So That’s Where Summer’s Been: Indoors with the Rest of Us

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, every year I reach my breaking point. When I am just completely out of patience with the heat. By mid to late September every year I find myself thinking “Where in the HELL has summer gone?” as darkness falls earlier every day. But then I quickly realize “Oh wait. It was here.” It’s just that what I think of as summer – a season designed to spend as much time outdoors as possible – stopped by here way back in February or March. Then it just gets too hot to leave the air conditioning.

But finally, things have turned. (Shhhh! I don’t want the sun to hear me and plot its final revenge of the year). This week the highs are below 100 for the first time in months.

Sh*t. I think it did hear me, because as I looked up the forecast to confirm that’s still the case, the weekend highs are over 100, but just barely, so I’m still going to tentatively mark this one in the win column.

Still. Last night, we went for the first of many nightly walks (now that it’s not blisteringly hot), we found that EVERYONE has been going stircrazy with staying indoors. Normally, even once it gets dark, I’ll see AT MOST 2 other people out & about at the park – usually walking their dog quickly before retreating back indoors. But last night, we saw no fewer than 38 people at our humble little neighborhood park. THIRTY EIGHT. A soccer game, a father teaching his son to throw a football, a family throwing a frisbee around, a family grilling some burgers, little ones playing on the playground equipment, and people just out having a nice night. In other words: all the activities I associate with summer, and always will, despite where I happen to live now, where the summer months are associated only with alternating between complaining about the heat and making a game of who can stay indoors more or log more hours floating around endlessly in a pool.

So if you’re looking for me, Baby & I will be in the park. Or out on a walk. Or off on a bike ride. Anything we can do to be outdoors until next summer arrives. Which, I expect to be around next February.

Chicks Who Rock

I was sitting in the driveway rocking out to “Goodbye Stranger” when My Better Half came out to see what the hold up was. When he saw I was rocking out he said “Y’know Supertramp is ALWAYS on some station, isn’t it?!” I said “Maybe. But this is on the iPod. It’s on the ‘Chicks who rock’ playlist.”

My Better Half: “Uh…you realize Supertramp is dudes, right?”

Me, jamming out to the falsetto section: “Is it? Is it reaaaaaly?”

By the way, Queen is on that playlist too.

Unfiltered Thoughts: Procrastination

This morning, sitting at my cube reading blogs as the coffee brewed, I read the improvised life’s post “the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”

I’m not sure where I come down on this one. Obviously sitting on-call in a cubicle 40 hours a week is not what I think I should be doing for the rest of my life, though I’ve got some clear ideas on what that is and while I’ve been taking small steps to get me from the cube-sitting to the working-for-myself part, I still have to be a cube jockey until Plan B starts to pay off. But while I am manning this cubicle, I do procrastinate by writing. So in my case the work I do while procrastinating is the work I should be doing, and I already knew that. But I’m just not sure that “procrastinating” is the right word for what I’m doing, and not just since I don’t have other work that needs to be done. (Disclaimer: At work, that is. At home, I’ve got a mountain of work that needs to be done, but I can’t do any of it from my cube).

I think that’s where the problem with the quote lies (for me, anyway) – the troublesome distinction within the quote that work equals, well, work, and procrastination is, in contrast, not productive, or more specifically contributive to work. That’s particularly problematic when you’re in a creative pursuit, like writing, because you can’t separate one from the other. Sometimes when I write I find that the words that give shape and form to my ideas flow quickly and easily, and I’m simply channeling them onto the page. That’s incredibly rare. Most of the time, I find that I stumble on kernels of ideas and those ideas take time to plant, water, and tend before they sprout, nevermind grow.

I carry around a notebook that is full of one-liners and scribbles of half-thoughts that, once fully formed, could become something, but until they are fully formed, those follow me around like my shadow. I find myself constantly thinking about how to reshape an idea, how to phrase and contextualize it, and how to convey its complexity without being overly stuffy. Perhaps a better example is the list of funny anecdotes or observations that were noteworthy enough for me to write them down for reference, if only I could fumble my way past the anecdote itself to what it is that that moment embodies. But if I sit around and stew about “What does this mean? How can I use this as a vehicle to tell some larger tale?” I’d be sitting here staring at a blank screen for the rest of my life. So I just continue on. I go for walks, go get coffee, play with Baby, make dinners, sit in my cubicle, and maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way, I’ll figure it out and then I’ll get to use that in my writing. But, more likely, I’ll get ‘distracted’ along the way, overhear something interesting in line at Starbucks that I’ll write down in my notebook and chase that scrap instead – either because that has a faster path to my discovery of meaning or because it’s more timely or simply more interesting. The most likely reason, though, is because I’m still struggling to achieve a way to impart meaning to the previous moment. In short: it’s not helpful to sit around thinking “INSPIRATION STRIKE NOW, goddamnit!” But just because I cast that moment aside until later doesn’t make everything that happens in between the recording of the moment and the hours, days, weeks, months, or even years before it becomes something “procrastination.”

The Improvised Life did a follow-up post linking to Brain Pickings’ post on procrastination but I think that this post from Brain Pickings makes more connections for me: “We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it’s only after we stop searching that an answer may arrive.”

In Which I Gain 7 lbs in One Week

In addition to being sick, it has been too goddamn hot to set foot outside my front door. So I’ve not been going for the daily walks I so look forward to once summer is over. The September equinox may have signaled fall’s arrival to the rest of the country, but here it just means that in another month or so I might be able to part the blackout curtains that are drawn all summer long. Which, here, is at least 5 months long, give or take. (Please take, by the way. TAKE IT AWAY. I daydream that some southern hemisphere equivalent of a Nordic god will come and throw his reins around the sun and drag it kicking and screaming right where it belongs: safely underground until further notice. Or maybe Vermont since I hear it’s not all that sunny there? Maybe they could borrow it for awhile…) I get that I should expect it to still be this hot since I live on the surface of the sun but I am just over it. Every year I reach my breaking point, and this year, as always, it comes in September when it should not still be 107 (as it has been all week). I would be shaking my fist skyward as I say that but that would mean I’d have to expose my incredibly fair, delicate skin to even more sun damage. Where fair and delicate should be read as “formerly fair & delicate but now permanently sun-damaged and prematurely aged.”

In addition to being too sick and wiped out to brave the heat to get exercise, I’ve also been too wiped out to make multiple meals, which means we’ve been meal planning around Baby. Bad idea, as she has grown quite picky. Proper meals of a protein and vegetables – grilled chicken with vegetables, a lovely salad with fish – are all out of the question. She won’t eat any meat at all, nor most vegetables. She’s an utter carbitarian. A fruitivore. This means that our menus for the past week have looked something like this:

  • Mac’n’cheese
  • Spaghetti
  • Stuffed shells with pesto
  • Grilled cheese
  • Quesadillas
  • Leftovers of all of the above, served with sides of fruit and cheese

On top of everything else, now I’ve got another issue to tackle this week: our dryer seems to be on the fritz. All of our pants seem to be shrinking…

My Greatest Fears Realized

I have this irrational fear that I will blurt out something that is appallingly inappropriate for the context. Or just plain unspeakably unsuitable for any context. Like if I were in a meeting at work and found the words “I like little boys” falling out of my mouth. Or turn to my in-laws and ask if they want a bong hit. Just completely, utterly inappropriate.

I thought this was just one of the millions of my irrational worries and anxieties. That is, until My Better Half™ told me this anecdote. His friends had a party last night, and the wife went to bed early. But when she retired to her bedroom, she left her phone in the living room, in plain sight. Her husband turned around just in time to see a mischievous friend setting her phone down on the table.

“Um, what’d you just do with my wife’s phone?” he asked the friend, knowing full well that the practical joker was up to no good. The friend explained that he had scrolled through her contacts looking for the ‘girliest name’ he could find and texted that person “Why haven’t we made out in public?”

The woman he had texted? Her boss.

See? I have reason to fear the scenario of having something completely socially inappropriate spilling out of my mouth, or my phone-as-mouthpiece, and being incapable of stopping it. See also: reason to lock my phone. Which I am doing. Right. Now.

Where Have I Been?

I don’t know. I haven’t actually *been* anywhere. Didn’t go away since May for the summer. Or anywhere, really. I’ve just been working sitting at a desk in my cubicle. And getting sick. Repeat.

I’ve been on 6 antibiotics since the spring, but I’m still fighting a chronic awful sinus infection (and periodic bouts of strep throat) that make me feel lousy. Just not lousy enough to stay home, but lousy enough to not be able to keep up with all my normal routines. Between working full-time sitting in a cubicle 40 hours a week and being sick full-time and taking care of Baby, who is now a toddler by the way, I haven’t had time to do anything else, like post here or watch an entire season of Breaking Bad. (Which, thanks to the immediacy of our web culture, has already been ruined thanks to the presumption that if you own a DVR, you must not use it because it’s fair game to discuss it freely and openly within 24 hours of its original airing). So while you can talk to me about Breaking Bad, what you cannot do is stop by unannounced and ask to come in to my house. I will cockblock you at the door and get rid of you as quickly (and politely) as possible so you cannot peer past me to even so much as glimpse the absolute wreck within.*

*This is not to say that My Better Half™ has not been keeping up way more than his fair share of things at home. He has been, as always, a tremendous support in all the cooking, cleaning, diapering, feeding, and everything else that goes into being an all-around awesome partner. But still. He’s only one person.

While I haven’t been anywhere, my mind has been wandering. I’ve been thinking more and more about finding another job until I can figure out a way to work for myself. But the thought, which used to be a polite little occasional rap on the door, has become a deafening roar. It’s like there’s a mob armed with pitchforks ready to break down the door and storm the castle. I can accept that I have to work full-time to provide for Baby (and support My Better Half™ while he finishes grad school). But if I have to be in a cubicle 40 hours a week, I’d much rather be doing something that keeps me busy, at a minimum (though it would be nice if it also kept me interested). I got offered this job when I was laid off and knocked up. I accepted the job because it seemed like a good fit – it made use of my existing skills, it was at a university where I figured I’d be around bright people, and it seemed like a place where I could learn a few things. It’s hard to learn anything when, after a year and a half, I’ve had 2 short-term projects. And I am around bright people – my boss remains the best boss I’ve ever had…but she’s no longer my boss, and she’s leaving soon. And I’ve realized that what I love about being in a university setting is the students, and I don’t work with them at all. As far as I can tell, my job seems largely to consist of showing up 40 hours a week to be available in the event that someone needs something that only takes me a couple minutes to do. So I read blogs. And this morning, I read this post by (Not) Maud, in which she writes that she used to keep herself busy at work by reading blogs because she had nothing else to do. This part really sums up what I think is at the heart of my dissatisfaction with work:

“I’m not the only overeducated underused employee that ever existed, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who ever did this. I’m not the only person with a degree in English to find herself sitting behind the receptionist’s desk or waiting for someone else to schedule a meeting so that she could update a handbook that nobody would read anyway. On a global-economy scale, that’s a lot of unharnessed energy.”

Damn straight. I have a ton of unharnessed energy, and I am more than ready to harness it and put it to work for myself. Not only will that be much more satisfying to me, but I also would be able to spend more time on the things that matter to me – Baby, My Better Half™, and napping, for starters. Bonus: If I worked for myself, I think I would be better equipped to carve out the time I need to get a few weeks rest because this nickel & diming my time off to rest isn’t helping me get over months of being sick. I’ve made a plan and I’m going to keep myself accountable to it.