Tuesday, August 30, 2011

End of summer blues

This is a hard time of the year for me. Reasons for this are many and varied, some totally unnamable. I am bombarded with signs of summer drawing to a close and while I am eager to send my daughter back to school I am also really sad to see the brightest days of the year come to an end. Summer is like Christmas in that way; if the season was extended year-round then it would no longer feel special for the brief time it is here.

But there is more to my melancholy than just the end of summer. It is more about the passage of time and the many ways I am reminded that our lives just keep moving on, regardless of whether or not we are living them to their fullest. There are many ways to track time; seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years, being some of the most obvious. I find myself constantly noticing other, more creative ways to mark time. For instance, how about time lapsed between changing the vacuum cleaner bag? The other day I was vacuuming up cobwebs in the basement to help minimize Martha’s newly-developed anxiety over dead bugs and I realized that the last time I had put a new bag in the vacuum cleaner was when I was preparing to vacuum up Christmas tree needles after hauling said tree to the curb on January 1st. Nearly 8 months have passed since then? I have 8 months worth of dust balls, hair, crumbs, cobwebs and general household detritus in this receptacle? That’s gross; no wonder my vacuum cleaner has no suction. Where the hell has time gone? Yes, this is the rich narrative of my everyday life.

But if you ask me, the academic calendar has always seemed like the most powerful time marker. I haven’t actually attended school in over 10 years but I think most people would agree that after you spend your entire life from age 5 to 18 (approximately) attending school September through half of June (approximately) your internal perception of time functions permanently on this schedule.

The idea that December 31st is the final day of some period of our lives has always seemed a bit meaningless to me. Rarely do I feel a true sense of beginning anew on January 1st. The only thing new is the paper calendar hanging on my wall as we add another year to the chronological date. Not much changes in one’s life from December 31 to January 1. The transition from summer vacation to back-to-school that takes place every September, however, now that is some drastic change. The return to school heralds endless new adventures, both good and bad. New teachers, new classmates and potential companions and new subjects to learn are only the most superficial changes that take place from one school year to the next. School dictates almost every aspect of your life during those first 18 years and with it constantly changing every September, so too is the dynamic of life undeniably altered.

Now that my life revolves around my soon-to-be 3rd grade daughter, my life is once again structured around the academic calendar. Only time passes much more rapidly at my age than it did when I was 9 and I know that every new change that we experience in September will fly by and in no time it will be June and I’ll be wondering where the year went. It’s that feeling of disbelief over the speed of life that really gets to me, as if I have failed to participate adequately in my own life if I am constantly wondering where the time went. Not that participation necessarily equals doing stuff every minute of every day, because being busy often seems to just make time pass even more quickly. Where is the balance? And more importantly, is that why I don’t clean my house more often, so that when I do actually get around to doing my chores it’s yet another reminder of how much time has passed? Seems like a catch 22 in there somewhere. I surely do not want to end each year feeling a glow of satisfaction over having scrubbed my bathroom on a weekly basis. Sorry Martha Stewart, but it’s true. That’s no way to live.

So I’m waiting for my “new year” to begin. I am anticipating big changes, although I have no idea what they might be and I’m not even hoping for anything in particular. I hope I look back on this summer and think it was really fun. I hope my daughter’s paralyzing fear of dead bugs goes away soon. I hope she has a good year at school. Maybe I should hope she learns to do more cleaning around the house, so my sporadic bouts of housekeeping will stop reminding me of the passage of time. Ooh yes, that’s a good one.


  1. nice - I, too, mark the years by the academic calendar (although here it's completely different I've heard); I don't, however, think much about living life to the fullest - whatever that means. And I'm sure I've had a vacuum bag in for over a year, but then maybe I don't use it as often as you. do. (at present, I have to buy a vacuum cleaner, been putting that off)

  2. Living life to the fullest is really a pretty subjective thing. It's quite possible you already are doing just that. My vacuum cleaner is one of my most prized possessions. Maybe I shouldn't advertise that fact.