Don’t Postpone Joy 

Melanie McCulley, MS, BCC, HHP

Former To Life! Support Services Manager

Summer is drawing to a close and with it can come a melancholic feeling. End-of-summer sadness is real for many. Children are returning to school and heading off to college. Summer work hours and a more relaxed vibe are ending, as may be increased time with friends and family and in the great outdoors. 

Interestingly, though we think summer has more free time and more recreation—perhaps a carry-over from childhood summers—that isn’t always reality. A good percentage of people don’t take a summer vacation or more time off, or experience a genuine change in routine during the summer. In some instances, it’s the perception and promise of summer that we look forward to, and then grieve, including all that we planned to do but didn’t.

The good news is that autumn, winter and spring are no less special in their own ways and provide no less opportunity for relaxation, recreation, family time, connecting with friends, travel, the outdoors, and time for reflection and curling up with a good book. The limitation can be our mindset and the pattern we establish for ourselves. If we feel we have to save all our fun and relaxation for summer, we put a lot of pressure and expectation on ourselves, and on the season, which can create disappointment as well as sadness when it’s concluding.  If we refuse to postpone joy, however, any time of year is ripe with possibility.

If you’re feeling the end-of-summer blues, make a list of what you like best about summer and what you will miss most and find ways to build those into your life year-round. If it’s time outdoors, all four seasons offer opportunities though you may need to trade the beach for mountain trails, walking shoes for snowshoes, and hamburgers on the grill for roasted marshmallows over a bonfire. Nature in her autumn glory and winter majesty is still as beautiful and restorative. Like women, nature has much to offer in all of her seasons.

If it’s more time with family and friends you want to maintain, talk to the special people in your life. They may share your desire to stay connected and be more than happy to join you in planning and hosting outings as well as fun nights at home, and gatherings like monthly game, book, or movie nights at rotating houses. Volunteering together, for a mutual cause, can be a great bonding experience as well as a community service. Just turning off devices and talking over dinner can make a difference in the quality of your relationships. 

If you miss travel and relaxation, don’t limit vacations and leisure time to summer. Find a cozy inn with a fireplace and get away, exploring a new community or just relaxing with someone special or in your own good company. Commit to at least 30 minutes a day just for you  whether you choose to read a book, meditate, exercise, day dream, etc. If winter gets long, break it up with a tropical holiday or invite friends and family to a potluck with summer foods and play Frisbee in the snow. Don’t wait until summer to read that pile of anticipated books, take that class, learn a new skill or hobby, pursue your dream job or dream travel, paint that picture, or write that novel. There are few things we can do in summer that we can’t find equivalents, or fun alternatives, to year round.

How we spend our days is how we spend our life. Don’t deny or delay what brings you joy. Allow yourself four seasons of it, so that when one special time is winding down for the moment, you know the next is coming.

Even in the midst of breast cancer and treatment, there is room for joy and joy is all the more important for one’s mind, body and spirit in challenging times. Postponing joy during breast cancer won’t change the diagnosis or the treatment, but can change one’s mindset, resilience and hope. Survivors recount how they navigated chemotherapy day, for example, by also making a date with a friend, family member, or themselves to do something special—even if it was curling up in a cocoon of blankets with a favorite movie. Cancer treatment was going to happen regardless, but they also kept doing the things that brought them joy as much as possible.

There is no purpose in denying ourselves joy. We are better people, better partners, better parents, friends, and professionals when we allow ourselves joy year round through the best of times and through the most challenging; not saving it up for summer, the “perfect” time, or when we look or feel our best. Life and time are finite. Choose joy, create joy and scatter joy every chance you get.  

Posted in: Emotional/Mental Health, Survivorship