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Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee

Julie's favorite books »


Ciao, Summer. (Alternate title: I Didn't Go to Italy and It's Okay, I Guess.)

Summer is nearly over. 

The last few years I’ve noticed that summer’s end brings a melancholy in its wake.  I love summer.  It feels like such a free, happy time.  And although there are the regular annoyances – kids bickering like it’s their job, husbands winging to Italy for “work,” swim meets during heat waves that transform functioning adults into cranky toddlers – I still adore summertime.  Summering is one of my favorite verbs; it’s hard to let go of those long, luxurious days. 

So I’ve been grieving the passage of summer these last few weeks.  I have a process.  Phase One is denial (obviously).  I pretend that the crushing demands of school and sports won’t have me begging for mercy by mid-October, and I convince myself that it’s all going to be great.  I compliment myself on my emotional maturity. 

But the time starts to flow faster as fall approaches, and as the days grow shorter, I begin to feel desperation creeping up on me, waiting to strike.  Last week I marked the beginning of Phase Two by indulging in my annual pastime of peering over the fence into all the proverbial yards to confirm what I already knew to be true: the grass is, in fact, exceedingly greener over there.  Last year I was convinced that everyone had a second home; if one more person had told me about “the cabin,” I was planning to casually request the address of “the cabin,” drive to “the cabin,” burn it to the ground, and dance on its ashes.  This year I didn’t care about the cabins because I’m just so evolved and growing, but to balance that out I did care deeply that everyone went on fantastic trips: Paris, Rome, New York, Yosemite, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, the Cape (which has always sounded so perfectly East Coast – “I summer at the Cape,” she said, as the ice in her G&T clicked merrily in agreement).  Everyone did more, saw more, made more precious, sun-kissed memories with their delightfully behaved children.  I decided the only remedy was to start a manic trip-planning process in which I would indulge in delusions, call Mando at work to suggest insane ideas (e.g. Disneyland at Christmas), get peeved at his lack of vision, and hang up.   

(Quick word of advice: if you’d like to indulge in this sort of toddler-esque envy – I WANT THAT TOY – you must be prepared to be deeply unreasonable and, despite the fact that only a small percentage of your acquaintances went on said trips, you must insist to your spouse that ALL the people went on ALL the trips and you did NOTHING.  Commit to your crazy!)

Like a good glass of wine, self-pity is best enjoyed with a carefully chosen pairing.  In Phase Three I chose a delicate dark chocolate panic because, after many years of being at home, I’m going to be working at the school library.  I’ll be just short of full-time, and only ten months of the year, but judging by my anxiety level you’d be forced to assume I’d committed to being an astronaut and orbiting the earth for a decade.  The refrain: we haven’t done anything and from today henceforth we’ll be able to do nothing.

And suddenly, I was a ball of nerves and fear and doom-and-gloom predictions.  I was stuck on the Stress Ferris Wheel (built, maintained, and operated by yours truly, which is the cruel trick of it all).  And with every turn, I kept coming around to the source of my malaise: fear.  Perhaps this is as good as it will get, and now it’s over; perhaps you’ve taken a wrong turn and will find regret waits for you; perhaps your hope is foolish and not everything is redeemed.  

But some of the best advice I’ve ever received was this: “When you’re struggling with fear, do yourself a favor: tell yourself the truth.” So when I’m convinced that working will lead to a complete family collapse, I can tell myself the truth: adjustment will indeed be required, but to be healthy is to be growing.  When I’m sure that I’m going to lose all time for myself and turn into a raving, raging lunatic: committing to myself is a good, healthy practice.  When I’m convinced I’m neglecting my poor babies and that I’ll lose our closeness or connection: any good relationship requires both tending and space for evolution.  When I’m pea-green with envy: learning to share in someone else’s joy is life-giving.  Love doesn’t divide; it multiplies.    

Endings will always be bittersweet to me (and often more bitter than sweet).  But if I can ditch the fear and tell myself the truth, then perhaps I can be more attentive to the beginnings that hide in the melancholy, stubbornly insisting that they, too, belong. 

Happy end-of-summer, friends.  If you need me, I’ll be gratefully enjoying the last few days. 

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