I don’t need to see Sirius shining in the predawn sky to know we are late in the dog days of summer. Fifteen straight days with highs in the 90s was a dead giveaway. When I was a child my father would invariably refer to the dog days as “the beginning of the end of summer,” and my heart would immediately sink. It didn’t matter that he said “the beginning of the end;” once he made that pronouncement, all I could focus on was “the end,” as in the end of everything good—vacation—and the dreaded start of another school year.
That feeling of letdown in early August has stuck with me all these years later even though I haven’t been in school for a long time. Last week, I was going around bemoaning “the beginning of the end” when my husband, the eternal optimist, pointed out that I was mourning prematurely.
“It’s not the end of summer yet,” he pointed out. “You are making yourself sad for something that isn’t happening yet.”
“But it will be happening in a few weeks,” I countered, “so I’m just getting a jumpstart on being miserable.”
Not to brag, but preemptive worry and anxiety happen to be my specialties. I mean, did I wait until my daughter actually graduated from high school before I started feeling anxious about her leaving for college? Indeed, I did not. I started shortly after she was potty trained. As I always say, there’s no time like the present to worry about the future.
My husband walked away, shaking his head, as by now he has learned it is pretty much useless to try to change my twisted thinking with something as silly as logic. But this time, for some reason, a little bit of logic actually made its way into my brain and got me thinking. What if, I wondered, instead of being sad that summer was almost over, I was happy that there was still some time left to enjoy it? What if instead of seeing the dog days as a death knell of summer, I saw them as an alarm bell, reminding me to enjoy the remaining time?
I have now begun to look at the dog days as my second chance at summer, an opportunity to do all the things I intended to do, but haven’t gotten around to yet. The dog days now represent hope—there is still time!—with the added touch of urgency—but not that much time, so get moving! This interpretation is very comforting in a larger sense for someone like me who has seen more than a few grains of sand pass through the hour glass. When I start to panic and think it’s too late in life to accomplish the things I want, when I despair over not having known or done this or that sooner on my journey, I will remember the dog days and be encouraged. I will embrace the message of hope and gratefully accept the gentle kick in the pants to get moving and not waste my second chances.
I never imagined I would see the dog days in a positive light. And, I certainly never imagined I would accept advice from my husband. I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks!
Happy Dog Days!
Photo: peresanz via depositphotos