Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Myth of the Perfect Summer


We expect so much from summer, don't we? Long, lazy, sunny days. Laid-back gatherings with family and friends. Time to both relax and check off all those items on the to-do list. Rain on our gardens but not our parades. Travel that is rejuvenating and also energizing. Music festivals and food truck festivals and Renaissance festivals and Irish festivals and wine festivals and...

Summer brings all those wonderful things, and more. But summer is nobody's patsy, and she has some tricks up her sleeve to make sure we don't get too comfortable. Mosquitoes, ticks, snakes, hailstorms, raucous neighbors, egg-frying heat, allergies, sunburns, houseguests that linger, and weeds. Oh, my heavens, the weeds. On a larger scale, many parts of the world are prone to extreme summer weather events that can be physically, emotionally, and financially exhausting.

Working parents must make arrangements to keep their school-aged children safe and supervised over summer break. Their stay-at-home counterparts feel obligated to fill the days with fun, enriching activities. Then there are the social media factors--Instagram and Facebook photos of exotic vacations, fabulous meals, and frosty cocktails that can make friends and followers feel as if they somehow missed the pleasure cruise. And let's not even get into the abominable concept of the "beach body."

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Creatively, summer can be hit-and-miss. I have writer friends who are quite productive during the warmer months, but many of us who have extra writing time on our hands sit and watch those very same hands struggle to produce...something. Anything.

If you sometimes feel that you're off your game during the summer, you're not alone. Summer Onset Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SO SAD, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Summer Depression) is a real thing. Some psychologists suggest a biological influence, with an excess of melatonin causing a decrease in serotonin. Others researchers point to a myriad of stressors that are magnified during the summer months: disrupted sleep, exercise, and diet; financial pressure; body image issues; and heat intolerance, to name a few.

Even though I don't have SO SAD (SO GROUCHY, maybe), I was relieved to read about it, because the middle of August and the impending back-to-school season is the time when I usually start kicking myself for all things I didn't accomplish. But this year, I'm going to give myself permission to accept that summer isn't perfect. And neither am I.

If you're north of the equator, how is your summer going?


  1. My summer here in Ontario is hot, hot, hot. And dry, with the exception of yesterday's torrential downpour. And did I mention hot? I don't actually care whether it's hot or not except that it has been too hot to walk my dogs much and, when I do, I am an appealing snack for hordes of deer flies. They emerge in the heat.
    Fortunately, I'm blessed with something that makes me immune to SO SAD or SAD or any other weather-related mental health issue. From one day to the next, I have no memory of weather. People who describe what last summer was like compared to this summer absolutely mystify me. I'm sure they are magicians, or else they've kept copious notes.
    I'm with you, Jenny, on not worrying about any of this. Summer is the time when I eat my body weight in strawberries and that's good enough for me.

  2. Karen, I'm so glad you have strawberries to look forward to after a hot, fly-infested day! And I think it's so interesting that you have no memory for weather. Mine isn't spot-on, but I usually have at least a vague recollection :-)

  3. South of the equator desperately waiting for our warm days to start. Our summer holidays are more difficult to set goals for anyway because we have Christmas and New Year's in the middle of them.