One of the obvious perks of working in a school district is the summers off. And friends, my summer vacay has officially started! It has taken me 10 years of working in a school district to figure out how to relax and recharge over the summer. One would think this would be a no-brainer. I think of it as running 60 miles an hour for 191 days of the year and then hitting a brick wall. It’s not really relaxing, because you have to recover from, well, hitting a wall. It is an art to learn how to relax over the summer.
[Cut to corporate job people and their sneers and sarcastic tiny violins because they only get a few weeks off a year].
Prebuttal to sneering people who don't understand the summers off situation: Sure, we have summers off, but we also carried the weight of children’s mental health and entire life trajectory in our hands for 10 months. We also did it without sufficient materials, functioning electrical plugs, the fancy “world wide web” access, electronic mail, VOICEMAIL, lunch rooms, fridges free of vermin, box seats to sporting events, and expense accounts. I don’t know, maybe with the recession all you get is the world wide web now, but still. And maybe since I’ve only had a corporate job for one summer, I’m not being fair. But at the same time, you have never been in my shoes, trying to combat the cycle of poverty from a janitor’s closet. So there.
I have totally digressed from my zen speech on how to relax. See how hard it is to shut it off? My summer relaxation project is done in phases. I’m in Phase 1.
Phase 1: The Still at Work Even Though You’re Not at Work Phase. I still think about all my kids, all the testing and reports left undone, all the un-done to-do lists, all the research I should be reading up on, all the ideas for next year, all the therapy games I want to try, all the templates I’d like to update, all the play therapy toys I want to get, etc. I still have residual dreams about IEP meetings and wake up at 7am ready to go to not-work.
Phase 2: The Annoying Phase: I have shed the end-of-school year anxiety and am beginning to relax. I make an unrealistic to-do list of summer tasks that includes items such as 1) Become bilingual, 2) Learn how to reupholster vintage furniture, 3) Write a book, and 4) Train dogs to always do their business in a certain corner of the yard so I can walk barefoot in the grass whenever I want.
When the to-do list gets daunting, I then start pestering people with jobs. Before I got married, it was my roommate. I would call her or IM her with super unimportant thoughts or ideas as they dawned on me. “Hey, Beth, do you think that the couch would look good on the north side of the room?” “Beth, what do you think about the color pea green on me? I mean, my eyes are green, so it could be cool, but should I go with the opposite side of the color wheel, like a purple?” She put a one-call per day quota on me, and I ended up jotting down everything throughout the day, then rattled off my 8 random thoughts to her around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which would carry me through until she came home for dinner.
Now, husband gets the inane news report, often in video form (thanks, iPhone). I text videos of the dogs to his iPhone, using my very best dog voices to pretend like they are having a conversation about their day. “Hey daddy, guess what I did today? I saw a baby deer and chased it. Then, I took a nap.” Sometimes, husband just gets a picture of the animals in cute sleeping positions. My old roommate, Beth is so happy I got married.
Phase 3: The Relaxed Phase I finally get into an awesome relaxing rhythm that may simulate what it would be like to be a Lady of Leisure Who Lunches. I get up, go to the gym, take animals for a hike, finish a house project or two, knit a little, and write a little. I sip herbal tea and reflect on important issues like whether or not I should go to Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond later. Target wins, because there is a 2 story one near my house. TWO STORIES! Can you believe it?!? I love it so much. Then, I may or may not “do lunch” with someone, and then take my nap before preparing dinner. I am rested, and the first sign of back-to-school signs at Target gets me excited to start all over again.
As I’ve gotten used to the abrupt marathon of the school year ending with a brick finish line, I move through phases 1 and 2 rather quickly now. In fact, I may just be halfway to Phase 3 already.
But my husband is still going to get a picture of the dogs laying on bunk beds, one on the top bunk, and one on the bottom. It’s just cute.
And to my educator friends, may you reach whatever your blissful Phase 3 is right away. You deserve it.