How to Summer (at the End of Summer)

Child’s pose. Down dog. Three to five sun salutations. A long uncomfortable hold in dolphin plank and I still haven’t quit picking lint off my mat or stress-checking the clock.

Summer is hard for me. I work eighty hour weeks from September to May and then suddenly I have almost no schedule, but lots of projects, for four months. I should be able to do everything. This summer, everything included planning a wedding in two weeks, getting married, moving from two households to one, cleaning out one of those houses, mowing lawns, pulling weeds, planting flowers and vegetables, researching, writing handbooks, working on a book, doing layout for a magazine, writing syllabi, thinking about reading, thinking about taking up piano again, teaching yoga, training for a marathon, making food from the randomness of the CSA, taking students to China, and collapsing sunburned in my bed at night and sleeping until mid-morning. Some of those things have been accomplished. Many of the ones I care about have not. Now at almost the end of August, I feel like I’ve done nothing. 

Because every summer, I struggle to get out of bed early even though running mileage and pulling weeds would be more enjoyable if I did. Every summer, I get to September and feel the urge to scream at myself when I feel like the summer evaporated while I clicked a few links on Facebook and made a blueberry pie. This summer, in the year of my Ayurvedic adventures, I’ve been trying to learn how to live with my pitta self, the self that tackles a long run or a patch of weeds—and the self that weeps and screams when she can’t master all things in a day.

I’ve been trying for the past week to write a blog about how I learned the art of being a pitta in the summer. It hasn’t felt right, which is probably because I haven’t really learned it yet. The summer closes and work emails trickle into my inbox. Earlier this week one of those emails put me into an angry anxiety attack even though the issue was a small, stupid one. I stomped off for a late night dog walk and afterwards sat in meditation for an extra five minutes, trying to remind myself of all the reasons I have for compassion and gratitude, and not all the reasons I wanted to punch someone’s face.

Sometimes though, I make good decisions. Exercise is one of the more important ones. I feel the worst any day of the year–anxious, foggy, unfocused, irritable–when I don’t exercise at all.  But too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing either. I only had to go for one long run at midmorning this summer and feel the heat on my head turn into irritation and exhaustion and cranky thoughts towards EVERYONE  to know that I need a plan for staying cool. I can endure heat, but the misery isn’t quite worth it.  Because I’m training for a marathon, I can’t always avoid heat, but when I can, I’m trying (trying!) to avoid running late in the morning because too much sun irritates what’s already hot and irritable inside.

Swimming is almost always a good choice for cooling my pitta dosha. It’s a strong workout, but low-impact and I don’t overheat. And no matter what exercise I do, adding a yoga session makes everything better, as I learned over and over again this week when I chose (or didn’t) to flop down on my yoga mat and let the online instructor on guide me towards a different place. Yoga is medicine, the instructor in the online video said as he put us in pigeon pose. For those of you who are really competitive, he said, this pigeon pose is your medicine, and we’re going to stay in it a little longer.

By then, after forty minutes of simple, repetitive, sweat-inducing postures, I’d stopped picking the lint off my mat. I’d stopped checking my phone (mostly) and I’d stopped pulling my shoulders towards my ears. My brain melted into my hands and mat and the sweat dripped off my hair and I didn’t want to punch anyone anymore, not even myself. There was no such thing as email or August or syllabus. There was just my body, my imperfect amazing body with its even more imperfect and amazing mind, letting the mat, the sweat, the yoga do its work.


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