"The Fair closed last night. It's the end of Summer." Every year I hear this phrase repeated on the local news broadcast. For some reason, it always makes me irrationally annoyed. My theory has always been that it is NOT the end of Summer, at least not according to any calendar I've ever owned. If people choose to make it be the end of their Summer...well, that's entirely up to them. But when I heard that inevitable phrase this morning, something felt different. I found myself silently acknowledging the hidden truth behind it. Why? Because this Summer has been an emotional roller coaster for me, with a very clear beginning and a very clear end.
My daughter, my only child, one of my best friends, moved to New York City to begin a new and challenging life and career. While I am so very excited for and proud of her, I keep wondering if and when the day will come when I will wake up in the morning and not miss her. Or at least not miss her so much that my chest hurts, I see other people whose children have lived elsewhere and have come back to Buffalo, and I know the happiness that they are feeling. But I don't kid myself that it is a happiness that I will ever feel. Look, it took Buffalo 100 years to rise into one of the great cities of our country and then decline into a national joke. I am so proud and happy that we are on the rise again, but I just don't think it will happen fast enough for someone in my daughter's profession. She is a chef. Can anyone guess how many new eateries we would have to add before we even come close to New York City or Boston? If she were in almost any other line of work, I would have hope. Right now, it all seems very permanent to me.
And speaking of New York City... I traveled with members of my Chorus to sing in various venues around Manhattan over the July 4th holiday. I will not go into detail about the performances, because I've already done that elsewhere (Five Days in July - making Miracles with Music Notes ). I will just say that traveling with these people, performing with these people, enduring with these people and celebrating with these people bolstered my faith in humanity. In a way that nobody or nothing else could have or probably ever will.
It dawns on me as I am composing this that the rest of my summer had a theme of health - my health, both mental and physical.
On the physical side, I was furiously battling some upper respiratory woes in a fight that had been going on since February. Lesson I've learned - specialists are called "specialists" for a reason. If you are really suffering and haven't gotten to the bottom of your problem after several visits to your general practitioner, then run -don't walk - to a specialist. What are you waiting for? Divine intervention? I also decided, after seeing some pictures of myself, that I had really just had it with my pudgy, bloated self. I didn't feel terrific. I certainly didn't look terrific. I decided to try a program that I had been reading about off and on for months called Whole30. Without going into the necessary copious detail needed to really understand it, Whole30 calls for eliminating foods that are known allergens and inflammatories from your diet for 30 days. It is really about discovering if food is the source of what is ailing you (it usually is), which particular food is ailing you (could be more than one food group) and the shocking discovery that so much of what we are sold in grocery stories - even so-called "healthy" grocery stores- is just plain bad for us sometimes to the point of almost qualifying as poison. I suspected it all along, but until I experienced feeling about 250% better after completing this 30 day program, all I can say is that I am determined to continue eating this way even though it takes a lot of planning and cooking on the weekends and even though I'm pretty sure it will be even more difficult to execute during the winter months. No wonder Europe doesn't want anything to do with our food. Amazing!!
On the mental side, I've really been exploring the major relationships in my life this summer. I don't have many of them any more, but the ones that I do have are pretty complex. It has been a process that started with my daughter making her permanent move to New York City and culminates with this post - although I would be pretty ignorant to think that relationships aren't continually changing - growing, shrinking, morphing, etc...
It started with identifying which relationships were even worth examining. You know, expending energy on evaluating someone who really adds nothing to your life might not be worth it. A person isn't necessarily valuable to you just because he or she isn't a detractor. (Before I go any further,... I am not talking about social media "friends" and other acquaintances here. I'm talking about truly major relationships created and built due to either blood, time, proximity, experience or any combination of these things.) So, over the course of this summer, I've thought about these special people in my life - the good aspects, the not-so-good, the downright infuriating stuff, and I've parsed them down into two groups.
- The "Time for Radical Change" group
If someone contributes a whole lot more bad than good to me and my mental well-being, it's time to create some distance from that person. I've heard the term "toxic" relationship being used in print. That's way too general for my liking. If two people have any kind of history together, their interactions are usually much more complex than that. No relationship is all bad or all good, unless you're living in some sort of magical fairy world. If it's not possible to physically cut the ties for some reason, then I have to learn how to mentally distance myself from that person. I'm not sure yet just how I will accomplish this or if I will even be successful at all, but one thing's for sure: if it's coming down to my mental health versus this person's mental health, I'm choosing to fight for my own.
- Relationships worth fighting for. This was the easy category to identify.
My daughter. I know that long-distance relationships really can't be the same as the relationships we have with people in our own back yard. What I have to do is to find a way to be done mourning the "back yard" relationship I had with her and move on to the next phase. She is, as I said before, one of my best friends - the happy byproduct of successfully helping our children grow into adults. Social media, for better or for worse, will be our ally, as will text messaging and e-mails. I will be vigilant in my efforts to keep our lines of communication open, and our visits to the "Big Apple" will be highly valued, and every minute will count.
My husband. What I have come to realize over this Summer is that he is struggling to adapt just like me. Three months ago, I wouldn't have thought so. We just returned from a trip to Toronto. I had insisted that the trip not be about my birthday. Mostly because I don't care that much about my birthday any more. While we were there, though, it was clear that his priority was that I have a good time. For my birthday and just simply for me. Not all of the plans worked out as anticipated, but what spoke the loudest to me was that there actually were plans. I loved that more than anything. What I came away with is that we will have to grow into our empty nest. We cannot just snap our fingers and - viola! - everything works. I'm not sure why I ever thought it would be that easy.
My friends. What I learned over this Summer is that, as with my daughter, just like long-distance relationships can't pretend to be backyard relationships, so too, backyard relationships can't thrive and grow if they're treated like long-distance relationships. To me, they're like a flower bed - in your "back yard" (get it?). You can't water and weed them through the computer or telephone. Now of course, it's really just not that black and white all the time - is it? But if the effort is there, the garden will flourish. There may be a lot more weeds at some times than others, but as long as the weeds aren't allowed to overtake the flowers, everything will be OK.
Maybe the end of the Fair is the end of Summer. I didn't even go to the Fair this year. The Greek Festival has often been hailed as the beginning of Summer. I didn't go to that either. This is our life. Artificial beginnings and endings have a habit of psyching us all out. Don't buy into it. Try creating your own beginnings and endings and see where they take you.