The Engineered Summer

Back in June, I was staring down the barrel of a summer that I frankly had no interest in seeing arrive. The prospect of summer meant that my obsessive search for progress and contentment was going to have to take backseat to those two little people who live with me and their indulgent father, who, all three would soon be on vacation from school.

The irony of them being on vacation is that I am the one among us who adores what she does and who, if given the space and the time, could work non-stop for days. The proof is in the pudding: when my men left town for a week to visit my in-laws in July, I got up early, went to bed late and did not take my nose off the grindstone. It was pure bliss.

Them being on vacation is not vacation for me.

So I was dreading summer. Dreading with a capital D.

Going small and going home

This capital-D Dread gave me pause: for someone who wants to life her Ideal Life and help others to imagine a life after life-change, I sure was being a lousy example. So I decided to turn my summer into a project, using the time to make progress in certain small, but nonetheless close-to-my-heart areas, using the Ideal Life Themes as a guide.

If I wasn’t going to be able to make a ton of progress on querying agents or editing my most recent novel or recording my podcast for a lack of a good workspace and context (aka everyone is at home all the time), then at least I could make progress on other things.

The projects I settled on were: making progress on the Cost Per Wear for the items in my wardrobe by wearing the same four dresses all summer; practicing hospitality more often by extending invitations; reducing overwhelm and forgetfulness by making checklists; making pretty food; getting in aerial-worthy shape; conquering some of my housekeeping annoyances.

Unexpected Progress

I was given one amazing gift this summer: my indulgent husband took my two boys to his parents’ house for a week in July, leaving me a full week at home alone to work, which I did without taking a breath.

It was during that unexpected week that I was able to record and produce the first episode of the podcast, and record the two next episodes. I haven’t touched any of this since they got home, because this kind of work demands a very very very specific context of silence and time. This was one thing I hadn’t counted on making much progress on, and voilĂ , a surprise. Yay!!

I also did my summer Ideal Life Reels, those little one-minute videos each day to expose the Ideal Life Exercise. The whole rotation took about a month to complete. Because they required little time and effort on my part, I was able to sneak away a few minutes each day to record and publish them, even when everyone was at home. This also was one thing I hadn’t counted on making progress on that made me feel like I was doing something.

Lastly, I set myself the goal of publishing one article every day. You can attest that they weren’t all literary gold, but for me, it was the exercise and discipline of doing it that was most important. If I want to be a professional creative person who one day may make money from her work, I need to practice providing structure for myself and doing what I say I will. This was one way to work on that. So far this summer, I have only missed one day.

My brain got caught up in an alternate universe at one point and spewed out some revisionist history in the form of a few short stories. In many ways they served as an escape hatch for the too-much-togetherness I was experiencing at home. They were a pleasant enough way to spend my early mornings, and I do not regret making progress on unexpected creative writing, even if it had nothing to do with my novels.

So. that is progress made.

Tomorrow, I am going to get out my cat-of-nine-tails and self-flagellate a bit about all the things I didn’t make progress on that I wish I would have…

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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