The Working Waterfront

​Summer on a Maine island creates ‘fomo’

Or, how I learned that it’s OK to say ‘no’

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2019-09-06
Last Modified 2019-09-06

By Barbara Fernald

It is 10 a.m. on Aug. 1. The temperature is 78 degrees with 54 percent humidity. A gorgeous summer day on the coast of Maine. No wonder people want to be here.

I hear it’s crowded in Acadia and I see that’s true by the many cars parked along the road each time I drive to Bar Harbor. Islanders have nine months out of the year with less crowded access to the park, so we don’t need to compete for space on the trails in the summer. But the huge increase in visitors causes us to slow down as we pass by many congested parking areas.

What we compete for in August is time. It gets gobbled up in the answers to these questions. Who haven’t I seen yet? (Oh no, they’ve left already?) Who just arrived? When can we get together? When is the Islesford Fair? When is the fair on Great Cranberry? When is the silent auction? Can you be in this production? Could you bake something for…? Would you like to go sailing? Hiking? Come for dinner? Go to the movies? Are you going to the beach this afternoon?

 There is a frantic energy in the air, an alloy of everyone’s fomo (fear of missing out). Some suffer hurt feelings of not being invited to something they actually didn’t have time to attend. Others dash around to put together a dinner party to repay earlier social engagements, hoping they didn’t hurt the feelings of people they didn’t invite. To add to this stress, August is socially less than three weeks long because many folks start to leave around the 17th.

When my friend Mary and I finally sat down to have a cup of tea after not seeing each other for three weeks, we talked about how cuckoo summer gets.

“Being here in summer is like being at a cousin’s graduation barbecue and you can’t leave.” (She must have had a particularly hard time trying to get up the road.) It is true that it is hard to go from point A to point B in August without running into at least three people with whom you might chat. Fun for an extrovert and potentially fun but exhausting for an introvert. And sometimes you just don’t have time for it. 

We aimed our conversation toward coping skills for feeling so overwhelmed by summer. (Other than never leaving your house for a month.)  I remind myself that “I can’t do it all.”

No one has the time or the energy to do everything in August. Those simple words can make me stop and reconsider my priorities. Mary reminds herself to be present, remembering that she’s doing something she could be enjoying. “Oh yeah. I could be working in an office, but instead I’m out here on a lobster boat where I can breathe,” or, “Argh. I’ve been in this kitchen all morning baking for the fair. Wait a minute. I love to bake!”

We also discussed knowing when to say, “No.” It’s OK to do so. Remember, “I can’t do it all,” means you’re going to have to say no to some things. It’s not a character defect, it’s physics. 
Our visit was a great reminder that we can opt to be positive or negative or just accept the present and not react to it. Most of the people who live on little islands choose to do so for the quiet it provides for most of the year. It’s no wonder that we all feel socially over-saturated by the time Labor Day rolls around. 

In reality, it is quite wonderful to have this summer fluctuation in our populations and to have so many opportunities for entertainment and long friendship. We who live here year-round really do have the best of two worlds. We have the quiet and the buzz. Suffering is optional and it would be a shame to miss out on the fun of summer’s last wild ride.

Barbara Fernald happily rides the quiet and the buzz on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island)