The summer is getting late. School supplies are coming in, and it is time to try on the uniform pants in order to get them hemmed before the first day. I always feel a little funny at this time of year, almost queasy from my mixture of nostalgia for waning days at the pool and excitement for crisp plaids and fresh notebooks. I continually miss the scents of summer skin, chlorine and suntan lotion, even while I look forward to the autumnal fragrances of newly sharpened pencils, cinnamon sticks, and rubbery Halloween costumes. Time, at this transitional time, is always pregnant with the promises of both bounty and loss, so I am not surprised by my wistfulness as we turn to fall. I am, however, taken by its depth for me this year. For, this transition has been a little heavier than usual as I ask myself, “Where did it go?” and “What did I do?”
You see, I wanted to travel more with the kids, but I became sick, or rather, a sickness I already had presented itself unmistakably and irrevocably just as the summer was getting under way. So, I slept a lot, but it was not the sleep of rest and recovery; it was lost time. I felt bad about my crankiness and limitations, so I tried to make up the time by adding more play to the times of day when I felt good. The kids weren’t playing along though, and I just felt more exhausted. I was a broken record, as I kept asking what anyone wanted to do. And, I felt like I was failing when we couldn’t arrive at activities, or menus, or destinations. I started evaluating why I felt compelled to do so much in the first place, realizing that there was already too much to do around the home and too few resources to fund the entertainment carousel of art fairs, movies, and water parks. I began to feel guilty that I had kept the kids home with me instead of finding cool summer camps for them to enjoy, especially when I had to desist from an anticipated amusement park trip. My greatest accomplishment, it seemed, was the afternoon I spent on the phone catching up with my sister after learning that two of her cats had died. Despite what felt like doing a whole lot of nothing, somehow July was gone, and school is now starting up. Along with the sweating mailman, who lamented his wife’s unemployment for a half-hour with me on my porch one morning, while I was absentmindedly watching birds and he was pondering why it is taking so long for her to find work, I sort of can’t believe that summer is almost over.
As I am incrementally climbing back into myself, I find that I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and bored with giving health updates. I have no mind to talk about what I did this summer nor to engage the (I believe) profoundly flawed theo-intellectual urge to seek meaning or divine purpose in sickness, the death of pets, unemployment, and so on. Even looking for productive lessons can contribute to malaise in our culture of purposeful action and self-making. I am, for one, certain that not everything means something or happens for a reason yet to be revealed.
Yet, there is a lavish wisdom that pours forth from all lived experience, indeed, a cornucopia sometimes curiously stuffed with nothing. I am amazed by how gracious life can be, even when we must pull in and back and out of it. I have observed quietly and simply that:
- There are times when little can be done; even though
- there will always be more to do; which means
- there will always be much left undone.
- Sometimes, one must merely “be.”
- Pain and weakness are not necessarily enemies; and
- one’s body is not the antagonist or the stranger but oneself.
- Children do not always need to be entertained; especially because usually
- the ice cream truck will make a musical manifestation all by itself.
- Sometimes one should just talk on the phone all day;
- or commiserate with the mailman;
- or watch birds.
Natalie Kertes Weaver, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books include: Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013). Natalie is currently writing Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014). Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin. Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology. Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan. For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.