I have been peeling wallpaper for a week. My house is old and the projects are always overwhelming and usually dirty. I’ve avoided the sixty years of wallpaper in my children’s rooms for the better part of a decade. This has to be the summer. And so I started to scrape and pull and tear, looking for smooth plaster. I think there are at least six layers – including the painted-over, metallic number on the ceiling. Who chooses a cardboard metallic ceiling? Half an hour into my scraping project I am lost in one of my most productive obsessions: list making. By the end of May and the end of another school year, my creative brain is truncated. I can only make lists.
– Build an inspired reading incentive program for my two reluctant, but bribable boys
– Collaborate with the internet less frequently
– Start sewing Halloween costumes for the planned Hardy Boys theme
– Research world peace prospects
– Write the great American memoir – Cheryl Strayed style
I will pick at these walls for a long time. The project grows by the minute. I have to learn to texture and to install crown molding. And, eventually, I will paint.
It is hard to break away, but I needed something for the blog – something smart and serious. And so I started researching mental health in community college students. I Googled and visited library databases. I scoured PubMed and read old Times articles. This looks like reading, but it feels like a non-consensual bloodletting at the mouth of an electronic leech. My brain was already mush and the bleeping screen threatened to destroy my last bit of sanity. My running shoes beckoned.
I have written that running is like brushing my teeth, but it may be even more important than Listerine and Crest right now – when my feet don’t hurt then I think too much about my lists. So I run. My hubby and I are training for a long race. In just 19 days we will run one of the most beautiful trails in the country – behind hundreds of other real runners. We’ve spent our weekends talking each other through long training sessions and reminding ourselves how much fun it is to put miles on our shoes. My brain is on vacation – storing up momentum for those serious blog entries and another semester of teaching.
There is pressure associated with vacation time. Teachers earn their summers – and it would be crazy to assume that teachers don’t work in the summer – but we also make big plans for our off months. We run long races, remodel houses, write memoirs, develop new classes, and attend workshops and educational seminars – if we’re lucky we read novels. But we have to make it count. Somehow we have to reboot our creative brains and find new energy. The next semester always sneaks up on me. I never complete all of my lists or finish all of my projects. I never write enough or read enough. There is always another run to make or another kid’s outing to organize. So this summer, I will be mindful – I will enjoy the scraping and peeling, I will read more novels, and run more miles. I will make it count.