Soooooo, guess what? Summer’s finally here. I’ve got all the time in the world…
And I don’t feel like writing.
The reasons are varied, and maybe you can relate: After a long, wet winter, summer has finally arrived in Portland. The afternoon skies are so sharply blue, it nearly hurts my eyes to look at them. This beauty only lasts so long. So, every day at lunch, I find myself drifting onto my balcony, where a faded lounger and a novel rob me of any interest I might have in writing.
I’m also running again, which means I’m using up a fair amount of discipline to heave my 47-year-old body out of bed at the crack of dawn and fling it down the road several miles. By the time I’ve stretched, showered, walked the dog and fed us both, it seems like the middle of the day, not the beginning. At that point, it’s way harder to make myself write, as I’ve nearly depleted my reservoir of self control.
I could go on: Spanish conversation class, hosting dinner for a vegetarian couple (what the hell are we gonna make?!), tricking out my tiny balcony garden—all these things are much more attractive than writing. Not to mention visits from dear Chicago friends, day trips to the Oregon coast, my annual Fun+Food Fest with my brother. It all adds up to the same old thing: I’m distracted by all the fun in my life, and I just don’t wanna work.
I hated April when I was a faculty member. Whenever I tried to sit down to write, I’d think about how far behind I was, and I’d get that tight feeling in my chest that made thinking nearly impossible. It seemed, at that moment, like the end of the year was lurking just around the corner. But then, when I thought about classes? Somehow the end of the year felt maddeningly far away.
I was reminded of this when my writing buddy and I got our wires crossed, and had to reschedule our meeting. “It’s a shit show,” she said, when I asked how things were going. “Between teaching, hosting speakers, conducting an accelerated job search and trying to write a book…I am done.” When I asked if there was anything I could do to help, her answer was clear. “No,” she said, shortly. “Not unless you can make the semester end now.”
So a few weeks ago, I’m having dinner with a poet friend of mine, and she’s telling me about her new book. Her editor had been ignoring her emails for months, she said, then all of the sudden, just that day, she’d gotten a response saying the book was in production. Was she ready, the editor wanted to know? Was she prepared for her first book event in September? O how nice, I thought to myself, such a nice way to start the fall. While I was thinking that, she said “That’s just six weeks away.”
We’ve just made our way through security and are headed toward our gate when it hits me. “O no,” I say, “no, no.” Whispering to try to make it less true. “Noooooooooooooo.” My husband glances up at me, wondering what I’ve forgotten, and how badly it’s going to screw up our trip.
“The charger,” I say. “I forgot the charger.”
"Look!" he says, as he smiles and brings his rollybag to a why-do-you-worry-so-much stop in front of the airport electronics store. “No big deal.”
Except it’s not the phone charger I’ve forgotten. It’s the laptop charger. And we’re on our way to Juneau, Alaska—a small city at the bottom of a big bowl of mountains. Juneau is beautiful. It’s remote. And it’s refreshingly free of big-box chain stores. On any other day, I’d be smugly approving of that fact, patting myself on the back for shopping local. Today, with my laptop charger back at home in its socket? Not so much.
I heard a rumor last week that summer was over. The person who mentioned it didn’t actually refer to summer’s death. It was more like she announced its funeral. “July is ending,” wrote my friend Amalia, in her no nonsense way, “which means one thing: the syllabus must happen.”
At the time I snorted, filled with the starchy hauteur of a woman in denial. It’s the middle of July, I thought, as I rolled my eyes. That’s a little excessive, isn’t it? Even those of us wrapped in the cocoon of a forthcoming leave feel a muted sense of alarm when August comes around—so I blew off her comment. Then a few days later, I was trying to think through what I wanted to get done the next week, and I saw that “next week” and “August” were the same thing. Damn, I thought. Summer’s over.
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Michelle Boyd. Writer, Scholar, Coach