The Curse of Summer Vacations

Holy moly, it got up to 88 degrees here the other day. If I were back in Florida, I’d be thanking my lucky stars for that nice, cool respite. Here in Seattle, the land of no air conditioners, 88 degrees is pure, unadulterated hell. It’s really hard to sleep when it’s that hot. People start getting cranky and acting crazy. Welcome to summer.

When I was a kid, I used to long for summer. I’d daydream about summer vacation while sitting at my school desk. (I daydreamed quite a bit. I was usually about a dozen lessons ahead of my classmates.) School was tedious for me. I could have moved much faster along my academic path if I didn’t have to drag all that dead weight behind me.

So summer vacation, for me, meant freedom. It was a time of lightening my load. It was my idea of Shangri-la.

I have absolutely no idea why I felt that way. The reality of summer never fit with my fantasies. I came from a hard working, very poor family. It’s not like we summered in the Hamptons or something. My mother had to work. If we went anywhere, we rarely went far, and we didn’t stay for long.

The reality of summer for me was lots and lots and lots of horrible daytime television, interspersed with the escape of library books, and naps. Blessed naps to break up the suffocating boredom. Often by the end of summer I was sleeping all day and watching TV all night.

It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my mind. Maybe I did. Because as soon as school started back up again, I would revert back to counting the days until the next summer vacation. It took me years to stop looking forward with miserable longing. Now is where it’s at, baby.

summer vacation

Napsodizing

You heard it here first. I just coined a term that means rhapsodizing about naps. And, oh, but I can. I genuinely can think of nothing as luxurious as being able to sleep in the middle of one’s day. It’s delightful.

People who have to work hard cannot nap. People whose living situations are precarious or noisy can’t do so, either. Parents of small children consider themselves lucky if they even get a full night’s sleep.

I have planned my entire life around the ability to nap whenever possible. My work schedule is off-kilter, and I impose as few deadlines upon myself as I possibly can. I live alone, so I have no one to answer to but myself.

Most people aren’t that lucky. I’m well aware of this. So when I nestle in my comfy bed at high noon, it feels as though I’m giving myself a great gift.

I also happen to have a dog who loves to nap as much as I do. We will spoon and snore together, and before you know it, hours will have passed. It’s my free version of conspicuous consumption.

Some people will tell you that when you sleep you are wasting time that you should be spending elsewhere. You should be out there living life. To them I say poppycock. Real life exists in those moments of routine, of drudgery, of habit, of killing time, and yes, of napping. I have a rich dream world which I love to explore. I think it’s much more beneficial than watching television or dealing with cobwebs. Naps also help you heal and process your experiences.

I could go on and on about this, my favorite subject. But I feel a nap coming on.

Nap

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Ennui with Aplomb

Oprah Winfrey loves bread. (I can’t get that commercial out of my head.) I love words. Two of my favorites appear in the title.

I suspect 2017 will be the year of ennui for me. The current political climate has left me feeling listless and dissatisfied. It’s as though I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Please send pizza.

But rather than lie around gazing at my navel, I intend to do so in style (hence the aplomb)! I vow this year to take more baths, take more naps, and when the weather is nice, I plan to spend a great deal of time in the back yard, gazing up at the pine trees. I hope to read a lot to stay informed and write in protest a lot and eat a lot of delicious things.

Above all, I hope to not work up enough energy for excessive worry. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Hell is going to break loose without any help from me. As long as you send the pizza, I’m good.

ennui

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Unplug

Recently a friend of mine posted some quotations by the author Anne Lamott on her Facebook page. One that really struck a chord with me was this one:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Wise words indeed. I thought of them last night when my wifi went dead at a critical moment. I was really feeling frustrated as I unplugged the modem and slowly counted off a minute. And I decided that rather than stand there gritting my teeth as the seconds clicked slowly by, I’d do some stretching exercises based on a vague memory of the last yoga class I attended.

Why did I stop doing yoga? I have never felt physically better than when I did it regularly. I have no idea. Time. Money. Habit. Pure laziness. I need to get back into it. I need to give myself that gift.

I also thought about how wonderful my recent day trip to the tulip festival was. I could feel my blood pressure drop. I could feel myself relax and breathe. These things are important.

I need to be more gentle with myself. Take more baths. Take more breaks. Take more naps. Soak up the sun.

I need to be kinder to myself. I need to remember that no one can be as kind to me as I can be to myself. Deep down I know what I need. I also know that while it is necessary to do those things that will allow me to live my life (Damned job! Damned housework!) it is also vital that I not forget to do those things that make life worthwhile.

Then I did one last luxurious stretch, plugged my modem back in, and sure enough, both my laptop and I were good to go again.

frogbillboard

The Luxury of Leisure

Ah, to have a beautiful sunny day and no plans to fill it with! To read a good book, bask in the sunshine, feel a sea breeze across your face, and play with your dogs. To take a nap in mid-afternoon with only the sound of a distant lawnmower to lull you to sleep. Bliss.

How lucky are we to live in the first era in which free time is not only abundant for many of us, but is generally considered a basic right? The pursuit of happiness writ large. Gone for me and mine are the days when one would spend hours simply fetching water, and then more hours using it to cook, clean, and wash clothes.

Gone is the constant anxiety of praying for rain to sustain your crops (although we still should) or praying that the snow will hold off a few weeks more. How heavenly to live in a time when hammocks are used in ways other than to warehouse weary sailors after a hard day’s toil, and pizza can come right to the door!

No pressure on me to marry and produce children and have inevitable miscarriages and preserve my family’s reputation. No growing worry about surviving the cold of winter or the plagues and pestilence of everyday living. I fear neither polio nor pogroms nor the possibility of not living past the age of 35.

How lucky are most of us?

But many a marriage stayed intact when one could go off and chop a cord of wood to stave off the cold or churn butter for the family table rather than bicker about who left their dirty socks in the coffee mug. So much easier to be faithful when you spend the day plowing the field. How many pounds of fat did not strain the heart through the fitness that is borne of hard work? Was it easier to stave off depression when you were focused on mere survival?

I suspect I’d derive a great deal of satisfaction from looking out on the results of a hard day’s work. I believe I’d appreciate leisure time a lot more if it were hard won. I think I would benefit a great deal more from spending less time gazing at my own navel and more time engaging in the wider world.

How lucky are most of us? Hard to say. I’ll think about it more as I lie in my hammock.

Hammock

[Image credit: Digitaldutch.com]