I start making plans for the summer sometime after the first eighty degree day. I think it was imprinted on my circadian clock as a child. The weather gets warmer and I start to dream of days that last forever.
My plans are predictably ambitious. This year I thought I might begin by finishing edits to my novel while writing the synopsis. In addition, I had hoped to start five new short stories so I could have a pipeline for fall submissions. I would run five miles daily and reinvigorate my yoga practice. I would learn the Dvorak quartet and dust off my too-long-neglected classical guitar. I would weed the back garden and de-clutter the house. When fall arrived I would be refreshed and renewed and ready to start the school year off right.
Then summer began. I did get a shift in my routine. It looked something like this; get up, drive the Dude somewhere, come home, do housework. Pick the Dude up. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I found time to write, I knew my time was limited. I would sit at my computer and think to myself, “You have five minutes. Write something!” No pressure or anything. Nothing fuels creativity more than the left brain screaming at the right, “Hey lazy butt, if you’re going to sit and drool, go out to the garden because the plants could use watering.” The left side of my brain is sort of a bitch.
It happens to me almost every summer and I’m still shocked by it. Like Charlie Brown, I keep thinking this time the football will be there when I’m ready to kick it. Here it is, August, and I’m no closer to meeting my goals than I was in June. I was kind of bummed out.
Then it occurred to me that like tossing the New Yorker magazines, the easiest way to eradicate guilt over not meeting unrealistic performance goals is to get rid of the performance goals. At least for the moment.
Instead, I will change my mental calendar. I am a mother. I do not get summer vacation. This is the parental equivalent of tax season. I’m on duty nights and weekends, and have a plate full of projects. It’s part of the territory. My vacation starts in September and lasts nine months. Yes, I have other stuff to do, and my responsibilities don’t go away, but I have from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (at least during cross country season), uninterrupted, to do my job, which is to write.
Summer is melting away like a popsicle, and I am telling my left brain that until September comes, bite me. Without the self-applied pressure, I will enjoy my time with the Dude (who is as entertaining as all getout) rather than worrying about what isn’t happening at home. I will drink iced tea and read books and barbecue and jot notes. When school is back in session, my creative side will be rested and ready to start again.
My Gmail calendar has a big smiley face on September 3rd, because that is when I get my life back. The Dude doesn’t appreciate my personal happy dance. He says that I am a heartless viper. I say “Hisssss.”
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Sunglasses” by Vivian D. Nguyen © 2008 Creative Commons