Summer of my Relative Uselessness

I’m somehow reminded of when the O.J. trial was on—I spent a lot of that summer on the couch, agreeing with whichever lawyer was speaking at the time. “It’s like they didn’t cancel LA Law after all,” I told my friends.

There’s no trial on this summer that I’m watching, and since we barely have broadcast TV, we’re not watching the lead-up to the Olympics and may not watch much of the Olympics. (Which I’m sure we can add to the list of ways I’m a horrible mother.) I’m also not watching soap operas, because the ones I loved the most are gone. I’ll admit it—I did get a little sad yesterday thinking I couldn’t turn on Guiding Light and find out if Jeffrey were going to make a surprise appearance at the Bauer barbecue and thus lead to yet another Josh and Reva breakup.

Regardless of how little TV I’m watching (other than all of Season 3 of Justified on my laptop through iTunes—just giggling a little here about the juxtaposition of Timothy Olyphant and lap)—regardless:

Between when the spring semester ended on May 24 and, well, any time now, I’ve been pretty useless.

I don’t want to say I’ve earned it, but I did have my gallbladder removed on May 29. Yes, they were able to do it laproscopically, and no, there weren’t any complications, but it took me every minute of three weeks to feel anything close to normal. So many people said they just “snapped right back” after gallbladder surgery. Apparently I’m not snappy. It took a solid month before my son pronounced me 99% recovered.

“Or maybe 98%,” he said. He made this observation after I’d apprehended a runaway grocery cart that was hurtling across the grocery store parking lot toward parked cars. The cart-herd had left it unattended while he moved some other carts back inside. My brain went kind of “phbbbbbbsplat” for a second or two, as I was thinking, “oh, that’s going to hit those cars,” and then, shifting into superhero mode, I scanned the parking lot, said to Wendell “let’s go!” and we ran with our cart after the runaway cart.

I grabbed it before it hit anything, and then pulled both carts back up to the store, where the clueless cart-herd was emerging. I started to say, “I just saved your ass,” but I stopped myself (Wendell tonight at dinner told nath and me that Callie, our kitten, was “pissed off because you’re not snuggling her enough.” I told him that’s another one of those words he shouldn’t use until he’s older, like when he gets his drivers license.)

“I just saved you,” I said to the cart-herd, and it seemed to dawn on him (or, as he’ll probably write in my composition class this fall, dong on him) what I’d saved him from. As we walked to our car, Wendell said, “That’s the first time I’ve seen you run since your operation.”

“I must be recovered,” I said.

“99% anyway,” he said. “Or maybe 98%.” He and nath have been watching Star Trek episodes & Spock is a big favorite.

It was a very dramatic moment.

And that’s pretty much it, in terms of what I’ve accomplished so far this summer.

O.k., not entirely true. I’ve read a lot. I found a lot of terrific apps for the iPad. I actually wrote a fair bit.

And just tonight, I finished transferring my TO DO list from paper to “Things,” which is both a web thingy and an app. It’s designed to work smoothly with David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” religion (I read that book during my recovery stretch). I’m relatively excited about the possibility that these two things will help me be more productive. I would personally be more excited if he called it “Getting Shit Done,” but probably that would not be as broadly appealing.

Other than my gallbladder surgery, I think my summer of relative uselessness can be attributed to ongoing issues with burnout. I’m hoping that taking it pretty easy for a month let some of that heal up, too.

I am very, very grateful to have a job where I can take a month to recover from what is, by all accounts, relatively minor surgery.

(You don’t need to tell me how many things I could complain about with my particular job in my particular state at this particular point in history—-trust me. I’m not one of those people who say, “Can’t complain,” because I know I always could. About anything. I’m creative AND I’m a worst-case-scenario thinker. I could complain. But I don’t, not always.)

It isn’t true that professors “get summers off.” But it is true (especially if we’re not teaching, which I’m not, this summer) we have a big chunk of time to get a big chunk of things done, with a proportionally big chunk of autonomy to figure out how, precisely, to go about Getting Shit Done.

So we’ll see—will this summer of my relative uselessness morph into an incredibly productive stretch of time? Or will I spend ever more time finding addictive word game apps and and then finding ways to get the iPad away from my husband and son?

Tune in tomorrow, soap fans. Or next week—or whenever it is I get another blog posted.

(Also—if the title of this post rang any bells, you’ll be happy to know that Kristy McNichol is alive and well.)

2 responses to “Summer of my Relative Uselessness

  1. The most important things on your “to do list” for the summer should be spending time with your family and allowing yourself the space and time to heal physically and mentally. Burnout and exhaustion can be fatal if not dealt with properly. BTW, I have always wondered if Kristy McNichol was still alive. The last thing I heard about her she left show business and was working as a beautician somewhere in California. Enjoy and savor your downtime while you have it. By the end of August everything will be back to “insanely normal” and you will not be able to hear yourself think…

  2. I’d have to agree with Lynne. We are so conditioned to workallthetime that even when we are forced to slow down by illness or other circumstances, we still find it difficult to do so. I’d call it a Puritan work ethic hangover. And it’s at epidemic proportions.

    I didn’t teach the past 5 summers for 2 reasons: kids, and burnout. I am teaching this summer for 1 reason: money. And less of it than I would have gotten had I had at least 11 students (I have 8). But I can’t afford to not teach now that I am the sole earner while T gets his business going. And I’m actually enjoying it, so that’s a bonus.

    Take the summer off. You’re a full professor. You can afford to relax and just do the work you *really* want to do.

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