Authored by Michelle Portera
It’s almost here! Fun, exciting, leisurely times ahead, a break from being pulled in all directions. Maybe there are plans to travel, or plans to read that stack of books on the nightstand. It’s a hopeful time.
As much as I resist it, the sudden slow down in pace leads to a predictable pattern in my thoughts and moods. I’m going to be vulnerable here and describe this phenomenon because SURELY there are other 10 month employees who can relate in some way. Please say there is. Regardless, here it goes.
The first 2 weeks of break I feel FREE from the demands of the world. The introvert in me has no problem retreating into my shell, ignoring the phone, and taking a social media pause. My days are spent in pjs, catching up on Netflix, leisurely cooking meals instead of frantically throwing them together. In this window of time, it’s kinda fun to clean out closets and cabinets and take care of the random things I’ve been meaning to do. This luxury feels worth the effort required to make it to this point.
But after that. . .
Things take, I wouldn’t say a turn, but they definitely swerve. If my mind is a car, my steering is a degree or two off the mark, and almost imperceptively I start to drift toward the edge of my lane. It begins to take more effort to keep my thoughts at equilibrium. As someone who is no stranger to depression, this is when I pull out all the tools and tricks to reassure my brain and body that everything really is ok. In reality, this is my subconscious’ response to the change in schedule but it’s easy to start finding fault with other things to explain away my malaise. The motivation, which came so easily before, drops during this time and I start to feel guilty for not doing enough and crossing things off the to-do list. I lack the energy, but tell myself I should be rested enough by now and later on I will regret being so lazy.
Other people are out doing amazing, world-changing things and what am I doing? I’m certainly NOT scrubbing the fridge or prepping freezer meals for busy weeknights. You probably know about the tricks and tools I referred to earlier. Pick up the phone and call or text friends, especially those way down on the contacts list with whom it’s been a minute. Ask the kids if they want to play a game. Sometimes I flop down on my teenage daughter’s bed and read next to her while she’s on her phone. Eventually, we end up watching funny animal videos together. These things really help, but it’s the “choosing to do them” that is hard at the moment. Who even was that girl who thought she could get to the bottom of the laundry or paint the kitchen? Never heard of her.
What I’ve learned not to do: commit to something out of character, like running 5 miles a day or starting a side hustle. It’s easy to say yes when we have the luxury of time, but will our future selves be happy about it?
The strongest, most recent tool I’ve acquired is called being nice to myself. To accept this shadow side of my reality and befriend it with care. At the Lower School, as a rule, we pledge to “be nice to ourselves and others.” Oftentimes, it’s obvious how we can be kind to others but so far my 40’s have been spent learning to be kind to myself. It does get easier with practice.
Phase 3 of summer mood: Summer Lady emerges from her chrysalis! That’s the name my husband gave my summertime alter ego. She’s adventurous and knows how to have fun. She isn’t cranky in the evenings like School Lady. She stays up late. But this year, Summer Lady plans to make a flexible schedule to guide her summer days and make the transition more smooth. This agenda will make time for doing nothing and also plan opportunities to do a few things School Lady would approve of. We will see how it goes! Will it disrupt the pattern? Is the pattern inevitable no matter what? Regardless, I remain grateful for all the passing seasons of life and what they teach us.