It has been a long time since I had a good summer. Several years, at least. The last few years, I have said, “This summer has to be good, to make up for last year.” They never were, though.
Part of it is the heat. I like the idea of summer, but the reality is that the soaring temperatures put me into a constant state of reactivity. Part of it is history. My cousin hanged himself in July of 2011. It was a month I will never forget. Whenever the air gets sticky, I think of him in his hospital bed, and me waiting for him to die. In order to overcome the general physical difficulties and emotional entanglements of those sweltering weeks, the fun I have can’t just be good, it has to be fantastic. So the bar set for summer fun is quite high.
I was in the hospital when the weather started to turn warm this year, and I wanted to be happy that summer was coming, but instead I steeled myself for months of regret. I always want so badly to enjoy it, but I inevitably find myself wishing it were over.
This summer has had a very surreal quality to it. My health has been quite terrible. I have been nauseous and bloated and bleeding and exhausted. I have needed a lot of rescue meds, a lot of Epipens, a lot of IV fluids and push meds. My aunt died very young after a brief, severe illness. Someone very close to me stole from me. My lows have been low this summer, to be sure.
But I went back to Seattle this summer, and that trip was the truest expression of magic I have ever encountered. We really caught lightning in a bottle for those five days. The entire experience was otherworldly, in a way that I can’t properly articulate. It was a beacon of love that I badly needed.
And my cousin got married this summer, and being around people who love each other so much is inherently healing. I will never forget how happy I was that day. I am so grateful to have been a part of it, and as hard as it was on my body, it did wonders for my soul.
This past Wednesday, I went to a water park with two of my oldest, dearest friends, who are brother and sister. We have known each other since September of 1988, when I met him at Catholic school kindergarten. It was very, very hot and humid last Wednesday. The combination of heat and sunlight is potent. I took a lot of premeds and still felt sick for a good part of the day. I was worried about my PICC line getting wet, under its Drypro cover.
Late in the afternoon, we waded into the wave pool and for the first time in a year, I swam underwater. Slipping under the surface washed all of the worry and fear away. It was rejuvenating and wonderful. I treaded water as the waves came and surrendered as they crashed around me.
When summer ends, I usually find myself mourning. I would focus on the things I couldn’t do or the bad things that happened, all the ways summer had wronged me. It is so easy to tally all the ways my body and the world failed me. I would mourn the fact that it wasn’t better, and that once it ends, there is no chance that it will improve. Those summers are permanently marred in my memory.
This summer was different. I found my soul again. It feels very much like I pushed my hand through the veil that separates the worlds and found that sometimes I am living in all of them at once. It feels like this reality briefly intersected with realities where I am strong and healthy, and I unknowingly walked through all the places where they met. This living in several worlds at once is confusing and painful, but it is also empowering and truly magical. I think it’s the only way to be.
This year I’m not sad because my summer was miserable. This year I’m sad because this summer was heartbreakingly beautiful, and like everything else in life, it ended much too soon.