Christine here. The summer is always one of my most difficult times. The kids are home and need chauffeuring around Pittsburgh to things where there is no parking; my husband doesn’t teach during the summer and inconveniently invites family and friends to come stay for awhile; and, in the division of marital labor, the mowing has fallen to my husband but the trimming, weeding, and planting have fallen to me. And we have a big yard (for a city, anyway).
This is an especially busy summer due to a bunch of other details – a car broke down and stranded me in Harrisburg for a week, then we had to shop for a new car. My husband had to consider every possible car option… before we went out and bought the exact same model we got 14 years ago. The one good thing is that the new vehicle has individualized temperature controls for the front passengers. At this time of life, I am only comfortable with the air conditioning set on Arctic Blast, and my husband takes issue with having to wear a winter coat in the summer just to ride in the car with me.
Some other Difficult Summer details: we are getting some carpentry work done on our exterior cedar shakes and a couple moldings, and we have taken to calling our carpenter “Annoying Man” because he either calls us 5 times a day with questions, comments, or excuses, or doesn’t show up at all. This is in preparation for exterior painting. The garage needs to be replaced, which will also be a lot of money. And, my Dad is sick with some unknown problem that has made him lose 20 lbs. in the past month. That worry underpins all my thoughts.
But, as John Lennon sang, Life is what happens to use when we’re busy making other plans.
It’s been making me think a lot lately about how we choose to spend our time. We all have a certain allotment of time in a day that is our own, and how we choose to occupy it is a big indication of our personality and our goals.
There are truly situations in which we simply “don’t have time” at all – raising small children comes to mind, or caring for someone who is sick, or having an insane job. Then, our time is not our own to choose what we will do and what we won’t – you simply move from one task to the next, marching forward, handling the next situation as it comes.
Many of us are beyond those demanding situations, and we have reached a point in our lives where we can have more freedom to choose how we spend our time. And yet, day to day, doesn’t it still feel that we’re rushing to get this or that or the other thing done? I have a “TO DO” list that I cross off every day, and it has grown to two tight pages. Sometimes my husband “helpfully” adds items to my list. More tick-off squares get added every day. How is this possible?
I’m reminded of that wonderful piece of satire written by Judy Brady back in 1972: “Why I Want a Wife.” She listed off all of the things that wives do, and said she wanted one for herself (Ms. Magazine, premiere issue, 1972). Think of how much more time we’d have if meals were never our responsibility, dishes washed themselves, and someone else figured out the mysteries of food shopping. Since my husband has shown no inclination toward changing his gender, I guess I’m stuck with my situation as it is.
I remember when I was a kid that there was this idea of “leisure time.” That one day, in the future, we would all have jobs that only required about 25-30 hours a week, but we all would have enough money despite that, and leisure time. The image was of smiling families out together driving their big American cars toward some sunny golf course, or beach, or other vacation spot… all tanned, rested, and ready.
In the summers, I don’t have leisure. It’s supposed to be a more relaxed time of the year, but I feel as if I’m scrambling to keep up. There just doesn’t seem to be any time left at all for sitting, relaxing, and braiding.
And, do you know how long it’s been since I just sat and braided a rug????
No wonder I’m going crazy.