I think the problem starts when our expectations are too high.
Have you ever heard all about a movie or a book, read rave reviews, heard friends “oooh” and “aaah”, and then you go to see it or you read it? And it’s really very good, but it can’t possibly live up to the hype and those sky-high expectations. You sort of set the bar too high. It’s typically doomed to fail. Or at least fall short.
Well, I’ve started to think that summer can be like that for teachers. We expect extraordinary things from our summers. I, for instance, somehow think that miraculously, I will be able to accomplish every single thing that was pushed to the side, ignored or neglected during the school year–investing time into relationships, self-care, choice reading, household maintenance, exercise, etc and finding time to rest and rejuvenate. Not to mention reading professional books, attending PD, catching up on current kid lit, etc.
I’m in the midst of my much-anticipated summer, and I feel like much of it has already slipped by me and thedaysaregatheringmomentum, hurtlingfasterandfastertowardfall, and, inthemeantime, verylittlehasdisappearedfrommymulti-page “To Do This Summer” listandI’mstillwaitingtoslideintothatsummergroove,butinsteadofrelaxing, I’mstartingtofeelstressedbythepassingdays(OMGit’salmostAugustalready!). Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
I realize that this is slightly ridiculous, but it feels very real. My self talk has also taken on a frantic, and perhaps toxic, tone:
“Time’s a wastin’! Hurry up! Recharge! Rest! Relax! Quickly now! Oh, and don’t forget that list. Clean! Sort! Organize! Or at least clean out your office–which really is a disgrace. That grass isn’t going to mow itself, you know, and the gardens are out of control. Have you read that book yet? What’s the last thing you wrote? Did you retype and synthesize your notes from the June Reading Institute? How about that reading camp? How are you doing with that,huh? Are you relaxed yet?”
Ugh. Even as I write this, I realize how messed up this all is. Or how messed up I am. There are so many things that I “need” to do, that all too often, I end up overwhelmed and do nothing. It feels like summer is my one chance to get it all done–sort of like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But time’s passing and I’m not getting much done….What? Wait! Hold on a second! Do you hear that? Listen carefully. (click below)
Oh, yeah. That feels like the soundtrack of my summer…the sound of summer passing. The constant sense that time is running out and when that timer buzzes, at the end of summer, what will I have to show for this long stretch of carefree golden days? Because, before you know it, that moment will arrive. The buzzer will go off. And I’ll need to reveal my answer to the the ultimate final jeopardy question: How was your summer?
So today I’m asking myself– How do I want to answer that question at the end of this summer? I still have more than a month of summer break. That’s lots of time. Really it is. (Though I am NOT counting the days and I have asked the librarians to please NOT tell me when my books are due–I don’t want to know what date is only three weeks away!) I’m the one choosing to give that anxiety-inducing music rent-free space in my head. I’m in charge of my self-talk. And when it comes down to it, many, if not most, of my expectations are self-imposed. The “List Police” aren’t going to come knocking on my door come September if there are unfinished items on my, let’s face it, ridiculously impossibly long to-do list. So, what is most important to me this summer?
I don’t have all the answers yet, but starting today, I’m reclaiming my summer. I’m going to shift my focus and alter that self-talk. I’m going to choose the soundtrack for my summer, and I can guarantee, it’s NOT going to be the Jeopardy challenge song. I’m going to look for the fun in the seeming drudgery (Thanks, humbleswede!) and make a conscious decision to plan some summer fun and to set thoughtful goals and priorities for myself (Thanks, cmargocs!). I’m going to revise that “To Do” list into something more reasonable and become an active agent in creating a really nice summer for myself. I’m not aiming for a bestseller or a blockbuster, more like a feel good beach read. That feels pretty do-able.
In the meantime, I’m still considering my new summer theme song. Any suggestions?