Warming up to the unpredictability of summer

by Kristin on June 8, 2010

in Love, family & community

The end of the school year painfully reminds me what a creature of habit I am. I love the regular routine of September through May—kids out the door and then back home again at predictable times, meals and bedtimes on a fairly steady schedule, and the weekends to add some variety.

Summer’s arrival always messes with my equilibrium. Not only are we out of that particular academic year routine, but there’s no hope of replacing it with anything resembling a new rhythm for summer. Each week, at least one of our three girls has something completely different happening, requiring rides to various locations at random times with unexpected food and gear needs.

To make matters worse, the regular schedule we share with the girls’ other sets of parents pretty much disintegrates, due to summer vacation and travel plans. In essence, our family calendar has to accommodate not only our family of five, but also two other households. It’s enough to make me want to spend all summer on a beach somewhere, buried in escapist literature.

Loosening my grip on time

I wish I was more go-with-the-flow, but when life starts feeling scattered and unpredictable it becomes really difficult for me to focus and use my time efficiently. “Time” seems to be a regular theme for me, lately. I posted here about my view of time in economic terms, as something spent, invested and lost, and I posted here about the importance of giving myself time (and permission) to let my mind wander. Clearly I’m struggling against the rigid parts of me.

Luckily, Jason decided we should spend this past weekend at his childhood friend’s cottage, on a lake in Wisconsin. Since this was his birthday request, I didn’t even think about logistics, the amount of work I needed to do at home, or any other practical aspect. I just hopped in the car and traveled north.

And it was exactly what I needed. Almost every single thing we did was out of the ordinary—out of our routine.

We don’t watch TV at home, but in Wisconsin we went to a small-town bar to watch the Blackhawks play hockey, joining a room full of boisterous fellow fans. We’re usually getting into bed by midnight, but we got into Steve’s boat at midnight and cruised around the lake, talking and looking at the stars.

Most mornings I listen to the news on NPR, but at the cottage, I walked down to the dock to visit with the incredibly social clans of Purple Martins who live in houses set up there for them. We don’t have lakes in our cornfield town, but in Wisconsin we spent three hours on the water, screaming and whooping when the boat was cutting curves at breathtaking speeds, then putting down an anchor to dive and swim off the boat. Later, we took naps in peaceful, cottagy rooms. We ran through a downpour. We ate dinner at 10 pm then played Catchphrase until 3 am. Nothing was like it is at home.

Finding joy outside of the ruts

I was reminded, over the course of the weekend, that sometimes being refreshed isn’t just about “taking it easy.” Often it’s about mixing things up—getting out of our ruts, being with different people in a different environment, on a different schedule.

Today I read this post about joy over at Students of Jesus. Ray begins by telling about a friend of his who likes to remind him that “serious” is not a fruit of the spirit, but joy sure is.

I think maybe that’s somehow at the heart of what I discovered last weekend. It’s not that you can’t embrace joy in your everyday routine, it’s that we’re not as open to it, not as expectant. Maybe joy is just less recognizable—it becomes more of a stranger. This weekend gave us a chance to get reacquainted.

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  • Kirstin

    Thank you for articulating so beautifully the discombobulation of summer! I’d been feeling it without being able to account for the malaise–but your post completely nailed it. And you inspire me to look for joy in these breaks in the routine.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Now, that sounds like a weekend! Is the photo from the actual cottage? Your description of the get-away was itself refreshing.

    For twenty years the Hollenbach house runs smoothly along through the school year, then summer comes, slicing and dicing the daily routine in a dozen ways. Here’s to getting out of the ruts and embracing the serendipity of summer! Thanks, to, for your kind words about my blog.

    My prayer for you and the fam is that the spirit of the Wisconsin cottage will follow you home, halfway to Normal! Peace!

  • A

    Summer’s freefloating lack of routine unhinges me as well….. I’m glad I am not alone.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Kirstin, yes, it takes some time to give yourself over to summer, doesn’t it? I bet we’ll feel less malaise (as you so aptly put it) in a couple of weeks—and more joy too, I hope.

    Ray, the photo is from our friend’s cottage—that’s me, with the bluejeans and ponytail on the dock! I love how you put this (even if I don’t love the feeling): “…then summer comes, slicing and dicing the daily routine in a dozen ways.” Thanks for being a part of the bigger conversation.

    A, I’m glad I’m not alone, too! I was starting to think I was acting like an old lady before my time. :)

  • Trina

    I prefer to freewheel, the confines of routine are something I pull against all year. Organization and structure are learned habits for me. I suspect the feeling of imposing either structure or freewheeling could be equally disconcerting.
    Your weekend sounded sublime.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    There’s nothing like a weekend away at a beautiful lake! Awesome. That’s my plan for this weekend.