I watched a sunset. And talked to strangers. And I liked it.
That may not seem very scandalous or revolutionary, but for me, it was.
I Had My Shit Figured Out When I Was 10
Ever since my Summer of Anne (spelled with an “e”) resolution, I’ve been oh, so aware of how narrowly telescopic my focus is. I charge through each day like a homework assignment, checking off my to dos and maximizing my time like I’ve always assumed a bold, driven vision-quester should.
But I never really see my days anymore. I never really feel them. And I miss doing that. A whole hell of a lot, actually. I didn’t realize how much until this summer.
I used to be that peculiar kid off at the far end of the playground, singing a little song to herself on a swing while all the normal children played tag (or whatever it is that normal children do). I would imagine I was swinging directly into the trees in front of me, or directly into the sky above, and I remember it feeling so beautiful and transcendent that it “ached,” as Anne Shirley would say. It never occurred to me to worry if the other kids would think I was weird for doing it. We’d have lunch together after recess and teach each other new versions of “Miss Mary Mack,” and it would be all cool. I was me, they were them, we were friends, and life was beautiful.
I can’t tell you the last time I lost myself—forgot myself—in my surroundings like that. Only, now I can. Because I did it this weekend. And it was lovely.
My First “What Would Anne Do?” Experiment
My husband’s band (shout out to Nimble Vagrant) played a regatta at a restaurant on the harbor Saturday, and I got to tag along as the “sound girl” (though the only real function I served was to give everyone a thumb’s up when they started playing and then obliviously groove along with the music the rest of the evening).
I determined before I left that I would be Anne-like. I was going into a situation I’d never been in full of people I’d never met, and that usually makes me feel so paralyzingly awkward that I “turtle,” as my husband aptly calls it. But, I told myself, I would enjoy whatever there was to be enjoyed and would chat as merrily as Anne would chat with…not strangers…but interesting new people. I would be present, in the moment, instead of in my own whirring, buzzing head.
As the band got ready for their set, I took myself to the bar to hang out by my lonesome. I did not let myself think there was anything embarrassing about this. And instead of feeling stupid when the bartender stared at me after I ordered my favorite drink, I joked about how I was with the band and not used to regatta protocol. He then made my drink even though technically it wasn’t on the event’s menu—and he checked in with me throughout the night to make sure “his cocktail girl” was enjoying herself. I’d made a friend for the night. It was abnormally fantastic.
So I chatted with some random regatta attendees. I didn’t let myself feel like a moron for wearing my adorable new retro sundress, assuming that regatta people would be posh, only to arrive and find that “regatta people” just means people straight off a day on their sailboats, in all their deck-shoed, salmon-shorted glory. (Salmon-colored shorts being a men’s item of clothing, in case you, as I was, were not aware of this.) Instead of feeling self-conscious, I insisted I allow myself to still feel just as cute and lovely as I had when I was getting ready that evening. And I received several very nice compliments (which I’m sure turtle girl never would have if she’d spent her time hiding in a corner).
The more I allowed myself to just enjoy where I was, without worrying about the “me” in the situation, the more comfortable and entertained I felt. Revelation!
I was me, they were them, we were friends, and life was beautiful.
My New BFF
The band played inside, against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on a deck over the water. As they finished their last song, I watched the sky behind them gradually ignite into a blaze of orange and red. The setting sun was in such a position that the line of light it trailed along the water pointed directly to where I was sitting. I felt it tugging at me like a shimmering invitation.
Anne would love a sunset like that, I thought. That’s just the kind of thing she would stop to enjoy every single day, actually, even if she was “only” at home where she’d already seen a million other sunsets. I think the last time I actually watched a sunset was 4 years ago on our beach honeymoon, because that’s the kind of thing you do on a beach honeymoon.
Normally, my world is just a backdrop, as solid as a cardboard high school stage set. I move through it without noting it because there are more “important” things going on. But I was outside of my normal routine at the beach, so I remembered to pause and look around me to realize the far more important things I normally glaze right past.
And maybe it’s because I was in a new setting at the harbor, too, already having stepped outside of my insulated little comfort zone and let the dusty old open part of me air out a bit. But that sunset just called to me. I felt in my gut that not going out on that deck to experience it would be something I would regret for the rest of the week, if not the summer. So, when the band’s set was over, I asked the husband if he’d mind my not helping strike things down and went out to commune with the sunset.
And it was perfect.
I can’t tell you all the things I thought (or didn’t think at all), leaning up against that deck railing with my just-for-me cocktail in my hand and watching the sun slowly descend into the horizon. People laughed and chatted on the patio above me, couples stopped by momentarily to take a picture by the water, but I was far away—back to being 10 years old again in my own little marvelous world of daydreams.
I actually stared right at the sun several times, even though that’s incredibly stupid and left me seeing burn-y spots long after it was dark. I was that hungry to take in as much beauty as I could.
Have You Made It This Far?
This has been a long, rambly post, and I don’t know how many people will actually follow me to the end of it. But that’s o.k. Because this one is for me as much as it is for you this time.
This is to remind me that being a kindred spirit with the world fills a part of me that’s been shut up and cobwebby for years.
This is to remind me to Stop Moving Stop Thinking Stop Striving, every day, and lose myself in something unspeakably beautiful.
This is to remind me that, serious and brazen and ballsy as life is, it’s also full of soft little miracles, and I miss miss miss being open to that.
This is a tribute to the Summer of Anne. It has already served me well.
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