Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chasing Summer - Charting Joy

Organizing summer? Are you kidding me? Isn't summer when we relax? If you, like me, are a chart and list kinda girl, this may appeal to you.

Summers...woosh...and another one is gone. How do you define summer? How do you make the most of this season? Another one is almost over.

Zuma Beach, California
Back when I worked in the business sector, summer still came with an exhilaration for anticipated enjoyable times with friends and family, even if I only had two weeks off. Yet, I still thrilled at the longer days, a more relaxed sense of life, and plenty of time outdoors. [Note: During my business years, I lived in the Midwest, so that explains my comment about more time outdoors. Now that I live in Southern California, the time outdoors can happen all year.]

I now measure summer in different ways, and I practiced summer appreciation. I am now an educator with an annual summer break. That does spoil me, and changed my perspective. Still, in summers past, I've found myself frustrated and disappointed at the quick end to the season, which always seemed to sneak up on me. I was motivated to change that.

So, if you count the days between Memorial Day to Labor Day, at least this year, you'll come up with 100 days. What a perfectly round number of summer days! And doesn't 100 days seem generous? And when summer is connected to the calendar, not days off, my state of mind shifted. Put yourself in a summer state of mind Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The second summer time frame came from the eleven weeks I had until school begins again. Well, that has flown past. School begins again tomorrow, but it can still be summer until Labor Day, right?

Thirdly, consider the autumnal equinox, that high brow official term for a change in light resulting in a change in our seasons. The Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere are illuminated equally. That's almost romantic. How does that happen? A little research will reveal that day and night are the same on equinox days because the line or plane of the earth's equator passes the center of the sun. So brush up on geography and geometry and science and read all this again, if that doesn't make sense. Or jump on the Internet for a diagram. [Note: That really helped me understand!] So, it is technically summer until September 22 this year. A few more weeks to jam summer fun into your calendar.

Regarding the actual summer time off, in my current career within education, five weeks and four days was my official summer break this year. I count that as my vacation, not my definition of when summer begins and ends. This year, I did that intentionally, anyway. It added fun to see it as a long break from work tucked inside summer, instead of defining it as my summer. Expanding my view of summer made it all seem nicer and comfortably long.

Do you hear others bemoaning and complaining about summer going by too fast and how they didn't get enough done this summer and all that? I have. Some of that complaining came from me in previous years. What a downer! I decided to flip and expand my perspective and put a positive spin on summer with a "choice chart." It made a difference. You might be surprised how summer seemed more luxurious, without adding any additional days, when you recall all the opportunities that came your way.

A Paper Source Calendar
It has been a good summer. Things still didn't get done, but my perspective was more aware. I granted myself permission to stop and smell those roses, stop and be present, stop and enjoy today, instead of grumbling and listing regrets.

So, here's that "choice chart" I tried this summer. Since it was the summer of 2013, I created a Summer of '13 chart to motivate action on things that would make it a good summer. This was a new idea. It was rewarding and fun. I created a chart of categories of activities I enjoy, and added thirteen spaces under each category. My Summer of '13 "choice chart" became a bit of a game, while subtly provided some focus. The Summer of '13 motivated me to aim at activities I value, completing them thirteen times before summer ended. My categories included:
  • 13 Books Read
  • 13 Places Visited/Tried (places, restaurants, etc.)
  • 13 Movies Watched
  • 13 Guests Over
  • 13 New Recipes
  • 13 Queries Sent (I'm a writer)
  • 13 Days of Fitness (defined as a minimum of 30-minutes of steady physical activity)
  • 13 Pounds Down 
  • 13 Times in the Pool
  • See 13 Friends (times connecting with buddies)
  • 13 Acts of Service
  • 13 Times of Learning
  • 13 Containers Organized (defined as a drawer, cupboard, box, etc.)
  • 13 Dates (with the husband of mine)
  • 13 Unscheduled Days (days with nothing planned; get up and see how the day unfolds; protected time)
So how did it go? Well, I am pleased to report I experienced some great success and also have categories without much happening. That is just fine because I was alert and aware to what the days of summer brought my way. Instead of, as I've typically done in the past, arriving at September unable to truly remember all the good that happened over the summer. I now have my happy little list. I can look at my chart and see all I did get to do this summer. And I am GRATEFUL and feeling positive. I am nicer to be around.

The Summer of '13 Chart
Are you curious about my results? Maybe. Maybe not. If so, here you go. And be aware that it is not Labor Day yet! I may add a few more to my boxes. I experienced success in the categories listed above that are highlighted in bold pink. If you'd told me I had thirteen unscheduled days over the summer, I would be shocked unless I'd recorded the actual days! Evidence that I actually slowed down! Less than success happened in new recipes (tried one), queries (none), and pounds down (oh, well). Still, I did read nine books, saw ten movies, had eight people over, got in six days of fitness, jumped in the pool seven times (after none last summer), and shared in eight acts of service. On top of all that, what encouraged me the most was keeping things that are important to me foremost in my mind by playing this little game. I did much better at priorities and focus over the summer.

If you created a chart called Fall of 2013, what categories would make the season fun and meaningful for you? What could you become more intentional about, so that your life doesn't fly by unnoticed? I cheer you on to create a simple chart. Fall is busier, so I'd have fewer categories, but maybe I'll try it again. Join me. I have more books to read.

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