In the Midwest, our calendar starts off with an endurance test. January and February combine to be 59 days of grind it out. Just get through it. During this time, we're naturally looking ahead at the calendar. Crossing days off.
March traditionally brings us the first round of excitement. St. Patty's Day. March Madness. Spring break. But this year we had a quarantined version of March. Without March Madness, I looked around at a 15-degree day and thought, "Wait, March is really just February with better marketing. And it's three days longer!" April and May nodded their heads. "That's what we've been saying all along!"
April and May, that's when we start to build momentum. A 70-degree day sneaks in. Summer is in sight. So, even when we get snow on Mother's Day, we still find a sense of warmth. That's okay. June is almost here.
Then it happens. June 1st! We made it! I'm gonna do this. And this... And then it's gone. June sneaks right past me.
Here's what I think happens. For five months in a row, we've trained ourselves to wish ahead. So for those first 10 days of June, we're reminding ourselves, "No, we're here. We don't need to look ahead anymore. This is the good part." The next 10 days, we're too picky. June hits us with 45 and rainy and we scold June for behaving like April. Then June hits us with a 90 and we shake our heads again. "June, come on, you're acting like August. Just be June."
And that's when June brings us that perfect week of 70-75. Sunny. Not too humid. That week is like the Beatles of weather, it's hard to find anyone that's not a fan. During that week, we all stop in our tracks and say, "Ah, now this is June. This is what the Midwest is all about. This is why we grind out January and February." And June, like the Roadrunner, smiles at us, lets out a meep meep and sprints away. We look down at our phones. June 30th!? Wait, June! Come back! Please!
I think that's why July starts out with a literal bang. July wants to smack some sense into us, make sure we're officially ready for summer. July sets out the lawn chairs. "Alright, now listen up. Summer's here. This is what you've been waiting for all year. And I saw how you treated June. You don't appreciate anything June does for you. So you're gonna sit down right here, you're gonna open that lukewarm Natty Lite, and watch me blow up the sky."
July is meant to be savored. A little bit hotter than June, little more humid, sure, but it's not the hairy sweaty basketball player known as August. But there are still ways to miss July the same way we miss June, so I wanted to provide a few Medium Rare tips for how to squeeze every ounce of summer out of July.
Sitting outside, reading a book
Remember how excited our books were at the beginning of the quarantine? When our governors announced the stay at home orders, our books were jumping up and down on the bookshelf. "Think about how much time we're gonna spend together!" they said. The dusty copies of War and Peace and Infinite Jest hung a "Welcome home!" banner above the doorway. Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird set up an arts & crafts table to create custom bookmarks.
Then we turned on Netflix for three months.
But now we can bring the books outside. Which works, because for me, "Sit outside and just look at nature. Let July really soak in," usually results in me checking my phone five minutes later. I'm like Clark Griswold looking at the Grand Canyon.
Reading a book outside, that's just enough activity going on. Reading. Baseball. Golf. July activities aren't meant to be fast-paced. The book just wants you to slow down, stay in the moment, and isn't offended if you fall asleep.
Gotta have a bad beer
September and October love to promote their fancy craft beers. February and March are prime Guinness drinking months. July is the time for a bad beer.
To be clear here, I'm talking 2-3 levels below Busch Lite. This beer is always in a can and, at best, is served at room temperature.
With a bad beer, you have to say yes to the farts. Yes to that cramp in the chest. Yes to watching the bottom gut roll grow with each sip. Because July is at its best when you're playing cornhole in a backyard with a bad beer in hand.
Distract the goal-brain
Pursuing goals. Tracking progress. That's part of the brain. It's wired into the hardware.
But this goal-brain can get in the way of summer. We can be so head down at work, keeping up our April/May pace, that we forget to look outside.
I don't think it's possible to get rid of the goal-brain, but we can channel it somewhere else. I recently tricked my goal-brain to care way too much about Fitbit stats. I'm hooked on steps. And, in doing so, I've tricked the goal-brain to get outside and enjoy more hours of July.
I think it was Wolfgang Puck I was listening to, he was talking about the importance of designing his menus around what was in season. When a vegetable has hit their prime week, they need to be the star of the show.
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, zucchini, potatoes, green beans, cherries. In July, these are all at their peak. Eating fruits and vegetables in their peak week at a farmer's market vs. months later at the grocery store is like the difference between signing the 32-year-old Tom Brady vs. the 42-year-old version; yeah, the almost expired one might still work out, but you're gonna need a stronger supporting cast.
The Summer Paradox
June is by far the most elusive month of the year. I thought this year would be different. My shaky shelter-at-home belief: If the quarantine makes months feel like years, couldn't we use that to our advantage? Stretch June out for a little bit? I loved the prospect of 100 days of June.
It still flew by. Even in quarantine.
And maybe that's the paradox of summer. The very sign that we're doing June and July right is probably the fact that they go by so fast. We want to hold onto it because we know it's so hard to catch.
But summer brings its light through the rest of the year. January 3rd. February 6th. Those are the mundane days when summer shines through in a daydream. "Remember that day in June? That summer night in July? I'm not gonna miss it this year."
Today's blog was a throwback to old school Medium Rare posts. Over the last several months, I've been using the Medium Rare blog with a different format, featuring local restaurants around Chicago. These also drift into a little bit of philosophy and stories from my own life. To catch up on some of the posts and read about great local spots, here they are below:
- Chicago, Argentina (Part 1)
- Chicago, Argentina (Kierkegaard intermission)
- Chicago, Argentina (Part 2: The Family Behind Tango Sur)
- Chicago, Argentina (Kierkegaard Finale)
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