If you’d asked earlier this week, I’d have told you it wasn’t going to happen. I was resigned to it. I figured I’d finish when I finished, and everyone would just have to be patient. In fact, I was ready to write a blog post about how it feels when you set a goal and you just don’t reach it.
Then came Saturday.
Mind you, I had plans. My house desperately needs to be vacuumed and dusted. I have stacks of papers, magazines, and documents on practically every flat surface. The clutter is embarrassing. The dust is probably unhealthy (especially for someone with asthma). So my plan for today was to vacuum, dust, and put things away. A noble plan, to be sure.
Okay, not a major problem. Not compared to what some people are dealing with this week. But it’s a problem for me.
My book is all over the place.
It’s my own fault. I’m the one who started writing random pieces here and there, figuring they’d eventually fall into place. It’s always worked before. But this time, the story is resisting.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Connecticut Book Festival. Except for the brief period when I read from State v. Claus, I spent the day sitting at my book table, chatting with anyone who came over.
Two years ago, I wrote a story entitled, “The Women in the Club.” It was about the family of a man who committed a heinous crime. The story felt a bit edgier than what I normally write, but I believed the topic was worth talking about. My writing group loved it.
I began to send it out both as a regular submission and a contest entry. Every time it was rejected, I edited again to see if I could make it just a bit tighter, sharper, clearer.
Like so many, I grew up with the school-year routine: after a summer of fun and relaxation, work begins in the fall, continues through the winter (albeit with a couple of breaks), and wraps up in late spring. Even though we non-educators don’t actually get the summer off (other than an isolated vacation day, or maybe a cherished week or two if we’re very lucky), there’s still the sense that life slows down in the summer, only to ramp up in late August in anticipation of a return to the over-full schedule of classes, sports, rehearsals, homework, commitments, subscription series—not to mention resumption of all the tasks and deadlines that we pushed to the side while our colleagues and clients were away and we basked in the peace of their absence.
The summer is slipping away. In a mere few weeks, students will return to school for the fall semester. Here in the U.S., the arrival of Labor Day (first Monday in September) signals the unofficial end of summer and the official return to the usual hectic pace of the rest of the year.
For me, this summer has felt unusually long. Beginning as it did with my father’s death on the day after Memorial Day—coincidentally, the unofficial start to the summer—June was consumed mainly with the logistics of the memorial service, estate management, and working out a new Mom-care routine. As June slipped into July, my mind turned slowly to other matters, such as my novel-in-progress and my billable workload which, as in the past, lightened in the summer. I discovered the town pools and embarked on a semi-regular routine of swimming a few times a week. I signed up on several occasions to distribute vegetables after church, a simple task that requires nothing more rinsing off what has been harvested from the church garden and spreading the harvest on a table out by Farmington Avenue so anyone who wishes can enjoy garden-fresh produce.
Last week, I went swimming for the first time in years.
In my town, there are several options for people who want to swim. There’s a small rectangular pool near my house, the Grange Pool, with a separate round wading pool for the babies. At the other end of town is Addison Pool, which is larger and much more heavily kid-populated. The pool at the high school is the only indoor one; I haven’t been there, but I’m told is regulation-size and open year-round. Eastbury Pond, which is sand-bottomed and reminds me of the town swimming hole where I grew up, is ideal for those who want to go to the beach but don’t feel like driving an hour to get there. Cotton Hollow Preserve, located next to the Grange Pool, includes trails I’ve hiked as well as a swimming hole that seems to be popular with the high school crowd.
As we come to the end of a holiday weekend with undeniably spectacular weather, I sit on my porch and reflect on what I didn’t do:
I didn’t mow the lawn
I didn’t pull the weeds that are taking over the back garden
I didn’t put away the towels in the laundry basket
I didn’t go to the beach
I didn’t go to a cookout
I didn’t invite anybody to a cookout (which, admittedly, would be challenging since I don’t own a grill)
I didn’t organize my disorganized office
I didn’t empty the dehumidifier in the basement
I didn’t exercise (my Fitbit tells me I’ve walked 2,174 steps today)
And then there’s the list of things I need to do before the end of the day, but still haven’t done yet even though the sun is going down: empty trash, take can out to the curb, empty dishwasher, refill it, feed cats (as I am periodically reminded by those on the porch with me).
But all these nonachievements pale beside what my most remarkable achievement:
Thirty-two years ago today, I came home from a temp job. Shortly after I got home, my parents pulled up, and my father put on a backpack as they walked across the yard from the parking area to my door.
Let me back up a bit.
Two days earlier, on Saturday, June 30, 1990, I moved my piano into my new apartment on in a three-family house on Main Street. The next day, my family and friends moved all my stuff from my apartment in Stamford to the new apartment. My friend, Scott, stuck around long enough to help me spread out the living room rug. Then, they all left, and it was just the cats and me.
Somewhat unbelievably, I did it. In spite of major personal challenges that offered me every reason in the world to quit—or simply not to start in the first place—I finished this year’s #1000wordsofsummer challenge.