the things that went unsaid.
It wasn’t a perfect summer. There were so many wonderful things about it, so it’s easy for me to romanticize it, but on days like today…it’s actually comforting to me, to remember that it wasn’t all easy magic. Because right now, today, I need more than anything to remember that my life doesn’t have to be perfect in order for me to enjoy it. Does anyone else ever do that to themselves? Stand on the patio and breathe in the spring air – the air you’ve been waiting so long for – and think, “This would be perfect if not for ____ or ____.” What a bitchy mind trick. It’s literally a joy thief.
The thing that magical summer helps me to remember is this: I don’t have to have it all figured out yet. There can be conflict, there can be debt, there can be dissatisfaction, and I can still enjoy this beautiful day, I can still make something magical out of this season in my life. Grab my iPod, go for a walk, wrap my day around the things that I will remember most, later, after all of this has passed.
Like carve out a clean space in my heart for what’s to come next. Listen to a Nerdist podcast and think about great it is to create something that’s always fun and hilarious and creative. Write (a lot). Blog and email and call my friends when I get lonely. Feel incredibly grateful that one thing that has radically changed is my relationship with my family…instead of being a source of frustration, it’s now a fountain of encouragement and support and just sheer enjoyment. Realize that the things I struggle with now won’t matter so much in the future… So little, in fact, that it will be easy to forget about them when I look back later and think about how lucky I was, then.