Hello! I know I’ve been gone for a while and I feel I owe you an explanation for that. In mid-June, I left for my first post-Covid vacation and this one was going to be a doozy! Ever since I started teaching back in 2003, I’ve taught summer classes. For the first time, I didn’t have summer classes scheduled and, due to some organizational changes at my university, I’m taking on greater responsibility in the fall, but had my summer basically open. so when I was working on scheduling this vacation with my old college roommate (let’s call her “ZenDeb“), we both kept saying, “I wish it was longer.” Then we suddenly realized that it could be and – poof! – I wound up taking nearly a month off. (Well, mostly. I still checked work emails and dealt with a very few issues during my time away. Darn Puritanical streak crossed with Calvinist theology!)
That length of time away is nearly unheard of in American society. We are famous for not taking our piddling vacation days and pride ourselves in going in to the office while dealing with “just a little cold.” Covid forced us to stop some of that nonsense by laying bare the problems with stingy workplace sick day policies, the lack of reliable child care, the hostility toward remote workplaces, and a host of other issues. Here’s hoping that we construct a better, more sane workplace environment in the coming months and years. (And don’t even try to excuse American workaholism with productivity. Plenty of other countries with more humane workplace policies are on par with – or better than – us when it comes to productivity.)
While I did an astounding amount of way-cool things during my long-overdue time with ZenDeb – including glass blowing! – some of the best times were spent just sitting and thinking. (And painting chonky cats.) All of us have come through a shockingly tough time in the last year and a half. Our regularly-scheduled lives were upended without warning and the world just sort of – exploded. And we all handled things as best we could, with no roadmap whatsoever. You put people under that degree of stress and strange things will happen. (For me, part of that was needing to actually borrow a duffel bag to bring the ridiculous amount of shoes I bought back home with me! Yes, it’s true, and I regret nothing.)
I didn’t even realize how much pressure I had been shouldering. It gets that way. You just keep trudging onward and then, when you finally are able to let the burden slip to the ground, THAT’s when you realize how hard it had been to just put one foot in front of the other.
And while now is an excellent time to decide how you want to move forward, I strongly suggest that you first take some concentrated chunks of time to reflect on the road behind you. That might happen while you’re walking the dog, or painting your nails, or working on your backswing. You might be gently separating tangled radish roots or maniacally watching Parks & Rec episodes. But I implore you, don’t let this crisis go to waste. We have a rare chance to literally remake huge portions of our society, if we will but take it. It’s okay to start small, but you have to start! Otherwise, you run the very real risk of being those people Jimmy Buffett sings about in “Cowboy in the Jungle” – and it’s not a good look for any of us.
For example, I chanced upon an article about a horseback riding place out in the county about a half-hour from where I live. I grew up riding horses and rode all through my college years. I was never much of a competitor – I believe I have a fifth-place ribbon from my one college show tucked away in a trunk upstairs – but I love everything about it. The sweet smell of hay and wood shavings, the feel of oiled leather reins, the ticklish brush of a velvety muzzle as a horse snuffles up an apple slice from your open palm, even the dirty task of mucking out a stall – I really love it. But college is a long time ago and, while I don’t need to re-learn everything, I’m not the willowy slip of a girl that I was back then, either. Normally, I don’t think I would have done anything with the information – I would have just sighed and wished. Instead, I decided that the article was a wake-up call. It WASN’T too late. Maybe I’d make a fool out of myself, but — well, wasn’t that my prerogative?
What I was NOT expecting was my Beloved’s willingness to not just go visit the barn with me, but to join me for lessons! Keep in mind, my Love’s experience with horses is limited to, as he put it when asked about his level of experience, “Well, I’ve watched Westerns.” But here we are, tackling this with the shared goal of going for a trail ride on vacation some day. Together.
Not at all a bad way to go through life, and one that has certainly brought me joie.
Find joy, Divas!