Time to Level Up


When the ache of living notches up, it’s as if I’ve been through a vigorous workout, my ravaged brain courses with norepinephrine, which leaves me tender, and in need of a long luxurious bath, red wine, and a good sulk.

You know what I mean?

I don’t want to appear irrational, but endings are emotionally exhausting for me, I’m addicted to routine like a heroin addict, and the familiar as if it were holy ground. For those of us with cyclical jobs, this can be quite jarring when the academic year comes to an end, and my cherished routines are kicked out on my scholarly ass.

This is how I see it, I would prefer a good book not to end, students who have become family not to go off to college, nurturing co-workers not to disappear for ten weeks, and most importantly my blessed, highly revered, neurotically pampered routines not to give way to the dicey antics of summer. This odd uneven time is enough to make one wish she had the gift of hibernation. 

Summer is quite literally a frenzied race from one joyful event to another, family gatherings, impromptu celebrations, full calendars, routineless days, overindulging as if a teenager on a bottle Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill Wine, and worst of all suitcases thrown unceremoniously in the closet, in constant need of packing, and unpacking. It’s absolutely debilitating to the routineaholic. 

By the end of May I go into an abbreviated sort of mourning, wearing all black, avoiding mirrors, drinking too much coffee. And to top it off yesterday was my Dad’s birthday, I miss him all the time, but special dates act like a visceral vise around my chest. This is the day he came into the world. This is the day I became a possibility. This is the day my children became practicable. I could continue but I think you get the gist. I still have his contact information stored in my phone, his name on my favorites list, and yes I plan on leaving it there until I die. 

Today I’ll be setting the message on my work phone to something like this, “Hello, you have reached Cheryl Oreglia, religious studies department, Notre Dame High School San Jose, unfortunately I am away for the summer, if this is urgent please contact the front office, I’ll be returning in the fall, enjoy the summer.” If you listen closely you’ll know it’s totally forced but it’s the best I can do given the circumstances.

Here’s what I want to say, “You’ve reached grief stricken Cheryl Oreglia at the formerly thriving campus of Notre Dame, now barren, desolate, and eerily quiet. I’ll be hibernating up at the lake until the staff returns, if this is urgent I have no idea why you called me, and please don’t ring me back until the fall.” What do you think? A little sarcastic? 

Files have to be shredded, google classroom archived, grades finalized, desks cleared, computers upgraded, personal property stored, classrooms straightened, refrigerators emptied, email files deleted, and set on away. With dour expression, I tackle each small ending, as an act of rebellion. 

I am my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? It’s not like this was a total surprise, these cycles are predictable, although the suffering is real, truth be told I’m not ready to rock my speedo. And I might never be. 

Time continues to claw it’s way to the top of my priority list, because it’s so damn precious, irretrievable in many ways, and suddenly from my perspective quite finite. This much I know to be true.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to do in this life, but that you pour yourself into it, give it your all, because no one benefits from willy nilly efforts.

I was watching a documentary on Netflix about Street Foods from around the world and it gave me a crazy idea, a summer challenge if you will, something to counter my grief over all these shattered routines. 

I watched this spunky seventy year old woman named Jay Fai, from Bangkok, receive a michelin star for her street food. That’s right, a star, like the ones I award my students when they ace an assignment. She believes every meal she serves should be a masterpiece, now granted she is a confessed perfectionist, but her focus, intention, and work ethic is legendary. She does this seven days a week, year-round, because she honestly believes that which you put into the world is vitally important. For Jay Fai it’s an award winning crab omelet. What’s my metier?

When we change the polarity of our thoughts, words, and actions, we are purposefully changing our energy, focus, and perspective. Michael Jones

When I apply her work ethic to my life I sort of cringe at my lack of effort. What if I endeavored to give one thing my best effort all summer? It could be anything, the laundry, meditation, relationships, faith, cooking, bees, painting, writing, making the bed, tidying up, mahjong, flower arranging, traveling, sacred callings, even the garden could qualify. Of course I would choose writing but I’m not sure it’s possible in the whirl of summer with sleeping in and Belgian waffles being my primary focus?

But here’s the thing, come summers end, I’ll grieve the cessation of all the chaos, the freedom to write all day in my pajamas, the spoonful of peanut butter that serves as dinner, sunburned winos lounging on my deck, sandy floors, flip flops, sparklers on the beach, the debauchery of late night skinny dipping, telly wars, wicked sunsets, sitting around the bonfire until the wee hours of the morn, and of course all the memorable encounters with family and friends who pass through those lake house doors. 

Some of the best memories are made in flip flops. Kellie Elmore

But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed writes Stephen King. That old friend is going to be transfigured by summers end, a witness if you will, to the value of perfecting that what we put into the world. #JesusEnvy

As I sulk in the tub, sipping red wine, I think I’m ready to ditch the black, discover my metier, and level up this summer. Who’s hankering to join me?




I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll dangle our feet in the cool water.

Anecdotes:

  • “it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!” Kenny Chesney
  • “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” Natalie Babbitt
  • “The summer stretched out the daylight as if on a rack. Each moment was drawn out until its anatomy collapsed. Time broke down. The day progressed in an endless sequence of dead moments.” China Miéville

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