School’s out for summer

Living in a cloud. Neither here nor there. Yes or no? Travel plans? Maybe not. Hustle and bustle. I make my own calamity. Engage? Alone? I have to change.

It doesn’t feel like school’s out. Today is my first Saturday post the 2019-20 anti-climatic finale. It just sort of happened, like traveling in one of the middle cars on an Amtrak train. This school year, there was definitely an engine. We worked hard and had a destination in mind. But without an in-person closure of the school year chapter, it’s like there’s no caboose to anchor, “What just happened?” We’re all just drifting, floating from hour to hour, day to day. No alarm clock. No schedule. Just my phone. The TV, which is rarely on these days, and my list of chores. And boy, is my list ever a whopper! Since I wasn’t home during our shelter-in-place heydays, like most other people who had a chance to sort out cupboards and closets galore, I am making up for lost time.

Yesterday, looking for my ex-husband’s passport–which I didn’t find–I noticed a pile of paper junk. I HATE sorting through paper stuff, but once I got a rhythm going and turned on Lenox Hill on Netflix, I was able to sit in the stuffy attic and shred all kinds of ridiculous papers.

I had my masters thesis in the file and tax records going all the way back to 2001. I had refinance papers from 10 years ago that I’m pretty sure I don’t need and Amazon receipts and a trash bag full of nonsense. “No,” I reassured myself throughout the process, “you don’t need it.” Today’s plan is to go back into the attic and toss more stuff I don’t need.

A clean slate.

No matter what, every year at this time of the year I go on an organizing frenzy. The end of one thing so I can clean the slate for something new. It’s sort of a cleansing ritual that divides my profession from my personal life. It’s a process of re-claiming. Most years, I leave immediately after the last day of school and go on a camping trip. The fresh air, the cool nights, the hikes, the stars remain me of who I really am. No make up. Frazzled hair, wrinkled clothes, fingernails framed with watercolor paint.

My ex-husband often accompanies me. We have a chance to be friends again on these trips, see the world, and each other, in a softer, more forgiving environment. Life is easy when we camp: Two plates, two forks, a camp stove, a couple of chairs, sleeping bags. Easy foods, a few bottles of Boisset wine (Happy National Rose Day), a thick book, some tunes and my journal.

If all goes well, I’ll be camping again in a couple of weeks. By myself. In my favorite place: Cambria, CA. The only time I will feel like a bit of a loser is when I go wine tasting in Paso Robles. But I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I get to meet new people–six feet apart–and ask them questions and wonder about life and my next chapter, which is happening quicker than I can imagine: Retirement. This time next year, if all goes well, I’ll be retired. I’m planning on renting out Angel Cove Cottage and living in the remodeled back house/garage. Much has to be done to prepare. But it will be exciting. Stepping into my near future. Making a radical change. Becoming a Big Girl.

I never imagined being at this part of my life alone. I always figured I’d be with the love of my life, that we’d weathered the storm of raising children, concluded a fulfilling career, were enjoying our grandchildren, and now enjoying each other’s company. But it didn’t work out that way.

Now I get to lavish in my own company, which is challenging for a people-person-teacher/writer like me who just endured 12 weeks of remote teaching and now craves interesting conversations. More self-reflection time for me!

Not to worry: I have my two four-legged buddies to keep me company. They’re sleeping now; Monet on my right near my feet and Finn, curled up in the sun, sitting on the patio sofa. They are intense when they are together, but now the three of us are taking it all in–the cooing dove partners, the ocean breeze and the spinning, rainbow-colored windmill that reminds me it’s time to re-set my clock. School’s out. It’s time to push aside that list and take a much-needed nap.

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