“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” — Omar Khayyam
This past weekend, I went home to Pennsylvania for a weekend of my sister Clare’s pre-wedding festivities. On Saturday afternoon through Sunday, I hosted a bachelorette party (complete with a bridal party yoga class, dinner at a little Italian place, lots of bachelorette games and boozy punch, and a good-old-fashioned-sleepover in my parents’ home), and then on Sunday, the mother of Clare’s childhood best friend (who also happened to be my three siblings’ and my kindergarten teacher) hosted a gorgeous bridal shower in her home. After the shower, we returned to my parents’ house for a family cookout.
During the planning stages of the weekend, I called the shower hostess to rsvp, ask if there was anything that I could do to help, and thank her for offering to host. Graciously, she exclaimed that she was so happy to be able to offer a shower, saying “I am delighted by Clare and Katie’s lifelong friendship, and your family’s friendship means so much to me; celebrating these friendships and milestones are what makes life enjoyable.”
These words deeply resonated with me. Celebrating friendships, celebrating milestones — celebrating people and moments — are what make life enjoyable. We each just have one life to live, and that life moves quickly, and that life can be really hard at times. Why not make it a point to take the time and energy and effort to enjoy it through celebrating meaningful relationships and moments?
A few weeks ago, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft discussed “designing the summer” on their podcast Happier. They spoke about how their days of a three-month-summer-vacation are long over, but somehow, summer still feels set apart from the rest of the year. Perhaps more accurately, they long for it to feel set apart from the rest of the year, and regret that often the season just passes them by without actually being any different, despite the mental feeling that it is different from the rest of the year. Together, they “designed the summer,” each naming specific things they would do to make summer feel set apart and special (for an example, Gretchen will devote two hours each summer morning to re-reading some of her favorite books).
The topic resonated with me, especially considering the fact that this is the first year that I don’t have some sort of official “summer break.” I’ve actually felt a bit glum entering the summer, mourning the fact that the days are longer and the weather is golden and I still have the same work obligations. I have always looked towards the summer as a time to relax, rejuvenate, travel and have some fun, and I want summer to remain a time for all of these activities whether or not my day-to-day life differs as drastically as it did when I was a student and had summers “off.”
Listening to Gretchen and Elizabeth as they brainstormed convinced me that the antidote to my grieving the loss of an extended summer vacation is to design my summer, to come up with a few activities that will make summer feel like summer. My season was kickstarted this past week during a beach vacation with my in-laws, and as I sit here in the Charleston airport, returning home, I feel truly in the summer state of mind. I’ve mulled over various ideas these past few weeks and am settling on these five, effective immediately.
Designing my summer
- Take a day trip to a new location each week that doesn’t involve some other sort of travel
- Eat/drink on the deck/patio of a new (to us) restaurant each non-travelling week
- Talk to an old friend on the phone/facetime/skype every week
- Write one blog post each week
- Complete a few projects that have been on my list for ages:
- Learn how to use Caleb’s camera
- Create a photo wall to display recently taken pictures
- Complete a writing project
- Buy and fill in a birthday calendar
- Hang artwork that has accumulated
I don’t think that I have had a single book recommended to me more often, and by a wider variety of people, than Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. A work ten years in the making, Doerr’s novel spans the years of World War II and weaves together the stories of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig, a blind French girl residing with her eccentric, agoraphobic great-uncle and a German orphan forced into military school and then enlistment.
As Marie-Laure and Werner witness and experience the tragic destruction — physical, mental, relational, and emotional — wreaked by the war, readers — if not the characters themselves — catch glimmers of light in the interactions and inner lives of the intertwining stories. No doubt the novel is in many ways a dark one, and Doer certainly doesn’t romanticize or gloss over the suffering endured by his characters, but as his title suggests, he demonstrates that, whether or not a person can see the light in their present circumstances, there is light.