I am exhausted at the end of every school year. It’s hard work being a teacher. Sure we get summers off, technically, sort of. But after months of pouring myself out in the service of my students, I need that break to recharge. If I’m going to arrive back at school in late August ready to do it all again, I desperately need that recharge time.
But here’s the thing. All school year I’ve noticed bits and pieces here and there that really need to be taken care of: we can barely close our pantry doors, my closet is about to explode, the weeds have taken over the garden, and on and on. And I tell myself that come June, I’ll tackle those little jobs. Plus I need to get a jumpstart on my classroom prep for next year if I’m going to avoid 10-11 hour days. (Seriously, the janitor and I become good friends last year I was there so late.)
In my mind, there’s this long unbroken stretch of sunny days in which to lounge around and read. Heaven. Only there’s all this stuff to get done! And, really, I tell myself it’s not like it’s a whole lot you’re trying to get done.
And so here we are in the mid-July and I’m starting to panic about how nothing has got done yet this summer. Nothing. Well, I did finally get the vegetable garden all planted. (It’s not all growing yet, but it’s planted.) I feel like I’m working hard, but not making any progress. Why is that?
Part of the problem is my work habits. I have great habits and I work hard. But I am incapable of doing anything for an extended period of time. The thought will trigger procrastination every time. And I have this back thing that means I can manage a physical job for no more than 15 minutes before it needs a break. So, I set my timer for 15 minutes at a time. It works great. Except that when the timer goes off, I work on something else. Which means I have several projects started, but none to cross off my list just yet.
Which brings me to the real root of the problem. The. List. When it was floating around in my head, I only thought of one or two items at a time. Why can’t I manage one or two items? So I wrote down everything swirling around in my brain that I had planned to do this summer. People, there are 15 projects on that list. None of them are quick little jobs. No wonder I’m feeling a bit scattered. I gave myself 15 projects to finish this summer. That’s in addition to the “normal” summer garden chores.
So, what’s a girl to do? I’m chipping away at some of them. I got compost spread on one of the beds where I am replanting a hydrangea after I killed it by pruning. (I had no idea that hydrangeas are not fond of short haircuts.) I have the first few months of school roughed out for my elective and the first week for my math classes. And I think that is what I will continue to do. A little bit here and a little bit there.
But what I will stop doing right now, right this instant, is get after myself for having the recklessness to sit on my porch and read or eat a bowl of ice cream. I won’t get the whole list done. I probably won’t even come close. And I will choose to be OK with that. The bedroom might not get painted and I might go yet another year without a solar oven. (It’s been on my list for a few years now.) But I will not mind. I will be happy that I invested time in people I care about. I will revel in sitting on the porch and reading. I will take naps. And I will not feel guity about any of it.