Two Saturdays, two very different climates. Last week, I was drinking sweet Dominican coffee and sweating over the keyboard. This Saturday, I am cool as a cucumber. A Canadian cucumber. If they grew cukes in Canada. Which they probably do, but not in PEI, based on roadside sides they only grow potatoes here.
We have returned to Prince Edward Island for another year. “You’re going there again?” Yes. It’s hard to explain our love for this remote little slip of land but we are not denying it, just embracing it.
The underrated beauty of going back to a place again and again is that you’ve done it all. The only thing left to do is nothing. Idle away a day without the guilt and let your mind wander.
GK Chesterton said there were three types of leisure: “The first is being allowed to do something. The second is being allowed to do anything. And the third (and perhaps most rare and precious) is being allowed to do nothing.”
We are trying something different. We are doing nothing. Typically our vacations often end up with an itinerary longer than the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. Not this time.
We made a conscious decision to find a place to just chill and truly take a break. Our itinerary did not need to be extensively researched nor be jam packed. There would be no pressure to be efficient or fulfill a sightseeing checklist. The only imperative would be to go somewhere new and just hang out.
You only get so many summers with your kids. We can see the finish line with Cecilia, so we took away Michelle’s laptop, took away the power tools, took away the washing machine, and headed to the Dominican Republic for a land cruise and hang out at a resort for a few days.
That’s it. Get up. Go to the buffet. Go the pool. Go to the beach. Read a book. Call it a day. A successful day.
My summer sabbatical started last week and I am a little more aware of what the kids are up to during the day. For Ally, especially if the neighborhood is quiet, that typically means doing some sort of arts and craft. I plan to spend part of my time off writing another book and I’m finding Ally’s work an inspiration of sorts.
Is there anything more perfect than a child’s drawings? In order to create or write, I often have to try and reach back to that open-mindedness and naïveté that kid’s just cultivate naturally. Things pour out of them in such an easy way. I’ll go downstairs and find a stack of canvases done or some new project afoot based on a whimsical what-if. I want to try to remember that and get a little closer to that.
The sabbatical has started and one of my goals during my time off is to try to write another book. What’s it going to be about? I don’t know. When am I going to write? Right now. Increasingly, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to put more emphasis on starting and finishing, before I’ve have had the chance to overanalyze or come up with an excuse not to do it.
I’ve found this works well for everyday chores or exercise but really works well for creative work. Don’t run or shy away from constraints but lean into them instead. Show up at the desk or in the studio and tell yourself that you’ve got to have something done by the time you leave. It usually leads to something unexpected. Sometimes even unexpectedly good.
As you read this, I’m likely running trough a hot, tropical, potentially pouring rain storm. And I paid to do it, too. One of my favorite runners, Eliud Kipchoge is famous for smiling at the end of marathons.
I will try to smile through the rain because excitement is a better motivator than discipline.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that the people who appear to have a superhuman work ethic or monk-like discipline aren’t forcing it. They aren’t tricking themselves. Or using the latest life hack. They simply have a genuine curiosity or interest in that area.
The person who smiles is more likely to keep working than the person gritting their teeth.
I was resistant for a long time but I have to admit I’ve finally taken the plunge on pickleball. I probably don’t need another hobby but I might have found one.
I believe hobbies are important. The weirder and sillier the better. One of my favorite self-help-y books Four Thousand weeks advises, ”In order to be a source of true fulfillment, a good hobby probably should feel a little embarrassing; that’s a sign you’re doing it for its own sake.”
It’s been a stressful few days and just going out and having something to do made me feel immediately better. I was not very good but I learned something new and I had fun. Not a bad way to spend some time. That’s a good definition of a hobby.
Ally has recently been spending a lot of time dribbling a basketball in the driveway or asking to throw the football. I am happy to be her partner but also wary of offering too much feedback or even too much encouragement. Demanding excellence can often undermine the reason we picked up the ball in the first place. I don’t want to steal from her the simple pleasure of doing something she merely, but truly, enjoys.
Good, bad, or embarrassing.
We are two weeks into summer. No camps. No dance. No tutors. No theater. No jazz band.
A lot of free time to get splendidly bored. Call it un-schooling if you want.
For me, summer is for simplifying.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up trying to teach them anything.
The world throws a lot at kids. It’s noisy out there with a lot of competing voices. How do I get them to remember anything I tell them, especially during vacation?
David McCullough’s biography of John Adams includes a great quote: “To be good and to do good, is all we have to do.”
Be good. Do good. When the world gets noisy, that’s not bad advice to fall back on. As parents, or as kids.
Keep it simple this summer. Be good. Do good.