I need a summer

Apparently it was a record breaking grey and rainy May in Montreal. I didn't even notice.

I can't recall most of the month, though certain highlights I remember.

I remember that period of three to five days when the trees looked fuzzy with tiny chartreuse leaves. I said to myself, "Renee, pay attention here. Remember this."

And I do. I can still see those leaves in my memory. Memory is all I've got. I didn't even a get a photo this year.

It seems to me that those handful of days when the leaves are newly born are the most fleeting change in all the seasons. I can't think of anything else, in my latitude and city context, as ephemeral as those baby leaves.

I noticed the leaves.

my mom's shirt is the color of those fresh leaves

My mom came to visit for a few days. It was unexpected. A trip conceived last minute with the cancellation of other plans. It was wonderful to be with her, as it always is.

She was able to join Celine's 20th birthday celebration and to participate in the buzz of activity that is our home in the weeks leading up to the co-op theatre production.

It was a whirlwind. Her visit, the production, the month.

Damien and I got out of the city twice, so says my monthly calendar in my journal. A spring hike at Mt. Tremblant National Park, snow still thick in the woods and on the trails. And a Mother's Day drive through the piedmont region of Quebec, discovering an historical waterfall and experiencing a new area of the province from the seats of our car instead of on foot, by choice. A Sunday drive. How old-fashioned of us.

We went to End Game, but only after I had got caught up on Infinity War. We finished our taxes. We spent a lot of time at co-op and driving there and back. I met a friend for coffee one evening. We bought an Instant Pot and replaced our broken toaster oven.

Mont Tremblant park in early May

I feel weary. It's that time of year. It's that time of life. All the school year-end fuss and effort, deadlines and parties, the drama production. A long string of hard-working days, interspersed with "special" days (read: days with more work), punctuated by some bad news days. Ugh.

I don't want to complain about a good life. But I am so, so tired. Looking back in blog archives I can see I've felt this way every spring since moving to Montreal, joining the co-op and aligning ourselves more closely with a traditional school year calendar and activities.

In the marathon race of raising teens, or rather marathon after marathon after marathon, the peak intensity of "everything", including my parental angst seems to happen this time of year. As the busyness of the season increases, so does my stress and overall vulnerability to anxiety, fear, mommy guilt, regret, and overall negativity.

I am trying to practice gratitude, truly I am. But what I really want is something different for my life. I want more time in the woods. I want to travel. I want to have more say in my schedule.

I want summer.

I feel like I have been grinding through life since last fall. This school year thing is a rhythm I am still not used to, never wanted to get used to, and will hopefully say "goodbye and good riddance" to within the next 18 months, rough projection for when Brienne will be done homeschooling and co-op involvement and I will retire as a homeschooler.

I hate feeling captive to systems that, although they meet particular needs in our lives, also introduce a wearying level of complexity and compromise.

And it's been a whopper of a school year dealing with systems, complexity, and compromise.

That's exactly what life is, at each and every stage, complexity and compromise. But some seasons are more intense and this has been one of them.

One of the cool kids now

Raising teens and young adults feels like launching projectiles out of a safe and steady orbit, full of calculations, guidance systems, and lots of risk.

I'm not sure if the following scenario is mathematically possible, but it's how I imagine the situation.

When they are little our children orbit us, like small satellites around the earth. We are in constant contact, we keep things as smooth and predictable as possible.

But as they grow, children leave this predictable and close orbit. The co-ordinates change as children orient themselves in relation to friends and the outside world. With any change of co-ordinates, the orbit changes. That I know is mathematical true.

And now there are objects, teenagers and young adults, on differing orbits around the earth (us). Eventually the coordinates have to change enough for a launch out of orbit. At this point the metaphor breaks down because we don't want to launch them on a trajectory far out into space (ok, sometimes we do) but into their own "system" close by with regular contact with our "system".

But this movement from orbiting us, to establishing their own identity, is wobbly, stressful, and busy. There are three of them on different orbits and we parents are supposed to be the steady center of it all, holding down the fort and working through our own "stuff" - mid-life, financial and physical stresses, keeping a 23 year marriage on track so we still have a marriage when the kids launch, working and careers. Some days it just feels like so much.

I fantasize about another life in another place, living off the land in some isolated corner of North America or traveling the continent in an RV. I romanticize when the kids were little. I idealize the social media veneer of other people's lives. None of it helpful.

rarely do I hang laundry but when I do it makes for a nice photo

In times of stress I feel I lack something that everyone else, or maybe it's just the lucky few, seem to have. Insight, fortitude, joy, gratitude, opportunity; the right tools, the right perspective, the right location. You name it. Someone else has got more and seems better equipped to handle everything.

Are we all walking around feeling this way?! Overwhelmed, tired, too busy, feeling ill-suited and ill-equipped for modern life? And if we are, wow, we are amazing because, by and large, we keep going. We keep showing up to the hard work of loving people, putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. We keep investing in our families and communities even when we're tired. And we're so tired.

We're wired to survive, so there's that. But there's the spirit's desire to thrive.

I'd like more of that in my life. Maybe I am thriving but I don't feel like it. I'm managing, hanging on for a crazy ride. Juggling many hats and tasks each day.

Probably I just need a vacation.

I won't be taking "official" time-off-work vacation till September. But the kids are working at camp for seven weeks and with their absence goes a lot of my busyness.

Celine is home all summer, but at 20 is independent and has a circle of friends, church, and a social life that doesn't depend on my involvement. I don't need to drive, organize, or supervise any of it. Glory be. She's gainfully self-employed, saving money for her September start at university. I guess you could say she's kind of launched, at least partly. Hallelujah!

What I want this summer is time to notice, time to stop and savor. Time in the woods. Time for travel and adventures. Time to rediscover my sense of wonder. I want to feel like I've stepped off the busy-train, that I have some agency in my life to make that choice.

These years will be gone before I know it. I'm trying to enjoy them, really I am. But I do need a break and I'm hoping summer will be that for me.

Post Script.

Part of the reason I take photos is to remember all that is good in my life. I tend to see things negatively, and stress amplifies that. Photography is a spiritual discipline of sorts that helps me stop and see the true, good, beautiful and lovely things in my life.

I don't have as much time for photography as I once did and the quality of the photos in blog posts from the last year forward are not as great, as I rely on my old iPhone more often than not. It's just easier when you have less time.

supper out after hiking

After writing this post I went through May's photos to find images to add. And there it was, staring me right in the face; the truth of a good, beautiful, and lovely life.

My angst is also true. But it's not the whole story, it never is.

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  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on June 7, 2019, 6:07 p.m.

    Oh my sweet friend... Your words are so timely, as they always are in my life it seems. The girls are with my mom in Quebec and reunited with their moutain bike team as you might now for two Canada Cups. I see them enjoying this so much and blooming, as athletes and as human beings, and I wonder if they wouldn't be better off living a more sedentary life... Then I read you, and I remember the trade off... And how lucky we are that the girls still want to live on the road. Even after a month of a full calendar in the Yukon I find myself longing for the road, for the spontaneity of this life we chose, of those long evenings together around the bonfire after a long mountain bike ride in the desert, nowhere to be at, no practice... It's everywhere around me, this busyness, this full scheduled kids, mostly thriving, of course, but I sit on the verge on this still, knowing full well that it might be us next year, enjoying every minute of our unconventional life outside of this framework of busyness. I hope you find your summer, my friend. Much love xxx


  • Erin

    Erin on June 7, 2019, 11:10 p.m.

    Wow, what a great post that captures EXACTLY how I have been feeling myself (though my kids are just 10 and 12, and in public school here in Texas. Maybe EVERYONE IS tired?). I also feel like the chaotic state of politics these days (read: Trump), and all the awful news about the environment, etc., is wearing on me more than I even realize and makes a hectic schedule just that much harder to bear. Anyway, so cathartic to read your post. Thank you!


    • Renee

      Renee on June 7, 2019, 11:15 p.m.

      Erin, I hear you about the stress and strain of politics on top of normal life. I feel it here also, with different issues. and my concern about the planet is a significant weight also. So much to bear. Maybe EVERYONE is tired? And so why can't we collectively decide to do things differently? That's always what I wonder. why do we all ride this train. Why don't we wrestle our way to the engine and hit the brakes. Not sure what that would like... Thanks for saying hi and "me too".


  • Lily

    Lily on June 8, 2019, 9:36 p.m.

    Oh yes to all of it! I remember a few years back listening to that Jack Johnson song about wishing the train would break down - do you know it? I think you’d relate too - and driving along fervently praying yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I could picture in my mind just where I wanted the train to break down and how lovely and peace filled and slow it would be. It’s never happened. And my husband tells me that I’m really wasting so much emotional energy and precious time thinking about the train breaking down because we are living life and that’s just what we are meant to do and sometimes it works beautifully and other times and doesn’t and it’s up to me how I process it because it’s just how it is. I can feel amazing gratitude and happiness and contentment at many times. I look around me and think yes! This is so good and I’m so thankful. But I struggle with the other times - their capacity to crush leaves me frantic. I’d still like the train to just break down. I agree - we need a reset. I think it would be incredible for our world.


  • gracemarieatx

    gracemarieatx on June 11, 2019, 6:36 p.m.

    "In times of stress I feel I lack something that everyone else, or maybe it's just the lucky few, seem to have. Insight, fortitude, joy, gratitude, opportunity; the right tools, the right perspective, the right location. You name it. Someone else has got more and seems better equipped to handle everything."

    I just had to jump down here to the comments and say YES! I am definitely struggling with this!! Especially as a considering leaving my current f/t job for a new f/t job. And maybe move across the US to be with my family again in the next year or so. Everyone else has it all figure out, but we never do, right!? Ugh, it's hard. Getting out of town (even for short day trips to small towns here in TX or leisurely country drives) are crucial for me (and my husband). It gets us out of our bubble, which really helps!

    Thanks yet again for putting things that I'm wrestling with into words, Renee!


  • Eva

    Eva on June 16, 2019, 2:22 a.m.

    Yes! This so resonates with me, even though my kids are much younger than yours. Yes, maybe everyone is tired? I do sense a general weariness about the state of the world among the people around me, which sometimes makes it so hard to focus on all that's good in our lives. I constantly tell myself I ought to enjoy life more. It's just so hard sometimes! I have high hopes for the summer.


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