This is the most special time of year for me: summer, when the rat-race of online classes, home-ed studies, weekly groups, and even the daily swim-club training, are conspicuous in their absence from my calendar.
Ahhhh …. summer …
The problem with summer, though, is that it gets us out of our routines, and the days seem to fritter away without purpose. Tempers seem shorter. Chores seem undone. Even my morning quiet time falls into the abyss of the blank moments (see My Purple Space blog post about morning quiet times).
It reminds me a bit of when I used to take a yoga class — those long-ago days when I had me-time — you know, BC (Before Children). The leader then was often talking to us about stress, and how having too much stress is bad, but so is having not enough.
The chart below shows how even low stress, though not “harmful”, has a negative impact on productivity.
Having some stress in your life, therefore, is actually useful. For example, it generates hormones which help you improve your memory and perform tasks efficiently, which in turn leads to feelings of being in control and giving you a sense of accomplishment. It also improves heart function and increases immunities (ever wonder why you always seem to get ill during Christmas break? — not enough stress! … Allegedly).
But here’s the rub: good stress increases productivity, but what if you’re not wanting to be particularly productive? Can’t you just take the time and have the space in your life to think, to day-dream, to breathe?
My college creative writing teacher used to call it the period of the sponge: “You can only squeeze out so much water before you need to take time to re-fill,” she would say to me.
For me, summer feels more like just drifting than filling a sponge. Something like a dandelion puff, paragliding on the wind — a pause between the seed’s detachment from the plant, and its landing in the soil somewhere before starting a new plant.
That drifting, lighter-than-air, often sparkly dispersal represents the break from its connection to the parent plant to a period of potential: like a spring being coiled before releasing its kinetic energy.
An early Christian apologist (Irenaeus) might have said I was experiencing “apavia”, or “roadlessness”. He said it was a time when you stopped trying to seek, find, and plan your own path in the world, and instead, gave it over to God to see what His direction, His agenda was for your life.
After all, if you don’t ever get off the treadmill, you can’t change to the exercise bike, right?
So this period of summer, when the calendar is blank and the kids are sleeping late, when clearing a space on my desk rather than tidying my whole office is its own accomplishment, when the meals are mac & cheese and a walk to the post box is my exercise, this period is just as useful as any season of activity in life.
Instead of worrying about it — stressing about being unstressed — I should embrace it as a “dandelion time”, and take it as God’s gift to enjoy a brief-but-welcomed, weightless ride.
Kat Patrick is originally from Texas but now lives in England where she homeschools her four children, primarily using the Charlotte Mason method. She blogs about her family’s journey at www.boyschooling.blogspot.com, and also is running a series about transitioning teens to high-school level homeschooling on the website for her online tutorial services at www.dreamingspireshomelearning.co.uk.