The Dwindling Days of Summer

It’s been quiet over here. Not for lack of activity or inspiration, but rather the opposite. There is a rhythm to every season, and the beat of summer has drawn me away from the digital world. Life has mostly been happening outdoors, not in front of screens. There is always a balance, of course, but this year I have intentionally reclaimed the joy of summer after several years on the sidelines.

There are twenty-some days left of summer and the garden is a tangled, overgrown, beautiful mess. My feet are barefoot, dancing, bug bitten, and pruney from pool water. The tomatoes are still warm and sun kissed when sliced. The nights are long, dotted with twinkling fireflies, and whizzing bat wings. Glasses are always sweaty and full of clinking ice. There are butterflies aplenty, fluttering throughout the gardens. The heavy-headed sunflowers are entertaining swarms of lazy, fuzzy, bumblebees. There’s a collection of handmade pottery on the dining room table, crafted throughout many hours in a nostalgic studio from my past. The miles spent walking amongst steamy pavement and under the shade of leafy trees have piled up. The playlists full of dance music have been turned up regularly. The windows are down, hands rolling along the breezes. Everything is so vibrant and alive, even when the heat feels unbearable. Happiness and laughter feel easy, and life is undeniably beautiful.

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Two summers ago, I missed all of this. I was diagnosed with cancer in May, prepared for treatment in June, and bedridden from surgery in July. I recovered at home in August, then was plunged into chemotherapy throughout the fall. By the end of it all I had pulled away from life and folded in on myself. The following summer, last year, I was in a post-cancer life-limbo and working very long, erratic hours, with little room left over to properly soak up the season. In September I drove across the country, through unbelievably blazing heat, to settle in California where I experienced my very first absence of autumn as I know it. I returned to Pennsylvania this past January, was plunged back into patient-hood in February for surgery and chemo round two, and was recovering until late spring. Life has passed by. The rhythm of seasons and I have not found harmony for quite some time.

Harmony, however, is rather subjective. When I was 10 years old, I attended a beloved, two-week performing arts camp. It was my second or third year there, but that summer I had an accident at the end of the first week. I unsuccessfully tried to jump across a gap in the stage and fell, bashing my knee open, rather gruesomely. My knee required two layers of stitches, needed to be kept straight for weeks, and ultimately required physical therapy for several months in order to become fully functional again. My 11th birthday happened while my knee was still bandaged and locked up, but I don’t recall the ordeal ruining my semblance of a successful summer. Kids are much more resilient than adults, and I was certainly one of those kids that bounced right back. I wasn’t going to let a bum leg ruin my good time. But that was 20 summers ago, when life was far less complicated and not riddled with difficult memories, diagnoses, and unresolved emotions.

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Harmony today, amidst the rhythm of life and seasons, is a much more intentional pursuit. I am, arguably, still quite resilient, given my determination to overcome cancer and pursue happiness in spite of it. But for every blissful moment lazily spent in the grass this summer, there has been a million moments of fear and anxiety in my head. I worry about my health, my future, and my past. I work to strike an equilibrium between being grateful for my reality, and being fully aware of my reality. Resiliency is not enough. I try to conjure up that spirit of my childhood self, who could continue on joyfully, despite limitations and setbacks. As an adult, harmony is more of a dance with my resident demons, rather than an obliviousness to or outright denial of them. Harmony is recognizing and honoring my fears as they surface, letting them go, and continuing on without allowing them crush and crumple my spirit. It requires the ability to fully embrace all that has happened to me, all that I have done, and to find peace, optimism, and my most authentic self amongst the mess.

I had a clean scan this past July, my 31st birthday earlier this month, and many days between and since have been spent feeling the utter joy that summer offers. Not every day has been perfect, but there has been perfect moments within each day. I got into a car accident two weeks ago (not my fault, for the first time ever, and everyone is fine). Impact of smashing vehicles aside, the incident hardly shook me up at all. Learning how to control my emotions, and pull myself out of dark places, has changed my life immeasurably. A pause for foresight has replaced my past impulsiveness. Relishing simplicity and engaging in personal passions has grounded me. Eliminating negativity has been liberating. Becoming deaf to the noise of outside influences and opinions has brought peace. It truly feels as if I am living in the moment for the first time in a very long time, but it’s a conscious effort.

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When I started Cured Life in June, I made it clear that my idea of living a “cured” life is merely an aspiration, and it continues to be. Intentionally making the decision to live in pursuit of health and happiness on all fronts is only the first step. It is an aspiration that will never be obtained or fulfilled, because the goal exists in the evolution of myself, which is unending. Every day I try to do a bit better, and as my first full season of living a cured life comes to a close, I can feel my progress on a very real and raw level. Summer has been wonderfully life affirming, and I cannot wait to see what the next season brings.


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