Oh no! Where did the summer go!!!!?
What does your end of summer feel like? Do you have the end of the summer blues? The wishes of what you had done, what you set out to DEFINITELY accomplish or venture to do that last day in June when “school let out” or your job became a little more relaxed? Did you organize your closets, color code your calendar for each child, read with your child at least 20-30 minutes/day, finish lexia core 5 (yes those of you that know, know!), learn a second language, take the baking class, hike a new trail at least once a week, sit down to write and blog at least once a week, make sure that you were nice to your children most of the day, read a pleasure book! (I kid you not, they do exist! I bought two to read this summer – they look really pretty on my bookshelf 😊, ) make sure that your kids know the times tables, wrote at least one book report, and are on their way to curing COVID (ahem – yes, by not testing and just not….) and saving the planet from climate change?
Well……. I did ALL of that!!!!! Yes and I can honestly say that it was sooooo awesome. My summer was super productive; my kids went to camp, came home and read every night and learned to swim so well that they are trying out for the Junior Olympics after, of course, they win the spelling bee in the Spanish Language (they are such beautiful, fluent speakers), and cook and clean these healthy, well-balanced meals that we sit down as a family and eat every night. We also made several trips to Boston the summer; I mean 8 isn’t too young to start the college search? Jack really liked MIT – he wore his roller blades and made a really cool solar controlled electric spinner that twirled next to him as he furiously devised in his head and out loud such ingenious algorithms that even I, could not understand!
Well……. JOKING, I’m sure you figured that out 😊.
I’m definitely sitting here, the end of August, wondering where the summer went, and feeling sad that I did not do ANYTHING (nor did my kids – well, a few nights they read after the great parent in me told them that they would be embarrassed the first day of school when all of their friends talked about the series of books they had been reading all summer 😊 I did hike, a lot, but it was dampered by falling on my knee early on in the summer and then still hiking, but just more painfully then before. I did play tennis – once with a Division I tennis coach and player – I played really well and man it was good to slug the ball, but my 38 year old non-laterally moving ankle that said “wtf are you doing playing tennis with the intensity of Stephi Graf when you haven’t played in a year and your knee just got better?” Yes, sigh…. The ankle was right and now it’s angry. I did beat my 6 and 8 year old many times on the soccer field – yes, that felt good – well my angry knee told me that I was being mean and, well, it got angry. I did spend a lot of time as an obsessive compulsive person pressing, nudging, testing, regretting, and perseverating over my various ailments. But, perhaps these “ailments” were distractions from the multiple other “issues” this summer. The trips back and forth to doctors in Boston for my youngest and myself. I did point MIT out to Jack, he shrugged and kept twirling (such dexterity, perhaps there is a recruitment for twirling?) and talking (I can assure you it may have been intelligent, but not incomprehensible advanced algorithms). The nerve blocks for the pudendal nerve in both sides in the gluteus maximus (non-doctor lingo – the ass 😊 Oh and yes, congratulations to me, I was the first patient EVER, yes EVER whose tight ass BENT the needle – yup – that ass is so tight a needle couldn’t even go into it – lol. Well, I digress…….
Maybe, it’s time to move on, be a little more real, and not cloud over everything with humor, silliness, and shrugging off when anything gets just a little bit too deep, hurtful, and difficult. The truth is that I didn’t go into the summer in the best frame of mind. The hurt knee really did me in as did getting out of my routine right when I hurt it and constantly testing it. The constant motion, pressure of life and of caregiving and of setting the bar higher and higher, was bound to make me crash. Our amazing one week vacation got a little bit rained on by hand-foot-mouth disease, rescheduling the youngest’s surgery (from an area with no cell service and poor wifi) and rearranging schedules. Surgery scheduled for the first few days of school beginning at the college, where I work, and for my kiddos. Awesome timing – well why not? Tuesday after labor day weekend – what a way to kick of the year. 30 minutes on the phone (just on hold) trying to figure out and schedule a PCR test for this child within 48-72 hours over labor day weekend for a three year old. No, pediatrician will not do. They will only see sick visits; yes, I already blurted out, well what about if he “doesn’t feel well, then they see him and do a PCR test?” Yup – I blurted that one out loud while on the phone with their office – not such a warm response back as you can imagine. Yes, I immediately tried to collect myself and apologize and say I understand, but the real inner me (yes, it stayed inner) wanted to say “I’ve -ucking scheduled this surgery twice, lined up hotels, childcare, etc. and now you won’t take two seconds to swab this poor three year old and we will have to drive to South Hampton or North Hampton OR reschedule surgery in Boston with a top pediatric eye and ear physician because YOU can’t fucking figure out how to swab this kiddo’s nose. And why are we still testing for this -ucking virus anyway? He has it and he feels sick, he doesn’t have surgery, what about if this horrible, dumb test is a false positive? Talk about my luck!!!!!!! -uck, -uck, -uck!” Yes, lots and lots of anger in there – lol. Funny how I have no problem saying -uck but something about writing 20 curses down on paper makes my bad language that much more permanent!
I bit my tongue, it’s no one’s fault, and figured it out.
Thin ice – yes, you remember that game? Okay, maybe not, so I’ll explain. Tissue paper laid out to hold wet marbles – one after the other carefully placed on the tissue paper – strategic as not to make a hole in the paper so that all of the marbles fall through – ultimate breakdown. It is possible to have a slight tear in the paper and for the paper to still be functioning to hold up the marbles (aka – myself a lot of the time, before I’m able to refresh, regenerate, and change the tissue). At this point one more marble REALLY runs the risk of dumping all of those marbles to the ground. It’s probably not advised (most therapists would say, which is usually after the marbles have fallen, because what brought you to therapy anyway?) to keep adding ANY marbles and CERTAINLY NOT wet marbles onto the already very fragile and slightly structurally damaged tissue.
Well, here’s the problem…. When do overachievers, overpleasers, overextenders, type A personalities, people who just know that they can handle one more thing or do one more mile, or do one more __________ (you fill in the blank) know that they CAN’T? Well, they don’t or at least I don’t. I don’t. For as many times as my mantra is “I can’t do this or I can’t do that…” that’s one mantra that is just a broken record that I never listen to. I can’t sounds “bad” and defeated. We were taught at a young age that we “can” – (Think of the little engine that could) and if we didn’t than we failed. We were taught to think of everything swinging on a pendulum from one side all the way to the other. Not a spectrum, but a diagnosis or a label. “Did you hear that she actually did that? She climbed all the way up to the top of Mt. Kilamanjaro!” (She CAN) and “Yes, such a shame, she almost made it to the top, but then she had to stop because she almost lost all of her toes from frostbite. She just couldn’t do it.” (She CAN’T). Really? The second person tried and almost made it, but she just is a “CAN’T”. But, here’s the question, what do people sacrifice in order to “CAN”? Their physical wellbeing? Their mental sanity? Their perspective on life and what they truly do want to gain from being a living being? For many, yes. For many, no – they set themselves up to never fail, because they don’t grade everything as CAN and CAN’T and they don’t keep on testing their human limits and capacity or pushing themselves to an unsustainable state of being.
What do people do if they can’t control the cascade or torpedo of marbles that descends onto the tissue paper? Is there an alarm that goes off and diverts the torpedo? There should be. I remember years ago working in the Emergency Room at a big urban hospital. When the ER got too crowded and physicians would not be able to handle any more patients and deliver optimal care, the patients in the ambulances (that could) would be diverted to nearby hospitals. Here’s the question, who or what is your diverter acceptor? Do you allow someone to accept your diversions and trust them? Are there enough “hospitals” or individuals within your trusted network to help absorb the weight of all of those wet marbles?
It's really difficult. None of us really know our breaking point until we break. We can always take on more. We have to take on more before we have refueled, mended, healed (whatever you want to call it - gone back to baseline?). If you are walking up a mountain and need a break at the halfway mark, but at the halfway mark, you realize that you are actually only a quarter of the way up the mountain (essentially, more has been added to your journey), how does that effect your demeanor and your ability to continue to journey up? That's a big blow if you're tired, hungry, uncomfortable; one quarter? really? And, if you're the leader of the pack and have to tell them this news, how does this effect the tenor of the group? How can you, as a leader, "cushion" this difficult news to a tired group of hikers and that you had misread the map?
There really is a ton more to say on all of these topics. How do you cope with not "achieving" all of your goals (by the end of the summer or metaphorically) and rebound, but in such a way that you do not take on more and that you learn limitations, needs to delegate, learn to trust, and really spend a lot of time and effort on self-care? What does your self-care look like? How do you stop receiving "wet marbles?" How do you escape from the weight?
Finally, and these are what I need to ask myself, because I'm such a great offender of blurring boundaries and not setting limitations on myself as well as having unreasonable expectations and demands:
1). Have you ever reached that bar of accomplishments, giving, expectations, and demands that you consistently are reaching for, or does it just keep moving up higher and higher?
2). If you actually do reach that bar at the end of the day, month, or year, do you continue to set a bar that is higher and not be satisfied with your current level of functioning and achievement?
3). Finally - do you really think that a moment at the bar is worth the calluses, the danger of falling, the self-sacrifice and exhaustion (mentally and physically) that the journey gives you?
Each day, you can't run a marathon; each day can't be the great trek; each day doesn't have to have a bar, some days (and I'm terrible at this!) are about lowering yourself down, laying flat reading a trashy novel, binging on Netflix, and refueling.
Yes, and so, as we go into the new school year - remember all of the above :). Just kidding. But, do remember to rethink your expectations and your "output" and concentrate on the journey and how the journey leaves you feeling - I'll try as well :).