Every year I dread going back to school after summer break, but for some reason, this year felt worse. Maybe it was because our usual nanny wasn’t available to stay with Autumn or the disturbing professional development called Stop the Bleed where we learned to tie tourniquets and stuff wounds in the event of a mass shooting. It may have been the caseload of students on my roster or the frustrating last-minute changes. Whatever the cause, my headache meds became like water and oxygen – precious resources essential for survival. Functioning at that level of anxiety was not sustainable, and I wondered how I’d last.
On top of all that, I had been missing Autumn and our long summer mornings spent sharing books and munching chocolate. So often we ventured no further than the neighborhood park, where I witnessed my daughter go from a tight grip on my hand to a confident request in my ear.
“Stay on the bench, Mommy. Watch me from there.”
Already, she was needing me less, and it only takes common sense to realize the trend continues. And so I found myself wishing, once again, for more time.
Then, as happens once in a while, that wish came true. In the midst of my back to work tumult, Autumn tested positive for COVID. And there it was. In my lap. Not as I wanted nor expected, but nonetheless, more time.
Not only to be with my daughter for a few more precious days, but also to think back to a posting I read on social media. The mom stated:
“It’s not the season for everything to be put in its place.”
The first time I read it, I shrugged it off. I like things organized. But thinking about it now, how often do I reshelve her toys only to find them, once again, littered around the house anyway? And so I reconsider her sentiment.
Over 43 years, I weathered tons. There were the winters of depression, springs of soul-searching, and summers of on-line dating. Now, those times are memories.
Because it’s the season of Autumn.
And spring cleaning my thoughts is required. I can no longer worry about the world burning nor the unions fighting. My mind cannot runneth over with strategies to help struggling students or needy parents. And I definitely cannot judge my once defined arms and tight core as soft and flabby.
Because all of that would be like wearing earmuffs and leg warmers during an Arizona summer or donning a bikini during a Midwest December.
Instead, I’ve decided, ‘tis the season of emailing sub plans without guilt and putting into work just enough. Because along with fevers and coughs and enough bags under my eyes to open a Nordstrom Rack, COVID also delivered a huge dose of perspective. I’ll resist depositing too much time, energy and emotion into banks that give little return, and instead, I’ll conserve resources for the following short list:
Including Autumn’s performances in the guest room, where she tumbles and twirls
before an encore storytelling with the utmost expression and flair, and also, the special moments she shares eating with Papa and reading with Nana.
Including the few I speak to often, the many I pick up with quickly where we left off, and the dozens I’ve never met but who find joy in my musings.
Including my creative endeavors, which are as essential to my health as coffee and Yasso bars.
Worries that matter
Including whether COVID itself did more harm to my daughter or the amounts of screen time and sugar she consumed during isolation.
And while it’s a challenge to leave work at work, to compartmentalize, and to keep priorities in check, there’s no doubt seasons change.
And so can we.