Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer Days

My life has been spent on the academic calendar. It's only the past two years that I've had a year-round job, and since I'm my own boss, even that feels like a bit of fiction. Because I'm married to a teacher and used to be one, the summer is still the time of year I think of as dedicated to recuperation from the ravages of the school year.

I am also a seasonal affective disorder sufferer, so my year cycles through low and high. I am likely to be depressed by December and January, even in a good year, and I haven't had a good year in quite some time. This makes me a much better early-season gardener than a mid-season one. By the time the bulbs start to bloom, I am desperate to see the ground returning to life and beauty, so I watch for the crowns of my perennials with the eye of a scavenger.

I feel no similar desperation about keeping the jungle at bay in July. If it grows, it grows, and around here July is much too humid to do anything outside but swim. And August! Forget it. August is for doing as little as humanly possible, preferably in New England.


But as long as there is air conditioning (and in a bookstore in a humid town, there must be air conditioning!), I get things done in summer, usually in bursts of phone calls and fits of organizing energy. Actually, that's how I get things done no matter what time of the year it is, but during the summer I have bursts of bursts, and need less time to flop and catch my breath in between.

This summer has been something of an exception. I have had one notable accomplishment: I hired a bookkeeper. I have yet to give her any of the stuff she needs from me, but I did hire her.

The other high points of my working summer were, for me, occasions for congratulating myself on having hired and promoted well. I had relatively little to actually do in pulling off the fabulously successful HP7 launch party, and the "Best of" honor that we were given is down to my event coordinator more than to me. She's the one who envisioned and organized the festival that got us noticed in April.

Having hired and promoted well, having been freed from most of my child-care duties while A. was home, I have more or less let things go along without me for a couple-few months while I spent most of my energy on getting my emotional life together in various ways.

That work was long overdue, but it's far from done and there is one week left in summer. I'm worried about the fall. I'm worried that I haven't made enough progress, and I'm worried that what progress I've made was only possible because of the conditions of this summer. I know I'm in far, far better shape than I was this time last year. But I haven't tested that much.

It's almost time to go back to school, and I don't know if I'm ready yet.

(Illustration by Z. [detail])
(The orange spirals are Z. and Mama, but I don't know which is which.)


Phantom Scribbler said...

I don't think it's just the conditions of the summer that have made your progress possible. And I don't think that progress will melt away as the light fades.

You've done good work, S. I think it will hold. And maybe even produce some winter blooms.

jo(e) said...

So much of this post resonates with me. I've had a fantastic summer, with lots of personal growth, but I wonder how much of my feeling great has been because of the sunny weather. Will any personal emotional progress just disappear when I hit the doldrums of February?

I garden that way too -- all my gardening energy comes in May. Once it gets hot, I can't be bothered.

I love the picture.

niobe said...

I have to say that summers tend to leave me with a vague resentment (which, somehow you seem to have escaped) that I'm the one who has to get up every morning and go to work and work for however many hour, while L is on an academic calendar.

But I'm with Phantom on thinking that your steps forward have little to do with summer and more to do with changes in your emotional weather.

Magpie said...

I'd guess that your progress will continue - your groundwork is good and just because winter is coming won't erode it all.

And surely, the orange person in the middle is you, and the orange person lower down is Z.

E. said...

I agree strongly with what others have said regarding emotional work remaining even when other things change. As for the other kinds of work, I think there ought to be a festival in late August in which we formally celebrate Not Getting Enough Done. There is no way to avoid feeling this way. I have never heard of a single person tied to the academic calendar who felt like they accomplished enough over the summer. In fact, I wonder if those of us whose rhythms are connected to that calendar are psychologically built in such a way that we tend to work in bursts and, therefore, always feel like we could have done more. If we valued a regular, methodical pace, we would have been drawn towards different career paths altogether. The bursts are, for us, interesting. The drawback is that having bursts feeds into the fear that more bursts won't happen. A steady pace would alleviate that fear, but it has the potential to feel boring and uninspired. In my own life, I'm still trying to figure out how to have consistency and inspiration at the same time.

S. said...

Phantom, thank you. I hope so. You get much credit that I have made any progress to worry about losing.

Jo(e), reading this comment made me realize of how much farther south I am! By February, we have daffodils, so while it's still pretty grim, I'm finding hope.

Niobe, summer means I can sleep late because A. has no alarm, and she takes Z. most of the time, including mornings.

I hope you're right, but I think I am the living embodiment of the pathetic fallacy.

Magpie, that would makes sense in terms of physical size! But, being bolder and dominating the scene, the one in the middle could also be Z., and the one dancing attendance and trying to keep up is me.

E., you are thoughtful and wise, as always. I have simply given up on consistency--it's not how I work! I alternate between "driven" and "sloth." I *am* starting to appreciate the rhythm of how the two are interleaved.

But I would be totally at your festival, with potato salad and limeade!

Julia said...

I, too, think you have made some good progress that will hold. I think I am a much bigger mess right now, if that helps, and this is why for the first time ever, I don't have an actual job heading into school year. Trippy.

S. said...

Julia, there were three years when I didn't have an actual job going into the school year, and it was like free fall the first year. But it sounds like you're anticipating what you're getting into more than I was.