Summer solstice is officially here. Daydreams of beach trips, summer picnics, and lakeside gatherings make the workday feel longer as you wait for closing time to get outside. Weekends are filling up fast and it is so exciting, until you realize that every weekend of your summer is booked with activities for everyone else except for you. How did that happen?
For the past five years I have looked forward to my summers much like a child waiting for summer vacation. I will definitely go to the beach at least a few times, I promise myself. This year I will go kayaking, go berry picking, spend a weekend camping, swim in the lake. I am going to make the most of summer. But then come the birthdays, the family gatherings, bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, house warming parties, and friends want you to meet them out of state for a girls weekend. Individually these events make life worth living. We’re celebrating life and spending time with loved ones. That is what makes living so special. Then why is it so exhausting?
“This year I will go kayaking, go berry picking, spend a weekend camping, swim in the lake. I am going to make the most of summer.”
For the past five summers we have spent every weekend driving across the state or out of the state to attend every party and gathering. Those daytrips to the beach never happen. And who has time for camping, hiking, or berry picking? Even simple activities like doing the laundry or making a home cooked meal together become unattainable. Last summer we spent seven weekends in a row going across the state and out of it, and spent well over a thousand dollars on gas, activities, and gifts to make other people happy. We were absolutely exhausted and miserable. By the fourth weekend in a row I was done. On father’s day I was so tired and unhappy that I ended up crying on my dad instead of being a happy and supportive daughter. I don’t know how I survived last summer.
My fiancé and I work opposite shifts so our weekends together are all we see of one another every week. Yet they are never spent nurturing our relationship together in the summer. When we try to say no to friends or family they get angry. “It’s just a birthday party, why can’t you come?” They want a valid reason why you cannot make it and “you time” or “I have too much to do” is never an acceptable answer. Yet these same people never visit or stay for a weekend. They only drop by last minute when they happen to be in the area for something or someone else and we’re left scrambling to accommodate their schedules. So let me tell you a secret, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. If you need a weekend to do what you want to do, then go for it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
So you go because you have been guilted into it. Next year will be different, you tell yourself. Well, birthdays are an annual event so the cycle will continue unless you take back your weekends.
Because you’re important. Your goals, your dreams, your hobbies all matter. You matter. Sometimes you just need to save money. Other times you really just need a wellness day or some time to clean the bathroom and put away laundry. Sometimes your relationship needs some loving care. Don’t ever apologize for taking care of yourself and putting your wellbeing first.
Easier said than done? These events are great and chances are you really do want to go to them all, but if you did you would be one unhappy zombie by the end of summer. So choose your top three and go to those events. Politely decline everything else, unless you have the time and truly want to go. Incorporating the attitude of minimalism will help you achieve simplicity this summer and help you find the time for yourself.
Or host an event of your own. Tired of having to go to everyone else’s place to see family or friends? Have them come to you. This often backfires for Matthew and I, but it may work for you.
Once in a lifetime events you should go to if you can. This is the time you shouldn’t put yourself first unless you have to. Weddings only happen once. Plan ahead to feel relaxed instead of rushed on those days and if the wedding really is much too far away or you have another obligation, don’t feel badly if you have to decline.
Create an “every other year” rule. If you have as many family members as we do, then you have well over 40 birthdays to keep track of every year. No one has the energy or willpower to attend thirty plus birthday parties every year. If you’re not close to the person of honor, decline. If you are close, but you just have so much going on that you feel like exploding, decide to celebrate with them every other year. It’s ok if you just mail a card instead. No one wants a party pooper to be so tired they fall asleep in the guestroom instead of celebrating. Every summer we have at least 15 birthday party invites, many overlapping on the same days. If they have parties annually, go every other year or even every third year. Or decide to party with them on milestone birthdays like first birthdays, The big 1-0, sweet sixteens, twenty-firsts, and over-the-hill. If the party is for a child under five, they’re brains will not be developed enough to remember if you were there or not. They won’t remember what presents they got or the flavor of cake. At that age the party is for the parents.
Schedule your time early. Buy that tent, purchase that plane ticket, book that room, then put it on your calendar before the invites come swarming in like owl post through the Dursley’s chimney in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If you already made plans, you will be more likely to stick to them. “I’m sorry I cannot come to the party, we already scheduled a long weekend in Maine.” Value your time as much as you value everyone else’s.
“You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. If you need a weekend to do what you want to do, then go for it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.”
This summer will be different, I’m promising myself. This time I am armed with the confidence and power to take back my weekends. I’ll go to a few picnics, attend a couple weddings, make it to a birthday party or two, but you bet I am going to spend a day on the beach, and celebrate my own birthday for a change (my last three birthdays have been spend celebrating other people. The last time I had my own birthday party I was almost a decade ago.) I will host a gathering of my own, swim in the lake, kayak, dance at an outdoor concert, and take time to read, explore, and clean my bedroom. I’m taking back my weekends.
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