Hot and Unbothered
I am a better person in the summer than I am in the winter. I mean, I’m not a bitch between November and February, but I’m definitely happier, lighter, and more of a glass-half-full kind of person in the summertime. The scorching sun hits my body and all of the pessimistic bitterness of winter melts away. I want to put on summer dresses and wander aimlessly through the streets after dark, with the humidity wrapping me up like a warm blanket. I love summer in the south. It’s hot — unapologetically blazing hot.
Summertime makes me want to lighten up, physically and psychologically. It makes me want to be lithe and strong, and not because I want to look a certain way in skimpy summer clothing, but because I want to be light on my feet, able to sway with the breeze. My muscles are warm, and my mind starts wandering into previously restricted territory. I begin to dream about things that seemed impossible when there were no leaves on the trees. I start to allow myself to imagine.
What would it be like to realize one of those dreams? What if I actually did it?
I’m talking about realistic, achievable dreams, goals that have been set over and over again and abandoned just as frequently. Everybody has them. Maybe you want to lose 12 pounds, learn to speak French, or go back to school for a master’s degree. Maybe you want to appear onstage at the Ryman someday but you figure you’ll start by picking up your guitar and playing a song for the very first time around a campfire with friends.
Summertime makes me feel like everything is possible. It coaxes my imagination to come out and play. Life seems to start sliding forward effortlessly each year as the dogwoods bloom and the crew begins building massive music stages down in Manchester.
So here’s my question to my training clients in the summertime: What do you want? Do you want to lose some weight? Do you want to ease your back pain? Do you want a different job? Would you consider taking a couple of months out of your whole, big, long life to imagine that maybe you can actually do it? Perish the thought.
We spend vast amounts of time convincing ourselves that much of what we would like to achieve is impossible. There have been countless things I have spent years convincing myself were too hard, too unlikely, or too risky. Fortunately, after enough years of fear and foot-dragging, I eventually get restless enough to challenge my inner naysayer.
I was convinced I could never find true love. I courted disaster and followed my heart across the country, where I landed in the arms of a soulmate. I was convinced I could never lose the baby weight if I got pregnant. Off it came. I was convinced I could never be successful or happy if I left behind a career that made me miserable. I did it. And then I did it again when the next career pissed me off.
I had a therapist tell me once, “You always seem to get where you’re going. You just take the longest, most difficult path to get there.” Lovely.
Why do we spend so much time tearing ourselves down? My clients do it all the time, undercutting themselves before they get a chance to see what might be possible. We tug and pull and procrastinate, digging up all kinds of reasons why it’s too time-consuming or too far-fetched to achieve.
For an assumption to change, first you have to imagine that maybe you’re wrong. Maybe it’s not too hard or too late. Maybe it’s actually possible.
After my twenties passed me by like a streaker at a minor league baseball game, I began to consider the possibility that I should go after a dream or two instead of wasting years convincing myself that those dreams are impossible. I’m pretty sure it was summertime when this occurred to me, sitting on the stoop of an apartment building, wearing a summer dress, feeling like my muscles wanted to be stronger, my imagination freer.
Now, if only I could bottle summertime, stockpile it in my pantry and take a swig of it in the dead of winter when I am in need of a boost.
Dana Birdsong didn’t have time for a headache that day. The (then) 35-year-old lobbyist and advocate for the American College of Cardiology in Washington, D.C. had a meeting on Capitol Hill she couldn’t miss.
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