Summer unsettles me. For the last three weeks I walked through my days drunk with free time, having gone from the manic pace of the end of the school year (exams and graduation) and the beginning of the summer Sunday School program, to a single (part time) job. The manic pace is the pace of the week from September through June. I put in six and seven day work weeks as a matter of course. I am fortunate that some of those days last only a few hours, but there is always something work-related on my schedule. That is the wonder of working what amounts to three part-time jobs, none of which is really part-time. When I add my daughter, who stays with me three days out of seven, into the mix, I really have no trouble getting from waking up to falling asleep with more than an hour here or there to sit idle.
As busy as I am, my schedule gives the day a durable structure. It does not feel so much like a limit on my time, as much as something that opens specific spaces that are “not work” in each day. During the school year, I sip my idle time, and cherish it as something special. I fit in an hour of writing, and it serves as a counterweight to the all the rest of the day’s efforts.
Then comes summer. My schedule opens up, and idle time drinks me down in one single swallow. I can watch six hours of news at the drop of a hat, or nap while old, favorite movies play on Turner Classic Movies, or stand in the kitchen and pet the cat who likes to eat on the windowsill while being petted. The three hours it takes for the dishwasher to sanitize bottles passes while I walk for gelato; I could eat gelato for days. Work, work of any sort, gets in the way of lazy naps. Licking a postage stamp would take too much effort. Small balls of cat fur collect on the carpet; I give them names.
What happened to the grand plans? Wasn’t there a romance I was going to undertake? Don’t I have the outline of a novel festering somewhere? When will I install a properly working garbage disposal? I have scads of miles built up on Southwest, aren’t there friends I haven’t visited in years?
Nothing. Inertia wraps its warm comfortable fingers around my wrists, and holds me tight with the insistence of a dirty secret: I love to be idle. Nothing to do is my idea of heaven, and I can do it with sluggish zeal. Do less! Do less! Forsake your obligations and practice closing your eyes! This is not “genius at work” time, unless I am the genius of laggardly living.
But then I do this, I write about it, and the spell is broken. How did I forget words, the deeper determined secret that I tried to deny, and which surface from even this short (and all too long) dormant time and claim me? I may not be the self-ascribed martinet of the school year and yet I feel compelled by word and dream to get back to it. And so I do.