12 Things I Learned (& Re-Learned) This Summer
1. I love Instagram.
Though I did take the summer off from blogging here, I continued to photograph my days and to post elsewhere. Instagram is my current favorite and I love to share glimpses of my life there, with words. Little time-stamped vignettes which collectively serve as a record of places I've been (geographic and existential), of my mood in those moments of posting (ranging liberally from thinky/dark to carefree/light), and ultimately of constants of curiosity and gratitude about self and life and world. There are many critics of Instagram and brethren social media out there, but I'm a fan and posting on IG has made me happier, more aware, and more diligent about memorializing my experiences. My girls love to sit with me and scroll through my feed. They think it's funny that you never see their faces; I think it's important.
2. Sunsets can be medicinal.
I found myself looking at the sky a lot this summer. At blue swaths and fluffy clouds, but it was the sunsets that got me. We spent a week in Montauk in August and each night, I'd step out on the deck and stand there, barefoot in my shorts and sweatshirt, my salt-caked hair looped up off my face, and I'd stare at the rainbow-streaked sky. The effects were almost medicinal. In these moments, I felt small and amazed.
3. I greatly prefer physical books.
For a while, I found myself alternating between reading physical books and e-books, but over the past year, I've almost exclusively read physical books. And I love it. Nothing beats feeling the weight of the book in your hands, flipping the crisp pages, peering at the side to see how much you have left to read. I do this thing where I fold the bottom of a page that contains a quote or paragraph I particularly love and when I'm finished with the book, I go back to all these dog-eared pages to re-read the gems. I also love admiring a book's cover and seeing a stack of books on my bedside or seeing a shelf stuffed with my favorites. I also realized that when I'm reading a physical book, my girls know I'm actually reading, but when I'm on a device it's less clear to them.
4. I'm a late-blooming bookworm.
I've always enjoyed reading, but I was by no means a bookworm when I was a little girl. I remember how my younger sister Ceara was always reading, but I was not this way. But now I am. This summer, I blazed through tons of books and used most spare moments to read. I have a teetering stack on my bedside that I can't wait to devour and just wish there were more hours in the day.
5. My girls are happy kids.
Maybe this sounds strange or boastful or overly simplistic, but my girls are happy kids. I've always known this, but I really saw this this summer. I put myself in the position to see. They love each other so much and played so well and it was just such a treat to be with them. Husband and I have spoken about this and maybe this sounds cliched, but our biggest priority - more than academic success or athletic achievement - is that these girls stay cheerful, happy and healthy. Everything else is icing. Hard to keep this perspective in the often cutthroat world of New York City, but oh are we trying.
6. Alcohol is my weak spot, but I need not avoid it entirely.
I spent the summer both not drinking and drinking. Doing both and thinking about both routes. This is a topic I will continue to examine and explore and write about, but the conclusion I've come to is that alcohol is something I need to be careful about, thoughtful about, but it's not something which I can't have in my life. I'm not drinking right now, but in a few weeks, I might partake sensibly. I honestly envision a lifetime of toggling back and forth between moderation and sobriety. Apparently there's a word for this - pulsing - and some would argue that it's an ideal approach. More on this for sure.
7. The ocean is a beautiful & humbling beast.
We were lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time this summer near - and on! - the ocean. In July, we made our annual trip to Cape Cod to spend time with Husband's family. At the end of July, Mom took all of us Donnelleys (I think there were twenty of us) on a cruise. At the end of August, Husband and I took the girls to Montauk for a week. I realized what so many people and writers have realized. That the ocean is a big and beautiful and unpredictable and deeply humbling. I loved seeing my girls inching toward the sea, skipping in the waves, awe-struck.
8. My kids tan and I don't. At all.
I am almost translucently pale and do not tan at all (I know, I know, pale is beautiful, Mom!), but my sweet ladies have inherited Husband's skin. Despite endless and meticulous SPF-ing, my Rowlets got quite sun-kissed and bronzed this summer and are still sporting the cutest little tan-lines. Alas. I will have to settle for Casperdom or the slightly tangerine hue of a never-quite-natural-looking self-tan. #crymeariver
9. I love glasses.
I remember getting glasses for the first time in the fifth grade and I hated them and was so embarrassed. I would sneak them on in the movie theater to see the screen and then slip them off before the lights went up. Instead of wearing them at school, I would squint to see the blackboard. I got contact lenses as soon as I could and have been wearing them since. I've warmed to glasses over the years and when my oldest daughter got glasses when she was just three, my perspective started changing. I love glasses on her, but I've been pretty much just wearing mine for a few hours at night and a bit in the morning. But now, suddenly, I love glasses and want to wear them more. I got myself a new pair and they turn to sunglasses outside!
10. Anxiety is part of who I am, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I'm prone to anxiety. I know this about myself. I get much less anxious than I used to. Limiting alcohol and writing this blog are two things that have helped in that department, but I still feel it flare up at times. Just yesterday, I had a couple hours where I felt truly anxious and overwhelmed. I dealt with it by doing. I cleaned up. I loaded the dishwasher. I went through the mail. I sent the invitation to my daughter's party. I started writing this post... It all helped. A lot. The truth is that anxiety is just part of who I am. Thankfully, it's not bad these days, but it's not gone either. And maybe that's not a bad thing?
11. Family is a huge and hugely important part of my life.
Oh I could write and write on this topic, but this summer highlighted for me how hugely important my immediate and extended family is to me. Being with Husband's family in Cape Cod, being with Mom and all of my sisters and their kiddos on the cruise, made this summer truly shine.
12. I love this city of mine.
Everyone seems so desperate to get out of the city during the summer months, but I kind of love this quieter time here. I honestly think I'm falling more and more in love with this place. Never do I take it for granted that I get to raise my kids here, in this crazy and amazing urban jungle where I grew up.
What did you learn (or re-learn) this summer?