This month is neatly bifurcated – the first half full of busy stress or stressy busy leading up to the second half spent decidedly not Around Here.
I got through October by putting my head down and focusing on the 23rd – this month, I need to make it to the 14th when, after four consecutive days of meetings with members of admin, I can finally check out for our trip to Belgium. No meetings. No work email. No such thing as a library emergency, at least where my job is concerned. I’ve been at a breaking point for the last two months – it’s good to take a break before an actual break happens.
On my last working day for awhile, I leave early to drive to Champaign, there and back in a work day, powering through with coffee and podcasts to fulfill the final in person obligation for my professional development cohort. Champaign in the throes of Autumn is a liminal space for me, so many layers of memory in the leaving and returning. At lunch, I take a walk past familiar places being unmade and remade, and leave town feeling unexpectedly fragile.
A new chair friend joins us just before we leave town but with plenty of time to become the most coveted spot in the apartment. Mina utterly abandons our bed in favor of the newfound pleasure of a truly cozy spot.
The preparing for being away feels like a job unto itself. There are lists to be made and groceries to be used up and favors to be asked and anxieties to be quelled and children under foot and crucial items missing, but somehow we make it to Monday and deliver a key to a neighbor and the cat to wonderful friends and we’re off!
This month. This month! It was all too much, but much of the too much isn’t really for this space. Some illustrative vignettes:
Inspired by a friend’s dramatic debt reduction, I spend time poring over our spending to cut literally a few dollars here or there. That afternoon, I rearrange my schedule so that I can use a free pass for a fitness class. I arrive at the gym but have have forgotten the pass on my desk. I’m already there, so I pay $5 for a pass, waiting a long time for an entire sports team to enter the gym before they can process my payment. I rush to the class. The instructor doesn’t show up.
We documented a number of issues when we moved into our apartment. A contractor came by in July to measure windows for replacement – while seven need to be replaced, four must be replaced because they can’t be safely operated. The new windows are installed on a Tuesday. The contractor points out significant structural damage likely caused by roof issues and lousy tuckpointing. Four days later, we come home to find rain pouring through one of the windows that wasn’t replaced – not through the window itself, but between the frame and the wall. We report the problem to our landlord, who is predictably upset, having poured buckets of money into his previously low-maintenance rental property over the last few months. On Halloween, less than a week later, we have our first snow, which melts and drips through the frame of one of the new windows.
And so it goes all month, one thing after another, with us doing our best to keep our heads above the waves as we frantically tread water. Appliances stop working. Diapers leak. Everyone gets sick. I get mastitis again.
But despite all of this, projects and events I’ve been planning for months happen at work with minor issues. We almost completely avoid eating out, and so come in way under our food budget for the first time maybe ever. We wear #RedforEd and cheer on our city’s teachers as they strike for a better future. I run to the marathon course and tear up as the new world record holder blazes by. We paint pumpkins and soak up the last spectacular fall weather. The balls roll in the right direction, and time marches on.