Summer is upon us and for many, I fear, there is longing for summers past. I know what it can be like to face weeks without a fun vacation in sight or the hope of a romantic sunset on the horizon. Those summers from the years of so-called marital bliss seem so sweet by comparison. Misty watercolor memories of the way we were, or thought we were, rear their ugly heads.
Ten years post-divorce, happily, it's been a long time since I felt the summer blues. Still, I have to admit there is a bit of a sting to the fact that I will not be renting that beach house this summer. You know, the one my ex is going to rent. It took a minute, but I'm over it.
Perhaps you can't afford the time, or money for your dream-vacation this summer. Ten years post-divorce I'm pleased to report that my experience, not to mention the vast happiness literature, confirms that glitzy vacations (and beach houses) are a bit like that fantastic car or necklace you simply have to have…surefire ways not to create happiness.
Happiness does not come in the form of a getaway or shopping spree. It's all about experiences and people. Meaningful experiences and connections with people are available anywhere, anytime. They occur during vacations, but you can make them happen at home just as well.
Meaningful activities are also good antidotes to post-divorce challenges, like your kids being on vacation with your ex. Ten years post-divorce I can honestly say it took only a summer or two to appreciate the value of that extended child-free me-time.
Even if you can't be away from work, there are many things that require very little time or money. If you can, take some time off work, and spend it this way; if you can't take time off, make every effort to work these things into your schedule:
1. Be a little luxurious. Whether it's soaking in a hot tub, morning coffee on your terrace, devouring the next post-apocalyptic novel or watching a romcom, take time out of your busy day to do something that feels special. Choose something you don't normally do. Try not to rush it. Savor it.
2. Make time for people. Do things with people you love and care about. Schedule it and connect. Coordinating with others can be a challenge during summer months, but that's no excuse. It's worth the extra effort to have face-time.
3. Try something new and challenging. I'm taking an Ashtanga Yoga class this summer, and it's kicking my butt—in a good way. Audition for a part in a play, learn to paint, or go skydiving, but whatever you select, make it something you think will be fun, a little exciting, and a bit of a stretch.
4. Get some nature. Go outside and experience something bigger than yourself. It doesn't have to be in the wild, rugged or far from home. A city pocket park is perfect if you focus on really taking it in. Maybe you'll chat with a fellow outdoors lover.
5. Relax and create inner space. Do whatever calms your mind, deepens your breathing, and gives you a sense of clarity and peace. You can achieve this by listening to music, meditating, reading, praying, and through many other activities. Experiment with different options.
6. Move. Dance, walk, run, workout, spin, practice Tai Chi, or do whatever works for you. Get moving and feel the earth move under your feet. Moving renews energy.
7. Travel. I'm not saying renting a house for the summer would be a misery, but it's the experiences you have in it that create happiness. Maybe you can squeeze in a weekend or two instead. Drive or take a train to the next town, and eat in a new restaurant or hike a different route. Be sure to make it authentically yours, not a lame stand-in for trips you took pre-divorce.
Choose each activity on the basis of whether it's something you'll enjoy. If you do as many of these seven things as you can on a regular basis, I can pretty much guarantee that you will banish the summer blues. In fact, why not do these things year-round? They're important components of wellness that help us feel good—no reservations or deposits required.