Relephant read: Elephant’s Continually updated Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon
Summer has whispered in my ear ever since I was a child: “Let’s go, kick off your shoes, jump on the bike, don’t worry about making it home for dinner.”
Summer calls me to freedom—the freedom to wake up late, go to bed late, forget to shave, carry around a good book, loll in the sun. Ahhh, the relief of an utter lack of routine.
Carefree summer days—remember those? It’s hard to, with the virus pushing us around and anxiety building.
Right now, life feels small and oppressive. We are struggling to establish new routines to help us feel stable and secure. But, in the summer, I love a lack of structure. It sparks joy and refreshes the body and the mind.
This summer I will miss the free-floating exuberance of people, bumping up against each other, with all our rough edges and sour smells, laughing and arguing, about everything we can possibly laugh and argue about. Noisy barefoot households, with dirty children and wet dogs, grumpy grandmas and rude uncles.
I like things a little contentious, a little messy, lively, and free.
Even though I feel grateful to quarantine, it does feel like the opposite of freedom. Strict hygiene and safety protocols fuel my hypervigilance and exhaustion. Who wants to pull on a mask on steamy days where we want peel off clothing?
I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, and for the rest of humanity. I woke up a few days ago, with a wet face, thinking of New York’s devastating loss, and feeling moved by how Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped up for his people. He made unpopular decisions, to pull the city out of its Coronavirus spiral. I love New York. I love summer. I even love summer in New York.
Summer was always the season for hanging out, holding hands, taking slow bike rides in clusters, and committing to some serious hammock time. My beautiful Texas summer is not even here yet and already, I mourn its loss.
During the COVID Summer, how can I still evoke the sweet essence of the season?
Of course, hammock time is still on the table. And I can still head outdoors to feel the summer hypnotize my body and brain into relaxation. On my walk, I can inhale the green, feel the itch of tree pollen and mosquitoes, see the waves of radiant heat rise from the street, coaxing the sweat from my pores, and sending me home for a siesta.
I can temper today’s difficult reality by remembering to experience the joys that come built into life. Here’s my life-affirming COVID Summer joy list:
1. Grow something. It’s satisfying to bring new life into the world.
2. Watch the sunset or sunrise every day. Yes, nature is still in charge and she’s beautiful.
3. Look at the stars. The night sky reminds us that we are a part of something bigger.
4. Have sex. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, good for you. If you’re on your own, well, you know what to do.
5. Go wild, move around. Lose the shoes, let your hair grow, get some sun on your skin, dance, explore new routes when you walk your dog.
6. Eat watermelon. Let the juice run down your chin. This is one of the most important keys to a summer well-lived.
7. Practice random acts of kindness. Check on elderly neighbors. Share extra produce. Say hello to children who are afraid to look at you in your terrifying mask.
8. Make something. A story, a painting, a song, a meal, a mask: creative action is cathartic and can provide comfort to others when shared.
9. Call a friend. Initiate contact, even if that’s not your norm. Put some love out there and just see how you feel.
10. Be generous and forgiving. We are all sad and irritable, and we are stuck with each other, so remember, we are all allowed to be difficult sometimes.
There are a million things that make me feel grateful to be alive and remind me that summer is still a pleasure. I can do a loving-kindness meditation, watch some cows grazing in a pasture, make a COVID Summer playlist, pick zinnias, and eat lettuce from my small garden.
I know that, no matter what COVID-19 brings, the life I have left is still going to get lived.
I will still find joy, even if it’s mixed with sadness, fear, anger, or grief. Will I grapple with acceptance? Will I pine for the lovely ease of summers past? Of course. But if I pay careful attention to what’s in front of me, on some days, I will feel the joy.
This simple list is not a plan to recreate carefree summer days and a certain future. It’s not a plan to pretend nothing has changed. It’s not a plan at all. It’s an acknowledgement that life is here right now. We can find love all around us—in nature, in our bodies, in people stepping up to help, in people staying quietly at home, and in our desire to express ourselves.
I’m not waiting until post-COVID to feel happiness, because living now is what matters. Life is uncertain, no matter how we look at it. Certainty is just an illusion we prefer.
Every human’s summer joy list will look different, because even though we are all connected, we all have different lives to live. What pleasures will spice your summer? What loving-kindness will you find in your heart?
From “Vienna” by Billy Joel, New York treasure:
“And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get half through
Why don’t you realize, Vienna waits for you
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?”
Here’s Ben Platt version of Billy Joel’s “Vienna” from the series “The Politician:”
More Relephant Reads:
How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.
Stop Romanticizing Lockdown—It’s a Mental Health Crisis in the Making.