What I learned on my summer vacation: The purpose of summer

“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” 
― Yoko Ono summer-collage I have never been a summer person, Fall and all its autumnal pleasures of snuggly sweaters, crisp air, bright orange leaves, and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes has, in the past, trumped mightily the allure of hot, heat, humidity, stickiness and the endless confusion of how to dress when it is 105 degrees (how exactly do you dress professionally when it is 105 degrees, this still alludes me?). Having grown up in Southern California I didn’t really get seasons. Summer meant for me that it’s hot. Fall is less hot. Winter is a little less hot, maybe cold enough for a coat. Spring is, well, Spring is a lot like summer only without the June gloom. Living in Chicago I learned the lessons of seasons that we Southern Californian’s may miss out on (Californians take note): things change, it isn’t supposed to be sunny all the time; cold weather is awesome because you get to sit in the house with a book and read all day; winter always ends; Spring always comes. I knew some, most, of this stuff intellectually, but I knew it-knew it-knew it after surviving my first four Midwestern seasons---and Midwestern seasons are not for sissies, they are, I suppose, where you go for a PhD in seasons. While summer seemed to me to be the season of escape, relaxing, chilling, hanging out and easy-reading by the pool (note to reader: I didn’t see one person in Hawaii sipping Mai Tais and reading Dostoevsky)--- Fall is about academics, seriousness, gravitas, a new notebook, school clothes--- and, for me, September represented new beginnings in a way that January can only imagine. Summer, for me, equaled fun. Fall, for me, equaled seriousness. Up until recently I most definitely preferred seriousness to fun (seriousness was my fun.) Readers please note that this author, when deciding she needed more play in her life, researched play and read about play research and took copious notes as she read Dianne Ackerman’s treatise, Deep Play instead of playing) However, all of a sudden, (the last three years to be exact) I am seeing the joy of fun, rest, relaxation and its psychological purpose. For as Jack Nicholson says in “The Shining”: Unknown-3   My long anticipated Hawaiian vacation taught me a lot (which I understand is a bit of a paradox---because summer is supposed to be the sorbet of seasons in which you get a rest between the blossoming of spring and the nose-to-the-grindstone of Fall). The curriculum of my summer vacation was 18 units of rest, relax, swim, and sip an occasional Mai Tai. Being able to just lie around on a lounge chair and stair at the turquoise Pacific was a personal accomplishment of sorts. I was able to just lie there and not learn something and not turn it into an ‘I will learn everything about interpersonal psychoanalysis book binge', and in not learning I learned the value of having a time that is left empty, open and wide without agenda. I didn’t even write a single to-do list while I was there. Three-days into the vacation and I got to a place where I wasn’t even ‘thinking about something’---I was just zoning and enjoying and relaxing and it was awesome. The therapist part of me that is always looking to make meaning of things was proud of this moment and she chimed in and said, “This is good for you. This is an accomplishment. You could use more of this.” I nodded at her in agreement, took a sip of my Mai Tai and rolled over and took a nap and became aware of the “chill” part of my personality that would have happily spent several more weeks doing just this. But the truth is that  the rest, rewind, Mai Tais and, even summer, are about a season (unless you live in Hawaii) and that having an endless summer me, without a to-do list, would for me, or for most, be no more rewarding than a having an endless work cycle of accomplishment and activity. Seasons, and there short-lived nature, allow us access to different parts of ourselves----if we use them to access these parts they can allow us to have some of that much talked about balance. I had a therapist who used to talk of the joys in life that were short-lived and how the temporariness of them heightened the experience for him. There was some funky-small-batch ginger ale company in his boyhood town that would only produce this ginger ale in the summer months. He frequently waxed nostalgic on the joys of this short-lived ginger ale. I am happy to report, dear ginger ale loving therapist, that I finally get it and I understand now why you kept on telling me about the bloody ginger ale. While this Fall  I will undoubtedly miss the smell of suntan lotion, the joy of bbq-ing, the delight of a ten p.m. swims and the feeling of wet sand between my toes, I am presently delighting in the joys of returning to work, working on a second book and imagining the autumnal pleasures of snuggly sweaters, crisp air, bright orange leaves, and Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes…and a fresh new spiral notebook. Ah, Fall! images-4 “But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” ― Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot