(My apologies to John Steinbeck whose “The Winter of Our Discontent” was his last novel, published in 1961).
As a child, I hated summers. Not the season itself – the summers in Michigan are wonderful. It was the long hours of drudgery – housework, farm chores, gardening, canning and freezing that I hated. I wanted to spend summers swimming, reading, and playing with friends (which I didn’t have, and we lived out in the country so “playmates” meant siblings and “playing” meant, usually, watching and caring for younger siblings). As a teenager, I usually worked 5 or 6 days a week in addition to my other “responsibilities”. I wanted to be one of those cool kids who lived at the lake, sunning, waterskiing, hanging out. Mostly, though, I missed school.
In a lot of ways, this summer was worse than any of those I spent as a youngster. The first part was spent trying to stay out of the ER – the last part spent recovering from surgery. I worked the entire summer, with the exception of a long weekend spent in Michigan over the 4th of July (where I met the lovely Peg-o-Leg), and three weeks of sick leave.
This summer highlighted what can happen to the best laid plans. I am supposed to be semi-retired. My summers are supposed to be spent with my kids and grandkids, away from the oppressive heat and humidity. I am supposed to be getting into shape. I am supposed to be writing, writing, writing…
Instead, I am working year round, full time (officially) but in reality spending an additional 10-15 hours (unofficially) working on classroom stuff. It is expected. I spend an additional 10 hours a week commuting. I am miles from my beloved kids and grandkids. The “shape” I am in seems to be perpetually “bent out of”. My writing has been reduced to sporadic blogging, and by that I mean sporadically commenting on other people’s brilliant blogs.
My mood has spiralled downward – my outlook becoming so bleak that I find myself wishing everyone would shut the hell up (ME!! The one who loves listening, eavesdropping, peeking into lives, learning the backstory, wisecracking). I cannot even stand my own company. I find myself wishing that I would shut the hell up.
Shootings, scandals, politics, and horrendous daytime television (really? Swamp Brothers? Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Maury? Gack) all conspire to make me wish I could crawl under a rock and stay there.
But no, I have to deal with unwanted company, as well. Both Tropical Storm Isaac (from the South, destined to become a Hurricane before visiting my neighborhood) and the GOP National convention (from the North, destined to become a gaffe-fest, if not a gag-fest) are dropping by. One swoops into the area and there is a lot of wind. The other swoops in and there is a lot of wind. Where are those rocks, again?
Then I remember. I teach because I love it. In this slow-recovering economy I am lucky to have a job, one that I love despite its hours and commute. My kids are great. My grandkids are beautiful – and healthy. I can (and do) turn the television off. I can enjoy writing – if not my own, then that of others. I have read more books in the last month than I have in the last few years combined. My health is returning (if not my shape) – and I have insurance to take care of that humongous stack of bills associated with getting it back. Isaac and the Republicans will all leave at some point. I am praying that few lives are disrupted insurmountably by either.
I am blessed. And I am back. This summer can kiss my flabby butt.