August is here. I can’t believe it. Then again, I can. This summer has been the perfect mix of slow sunny days and relaxation and some really fun and busy moments, too. I’ve learned so much and grown in immeasurable ways during these past few months.
I learned for certain that the most enjoyable moments for my kids are always the simplest ones. Bugs in mason jars, backyard play, lakeside exploring. We didn’t take off on any big trips this summer. We just used the time to slow down and be together in simple ways. After a year that turned us upside down and inside out in every way imaginable, it felt good to just be.
When our school break began, I was so scared and uncertain about how this summer’s custody schedule was going to be tolerable for me, and reading my earlier post about how hard it was in those early moments, I am honestly proud of the work I’ve done internally to grasp a sense of peace about all of this. And it has no doubt been work in the truest sense.
I was reminded recently of that Italian phrase referenced in Eat Pray Love, Devo farm le ossa. It means I need to make my bones. Italians use this phrase as a response to someone who is in a difficult time or starting from scratch in some way. And this summer, that is precisely what I did. I built my bones myself. I’m standing on my own two feet. I’m managing not to hide from the discomfort and to be honest about my own heart and how I’m changing. That honesty isn’t always easy. Sadness and brokenness erupt sometimes still, but they don’t permeate me the way they did before. They come; I acknowledge them; I have a rough hour or day or week, and then those feelings leave and I move on in the only way that I know how.
I’m grateful for so many moments of this summer. Many I recorded here, and some I did not – time with friends, concerts, poolside reading. I feel like not a single minute was wasted, and I used every second to fill my tank.
I’ve read countless pages this summer – books, essays, poetry. I’ve listened to podcasts. I’ve talked to friends. I’ve written and written almost every day. I’ve held every single thing up to the light to give it a good look and decide how it feels, or if it fits with my own ideas and experiences. I’ve learned so much.
One of the last books I read is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. It’s a classic I’d never been turned onto in the past, but at the persistence of a friend, I finally picked it up it, and I’m so glad I did. Lindbergh reflects on her role as a wife and mother in 1950’s America, and her reality is so vastly different from mine, but the spirit of her challenge is the same. She writes, “When the noise stops, there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn how to be alone … Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I’m beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be found through solitude … Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.” Looking back, my pitcher was empty for so long. And this summer I filled it up.
I know for certain that nobody else can fill it up for you, and you have to do that work yourself. If you don’t make your own bones, so to speak, you suffer many times over — again and again until you figure it out. The sanctuary is inside, and there’s no other way. And the most surprising aspect of all of this is that the summer left me feeling more full and grateful than I was before and ready to give back what I’ve learned and face the future. Admitting my pain and vulnerability and resting in it somehow granted power to my strength. It’s amazing how that works, right?
Today was a perfect finish to this season — one of those exhausting, quintessentially summer days. We spent the morning at the lake with friends and packed picnic lunches. The kids explored, and moms chatted in between the usual interruptions. The sun was steady, the lake felt like bath water, and the kids found so many details to examine.
After that, we drove to my grandparents’ house where we spent time with family who are here from Texas for a funeral. It’s been years since I’ve seen many of them. You know time passes; it’s the only constant in life. But some moments, it just slaps you in a way that makes your heart ache. We ate and laughed and told stories. The kids played outside and climbed trees, and we stayed until dark so that Jude could gather fireflies. I drove home playing Patty Griffin on the speakers: When you get there you’ll know that’s as far as you go. When you get there you’ll see you were already free. Norah fell asleep, and I carried her tired body up the stairs when we got home. Now I’m sleepy and writing in the comfort of cool sheets after a day in the hot Georgia sun.
I feel different than I was in May. I don’t have the same taste in my mouth when I say I’m a single mother. I don’t see this house as our “new house” anymore – just home. I’m sinking my heels in and growing used to the view from where I stand. I don’t feel old and empty and tired and used up. I feel new and infinitely stronger and bigger than I was before. I’ve learned that life will be a lot easier if I just accept an apology that will never be given to me and understand that there’s a reason things unfold the way they do, and every experience of my life has worked to bring me to this moment. I have arrived where I’m supposed to be – not a stepping stone, but a destination in the present.
There are so many things I’m supposed to do, and I’m not even sure what they are, but I feel them tugging. I’m ready to say goodbye to summer and to this season of my life and usher in a new one.