This year, I am going to embrace summer.
Summer is here, and it always makes me a little sad to see spring end and the long hot days of summer begin. However, this year, I’ve decided to embrace summer.
I’m foregoing air conditioning as long as I can.
That’s totally a first-world problem, and I get it. But I’m trying to acclimate to the heat because my chief concern about summer is that when it’s too hot, I get sick. Migraines. Dehydration. Sunburns. Acne. And I’m paying for the privilege and using up electricity when I don’t need this because I live in the North and the hot weather ends in autumn.
But the reason for that is because my body never really acclimates to summer, as in, it doesn’t get used to it getting hotter outside and the sun getting stronger because I hide from the sunshine and turn on the A/C when the temperature hits 70 in spring, and I’m mostly indoors, and when I am indoors, I’m usually freezing because the A/C is too high.
And not to mention that I have to turn my window unit off when I’m in court anyway because it’s too loud.
I figure I could simply cure these problems by letting my body live in summer this season. After all, this is my last season to work from home, my last season to not have to hustle as I’ve been doing for so many years, my last season to not have to pick out a sweater to wear to the office in July because the hotter it is outside, the colder it is in my office (yesterday, it was 90 out, and it was about 45 in my office).
It will never get so hot here for so long that I will actually need A/C the way I need heat in the winter, because I stand no reasonable chance of dying if I am acclimated. After all – I have an endless supply of clean water, so I can just live in the bathtub for a day or two.
Ever take a cool — not cold — clear bath on a hot day? If you can’t go swimming, you can at least soak for a bit.
And you know? It’s working. My body is acclimated to the hot weather. I’ve lost 21 pounds in the last seven weeks, and it really hasn’t required a lot of effort because my food choices are rooted in my desire to not increase the heat in my apartment or in my body, so salads, fruit, vegetables, sushi, fish, eggs, yogurt, slow cooker soups when it cools down at night – it’s all been pretty easy choices. I don’t sweat my ass off all night anymore, and I don’t sit in a puddle of my own sweat simply sitting at the computer. I don’t even turn on the A/C in the car anymore.
Sure, I drink more water – a lot more water – and I tend to rinse off in a cool shower more often, but my skin is awesome. It’s glowing. It’s not 100% clear yet, because it rarely is, but the texture has improved. Fine lines – what are those? Oh, and eye puffiness is like, gone the hour after I wake up even if I didn’t have great sleep. I’m sure eating at least one tomato a day and fruits and vegetables has helped with the color, too.
And because my apartment is actually warmer than the outside temperature, it can feel pleasantly cool going outside.
Oh, and no migraines until I have to go into the office.
But the rest of the world isn’t going to accommodate me, I fear.
We have to work a full day in the office four days a month now, which shouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that I work for the local government in a local government building. As you know, local governments tend to be behind the times technologically, so if I have to be on a video conference, it’s gotta be on my own phone using my own data. If I have to create exhibits, I have to wait until I go home because it can take forever on my work computer. And all of my files are completely analog, so I have to a lot of drafting and printing and filing to get those up to date, and we have no idea if the taxpayers will ever spring for us to get a digital system.
It’s really hard to go back to work after becoming used to your own technology at home.
It’s also really hard to go back to work because, compared to my home, the ambience at work fucking sucks.
My apartment is bright, cheery, comfortable, and naturally illuminated. It’s vacuumed and dusted, and there’s no piles of paper everywhere. There’s no fluorescent light. There’s no mystery puddles in my bathroom, which is white, naturally illuminated, and smells like flowers. My whole apartment smells clean. The coffee is fresh, and there’s always a pot of it on. It’s very quiet at home, and only rarely can I hear someone else working — because my neighbor in another building sometimes like to work from her porch and has loud conference calls about boring corporate bullshit that no one in the world cares about, but if she sees me looking at her, she just gets louder and starts using more jargon as if I’m supposed to be impressed.
Must be nice to have a stay-at-home job that doesn’t require any confidentiality or discretion.
Oh, if she could only imagine what it is I’m doing in my apartment all day.
But I can also control the temperature at home, which I can’t do in my office.
My office is freezing.
Most offices are freezing in the summer, but mine is FREEZING.
I mean meat locker freezing. I mean shivering. I mean toes and fingers going numb. I mean plants dying. I mean getting sick because it’s so cold in there. I mean getting cramps from shivering because it’s so cold in there. I mean wearing a blanket and still too cold. I mean making a hot cup of coffee in the kitchen, setting it down on your desk, going to the bathroom, and then coming back to a cold cup of coffee.
And I’m not a fragile person. You all know I love winter. I just don’t love the fact that I go from 85 degrees to 45 degrees blowing down on my head while I’m forced to sit there because the job requires that I clock in and out of my office in 8-hour increments so I can be accountable to the taxpayers even if I’m unable to do any work because I’m just trying to stave off hypothermia in the summer.
And yes – I have blocked off the vent, which helps and means I can now stop wearing winter boots and a hat to the office in the summer.
And no – I can’t simply move my desk because it’s built into the floor AND the wall. My only option is to sit on the other side of the desk, which is directly beneath the vent.
This is because it’s an old building with one HVAC system that works better in some parts of the building than others, but since it’s all paid for by taxpayer dollars, if fixing the HVAC to make it a more equitable system isn’t in the budget, it just doesn’t get fixed. This means that some parts of the building are unbearably hot while others are unbearably cold, and the area of my office is one of the unbearably cold ones, and my personal office just happens to be one of the coldest places.
And frankly, I see no reason to suck-it-up-buttercup because I didn’t sign up for this when I decided to take a public interest job. At no point did I agree to put my health in danger every single day because I’m a lawyer. I do lawyer stuff, not first responder stuff, and even they don’t have to stand in the snow for hours on end in office attire as part of their job, so why should I?
So I complain to anyone who will listen in order to get the grumbling going, because it’s like the wave at a sports event: some asshole has to start it, and eventually, if you don’t stand up when it’s your turn, you’re the one who’s the asshole.
And yesterday, I specifically went in as early as possible so I could clock out as early as possible because I knew it would be 90 degrees or more in the afternoon, which meant that the A/C would blast down on me all the more. The morning wasn’t so bad, but as it progressed, got worse and worse.
Imagine it’s August, but in ten minutes, you walk into December but you’re only dressed for September and you’re stuck in December for at least eight hours.
I got spoiled last summer and forgot just how awful the ambience is in my office, but now I remember, and now I’m hoping the chief judge doesn’t change his mind and make us all come in more before October because I don’t know if I can handle enduring extreme temperature differences and the ensuing sickness more than four times a month.
Look, guys: I’m a Pisces Rising. I accept this. I accept that part of my job in this life is being the canary in the coalmine. The first summer I dealt with this, I just ate constantly. The last summer I was maybe in my office once, briefly. This summer? I really just want to do summer.
And today is the summer solstice, so I will do the unthinkable, for me at least:
I will celebrate summer.
As it’s about to rain, no less.
What is the summer solstice?
It’s the first day of summer, the first day of Cancer season. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun has reached the highest point in the sky that it will reach at midday, and each day after, it will rise a little less high. From the winter solstice back in December, the days have been getting longer and the nights shorter, with today being the longest day. Now, the days will get shorter and the nights longer until the Autumn Equinox, when day and night will be equal length, and then continue to get progressively shorter until the winter solstice in December again, increasing in light until the Spring Equinox, when the day and night are once again equal.
This is a reoccurring natural phenomena on Earth, the anniversary of the warmer months of summer, which are both fruitful and barren — the delicate balance of water and heat that is ever precarious because of global warming. The natural months are Cancer, Leo, and Virgo, with Cancer being the most fruitful (true. This is when the most fruits and vegetables are in season), Leo barren (true – the dog days of summer when the early harvest is gone and the late harvest is still soaking up sun), and Virgo, which is semi-fruitful (true – grapes, wheat, and the foods we tend to store and ferment to have over the year are harvested now).
For many who live in the United States, there are summer extremes that we endure, whether it’s from the temperature, the humidity, or the weather phenomena, and they can be highly destructive. Yet, cultural, we often honor the desire to slow down and just enjoy the bounty of the land. The tradition of office summer hours is dying, but we tend to take our vacations now. Even though American children no longer need to help with the planting and the harvest because the vast majority of us do not work on farms, and even though it’s horribly inconvenient for working parents and is a detriment to their education over all, they do get the summer off from school. Personally, I don’t see why up to one month off in the winter and again in the summer but no homework or arriving to school at 7 a.m. to cram/force parents to do the kid’s homework in a futile attempt to keep up with other nations that don’t torture children for nine months out of the year and then tell them to fuck off for the other three is somehow not better than what we have now, but I appear to be in the minority.
And I think that’s why so many of us consider summer the fun months, because for twelve years, that was vacation, because again – we don’t have to work on the farm.
But there’s more to it than that, I think. Summer is a return to a natural state most of only get to experience during summer.
Humans need summer.
First, it’s humans are still fundamentally tropical creatures. We use various means to maintain a temperature of 70 – 80 degrees around our own bodies, using clothes, heat, and buildings. We are naturally prone to only working when we need to work and resting when we don’t, which is truly the natural order of things — the hustle is not natural, and that’s why even the thought of the hustle that Generation Z is trapped in gives them anxiety. We are happier in the sunshine. While we can adapt to all sorts of things, we are more naturally adapted to eating the kinds of foods found in the tropics – tubers, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood. Almost all of us have skin that darkens to some extent in the sun, whether it shows as a tan, or freckles, or both. Even our eyes will darken in the sun, too. We tend to enjoy the feeling of cool, moving air when the sun is shining. We like to be near water, and we tend to need a lot of water and don’t get all we need from the foods we eat.
For those of us who do not live in the tropics, summer is a return to this primal state that our bodies are still geared toward. This is also one of the reasons why I’m giving up A/C: I know my body doesn’t want to live in winter all year round, so instead of fighting it because I’m embarrassed about a little sweat, isn’t it better to just embrace it? After all, slowing down is not a bad thing.
Second, we get to slow down. Even though Cancer is a cardinal sign, the energy isn’t focused on the self, as Aries is, or in cooperating with individuals outside of the tribe, as Libra is, or with the world at large, as Capricorn is. Cancer is focused on protecting and caring for those who are close to you, of developing and maintaining close ties. At it’s worst, it can be horrifically parochial and wildly defensive for imaginary reasons (Cancers can have serious boundary issues) and even violent under the guise of protecting someone or something, but it really does embrace the warmth of the summer season. It’s a time when we don’t have to worry about making sure the cold is kept out, or if there’s enough food stores. Now, we can focus on what makes us want to affiliate with each other, to come together for betterment. It’s sentimental, highly imaginative, sensitive, care-taking types, who, even if they don’t actually want children, want something to take care of. In the previous month, Gemini, we used our ability to communicate to figure out who needs what, and now we provide that. Instead of running around trying to figure out what we need and get it, we can provide it and share it.
Third, we get to explore the intimacy we began in the spring (because now it’s time to get together with people) and just chill. There is something about the summer months, about socializing, about showing more skin, that makes us want to find someone to lay in the shade with. Leo is about self-expression but also about being comfortable with someone enough to show them your best self and have it appreciated. Even if admiration isn’t love, we all do want to be admired by those who profess to love us. The criticism and “improvement” comes later as a toxic Virgo trait; anyone who loves you must love the core person you are. We all shine in the light of the sun, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be seen where there are no shadows – we know they’re there, but not right now. After all, this IS time to shine: hair grows longer and thicker, skin looks younger and healthier, bodies lose water retention, muscles get stronger, all without a lot of effort because of the sun and the heat. Honestly, if you just acclimate to summer and you learn to embrace your sweat instead of run from it, you get used to the heat and your body starts to take on the summer glow by Leo season.
Unless you spent a day in a dry, freezing cold office and your face broke out because of it…
Fourth, we get to reap the long-term rewards of our personal efforts. Summer projects, summer relationships, summer vacations: these efforts get us through the darker months that inevitably come, which is one of the things Virgo doesn’t get enough credit for: for tieing all the ends together so that everyone else has something to enjoy. Virgo doesn’t host the dinner – that’s Leo – but it cooks the food, sets the table, does the grocery shopping, and chooses the parlor games based on what they think all the personalities in the room would enjoy. The sunny days we long for in winter, that summer body, that new deck, that vegetable garden that has provided you tomatoes for the winter: all of that was of the effort to use the resources that were available to you and to find a way to bring it all together. That summer vacation that brought you and the kids closer together? How about that family reunion? Those barbecues with friends and neighbors? Trips to the beach, laying in the sun, reading a trashy novel that you and all your friends are also reading? Concerts? And you’re not even thinking about it, but summer gives you an opportunity to repair the damage that winter does to the body from lack of sun and nutrients, from a routine that didn’t include enough relaxing and enough healthy, seasonal foods, or enough personal space outdoors so you’re not breathing in someone else’s sneeze all the time.
And let’s not forget that work just tends to slow down for a lot of us anyway because others go on vacation, so there’s always time for working on your avocation.
And then comes Libra with the fall equinox, when we take all of summer’s experiences and seek out those outside of our tribe and our immediate circle to embrace, to work with to make the impending winter less stark and less lonely. By then, many of us have had enough of summer and are looking forward to the coziness of autumn and winter, a different type of work and a different type of rest, of recreating the tropics inside our homes until the next summer.
I hope this is a good summer for everyone.
Last summer solstice, I moved most of my furniture out of the old place I shared with Rick and into this one, up to the fourth floor, by myself. I love driving the U-Haul van, and I love simple, grunt labor of moving furniture so long as I’m taking order from no one. Unlike today, which is a mild 72 degrees, overcast and rainy, last year was hot as fuck, completely clear sky, and sunny. And when my bed was moved in, I was living here full time, alone, trying to get used to all the various noises and the strangeness of being here.
It was not a peaceful night, and I had to turn off the A/C unit.
It was still the middle of the pandemic, and I fully expected that by this time this year, life would be back to normal and I wouldn’t be living in Chicago anymore because I couldn’t fathom a major life change without a major physical move.
But I’m still here, and it’s not bad. I have time to figure things out.
I still have a summer before I have to be in the office full time, and I’m over the arc of the newness of my life here.
I’m curious to see what the summer will bring.