All of my life summer has been associated with leisure. It means down time, and fewer tasks and taking space and permission to do fun things with your friends and family. It has been difficult for me over the last decade to learn that summer is now the busiest time of the year. Keeping busy is not hard for me. What is worse is remembering to take an equal and opposite, long breath in the winter.
When the world around me goes screaming back to work in the fall regaling tales of a summer well spent, we are wiping our brows and praying for the light at the end of the tunnel. Even for those that carry on for most of the summer, there is solace in a weekend that comes consistently once a week (something about the name I suppose). As Friday evening approaches and everyone around us is gearing up for time with their friends and family, time to celebrate, time to visit and play, we are ramping up for Saturday’s Farmer’s market. Friday night and Saturday morning is the most intense peak of our weak.
So now that the snow has fallen and the car doors are frozen shut and the skis and snowshoes have been taken down and dusted off, there is finally time to take a holiday. As vacations go, we won’t be getting very far this year. There will be no airplanes or trains or taxis to take us anywhere. There will be no suitcases packed. Getting those chunks of money aren’t easy for us at this time in our lives. Getting those chunks of time away with the risk of water troughs freezing and wood furnaces being abandoned is even more impossible.
But out our door is a haven of snowy trails waiting to be made, and sunshine waiting to warm the skin even in the worst of winter winds. I like to move my body in the winter because it is something I can do – there is more time for it and I give myself permission to do so. In the summer, I do not feel I have this luxury. Instead I allow myself to go into a steady-forward robot mode and forget that I am a human being.
All summer long I envy families packing their tents and canoes onto their vehicles and heading off for small or large stints of escape. Now I appear to be the envy of those privvy to my schedule. I take my children on adventures where possible (swimming or skating). We go to matinees and sit alone in the theatre with our treats. I go for long walks or runs with my dogs or my neighbours. I do creative things and bake because I feel like it (and not because I have to save a bushel of something). I explore new ski trails. I snow shoe over the mountain behind my house. I have even been keeping a regular squash date (the game, not the vegetable) in the town nearby once a week. Life feels glorious.
The only problem I have is that this schedule is lonely. This is not the way most of the people I know operate. Winter is not a time of rest. I am forgiven for my repose by the darkness that hits ever so early in the day. Yet I am still alone in my leisure. Even my husband is chained to rat-a-tat-tatting on his keyboard all day doing consulting work for an organic farmer’s co-operative.
There is a benefit to taking your holiday during other people’s busy workdays. There are shorter lines and thinner crowds in public spaces. Sometimes admittance is even free or cheaper on the odd weekdays. My daughter still climbs onto the school bus most days in the week. My son is visiting his friends in day care a few days each week
There is not enough guilt to cover how it feels to be the only one in the family (and seemingly the world) with no pressure on the day. Even though I spent my summer reminding myself to rest in the winter so that I could be renewed for the next season ahead, it still feels wrong to do so while the rhythm of the people around me is so very loud.
This brings me to something I know to be true about myself. I have always done better with a schedule. I do better with a general order in my day than I do with unending choices. Though I tried to establish some kind of writing routine, I found myself repeatedly without anything to say. Looking back on the times that ideas and words have oozed out of me, there had always been a number of other commitments going on around me when they came.
It seems I need the momentum of the world to drive myself forward in my own endeavours. It matters to me whether I am part of a pack. The ability to choose what I do with my time is indeed a luxury that I value ever so much. But too much time can lead a person to wander far off the path. I know this is hard to believe. If you are drowning in a schedule of meals, work, laundry, extracurricular activities and family commitments you are likely wondering what the hek I’m doing complaining about my situation.
Firstly, I’m not complaining. My life is so ridiculously fantastic right now I can’t quite put words to it. Some days I feel I am at the center of a perfect happiness storm, where multiple factors keep colliding to create euphoria and pleasure every single day. But I have recognized that I am nowhere near meeting my potential. Not as a woman, a mother, a wife, a farmer and most of all, my ability to contribute in the world. What it seems I need most in a week is some kind of routine to act as a flag-pole for the wild rope swinging that serves my creative whims.
If the past is any indication, having a commitment outside of my home is the very thing that has driven me to contribute to the world in other ways. Otherwise, it seems I’m willing to take shelter from the snow squalls of life and lose my momentum altogether (and confidence along with it).
If you’ve ever known extended time away from the world, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it grows stale very quickly. Two weeks or one month is lovely for disengaging from the chaos of our lives. I would deem it absolutely necessary. But there is something about being able to do it as a tribe. Ebbing and flowing as a group can help define our place in the world. It can also render our worth, whether we like it or not.
Not every farmer gets to experience this lull in the workload in the winter and not every working-from-home parent manages to find time to breath. But for me, the combination of the monotonous requirements of running a household and the feast or famine nature of our vegetable business and food processing activities has left me missing out on one important thing in my life. I am without connection to the rhythm of the people around me. There is still entirely a closeness to people. We just don’t move in the same patterns.
If I were a member of a band right now I’d be that girl in the corner dancing to the beat of her own drum. I get it. It sounds wonderful right? Only sometimes, just sometimes, it sounds terribly out of tune.