For the first summer since 2011, there is nothing big going on in my life. Or in my business.
For the first time in five years, I am not moving into a studio that is outside my home.
It is summer again, yet for the fist time since 2012, I am not opening a store. Not moving my home in 2013. Not opening a bigger store in 2014. Not closing that bigger store in 2015.
It is June of the summer of 2016, and somehow I find myself not doing anything more than recovering from moving my home this past January (the second time in five years.) I’ve been enjoying the unending stream of out-of-town company that has taken advantage of visiting us in our more spacious surroundings since January of this year. Also squeezing in the hosting of a 50th anniversary party for my still “happily married” in-laws.
After almost exactly one year since announcing the closing of my store called “Sunflower” last summer, life finally feels settled to me.
It is summer, yet for the first time in five years, the word “Nathan” has appeared on my to-do list.
This summer, the name of my son is a word I hear myself speaking of and thinking about on a regular basis again. But unlike the many past summers I spent so occupied with chasing after the wind, it is with a new-found-freedom that I “plan” Nathan into my weekday. (Most days.)
This year, the well-being of my child has finally returned to an appropriate place on my list of summer priorities. And this year, not unlike the summer before he was entering into the second grade, I actually have space in my brain for him once again.
I could easily get down on myself — thinking about all that I missed with him for so many summers. But there is no point in that. There is no changing the past. My choices are already in the books.
Before Nathan was born, throughout my entire pregnancy we prayed each day for a child that would “fit into our family.” And God answered our prayers with remarkable accuracy. There are not may kids who could have weathered so well, all the many changes that this child has been through in a decade.
Major life changes that occurred even before the infamous summer of 2011 when somehow our life wandered down a long road of life-sucking choices — all of which were inspired by yours truly.
These major life changes were supported and endured by the other two members of my family. Until “enough,” suddenly became to me, quite apparently “enough.” Enough for all three of us. Especially for Nathan, who’s interesting young life was rapidly passing me by.
There are not many 11 year-old boys who would be willing to go to work with their mom and spend the entire day assembling notecards. Or matting art prints. Or logging prices into an online inventory system. All with a positive attitude more suited for someone twice his age.
This not-so-little-anymore person, did an admirable job of rising to the occasion through each and every change that took me farther and farther away from him. And despite his best efforts to occupy himself for too many summers, I can see now that he did feel the loss. But fortunately for me, it is still not too late to rewrite the course of his childhood.
As I write this, we are on a week-long family vacation. With extended family members. Wonderfully fun and loving people from another time zone that my son Nathan doesn’t get to see very often.
So for the first summer since 2011, I am not feeling any guilt about the fact that I have kept to myself all week. Enjoying a newly-felt freedom to be alone and recharge my introverted battery, while all the extroverts in my clan revel in sandy days spent clinging together as a reunited bed of happy clams.
This summer, I am free from feeling like I need to make up for lost time during one crowded week.
And that freedom, is solely because I made some terribly hard choices last spring. And summer. And fall.
Choices that put myself into a position that isn’t my first choice — but probably the best choice for my family during this season of our lives. The season before the three of us will become two again. In probably less time than we can even realize.
A choice to reign in my personal passions and drive. A choice to keep the big picture in mind. A choice to stay true to who I am, but yet somehow figure out how to be that same person, but in a way that allows for a reasonable life.
At first, this surprisingly difficult choice to stop chasing after the wind, felt like it was only for the good of the family. But looking back (and looking forward too) I see it is the Better Choice for me too.
So here I am, with one month of The Summer of 2016 under my belt. And even more importantly, several seasons of “Downton Abbey” enjoyed together with Nathan in the cool of a darkened room, wrapped in our colorful, summer-weight fairtrade blanket, during the sultry hot summer afternoons and evenings we have grown to love.
Instead of chasing after the wind by myself, together we are pursuing the entire story of the Crawley family this summer. Just because we can.
And in the spirit of this newly found Summer Freedom, I am also trying to squeeze in a few restful paintings here and there. Not because I have to, but because I want to.
“Summer Freedom” is the first, of hopefully many, quick little marsh paintings that are loose and free from tight detail. Impressions and memories I have of the beauty and freedom I feel while experiencing the salty, wide open Low Country spaces. Pieces that remind me why I love to paint. And what makes me feel free.
I am creating this new series of paintings called “Marsh Memories” to keep my mind happy and healthy. As well as to keep me freer for Nathan than years gone past.
But even more importantly, to keep us BOTH freed up as much as possible, for Lord Grantham and her Ladyship the Countess of Grantham. And Lady Mary Crawley. And Lady Edith. And Cousin Isobel. And even Daisy, and Mrs. Patmore, and Mr. Bates, and Anna. And of course for Tom Branson — chauffeur, turned son-in-law.