The summer holidays are winding down for us here in Switzerland, and we are on the eve of a new school year beginning. The local children have already started back, and you see the littlest ones donning their orange vests as they walk themselves to school each morning. My girls are fortunate to be starting the school year in a somewhat typical fashion. Yes, there will be modifications, but for the most part, they are headed back to school where they will see friends, learn in person, and be out of my hair for eight hours a day. I am thankful for the teachers and administrators at my girls’ school and can only imagine the stress they are feeling. I hope the plans that are in place are not temporary but know we must be fluid in our actions and be prepared to transition to plan B through plan Z in order to keep people safe. But, I gotta admit, this idea exhausts me just thinking about it.
The past six months have been a lot, and this summer feels like the longest one on record. Stupid COVID prevented me from my annual trek to Michigan (Northern Midwest USA) for the summer. This yearly trip home is how I recharge my expat battery. It’s my chance to go on cruise control and allow my brain to stop thinking harder than usual. As an expat, my mind sometimes has to work harder to accomplish the simplest of tasks. For instance, making an appointment over the telephone is usually pretty simple. Now imagine doing it in German. I think you get my point.
I restore my energy levels in lots of simple ways – visiting Target with the knowledge that I need absolutely nothing but walk out with a cart full of crap, eating a chili cheese coney hot dog or two at my favorite dive restaurant knowing full well that I will have heartburn later, and filling up a giant Styrofoam cup filled with crushed ice and Diet Dr. Pepper from the fountain for only a buck. But, the most important ways I recharge include catching up with friends and family, talking to random people just because I can, and sleeping in a house I actually own. Obviously, none of these things can be done in Switzerland. So, I’ve had to figure out how to charge my 220v self in a 110v world.
Luckily, Switzerland seems to have hit the jackpot for weather over the past six months. The sun has shown its face more than I would have expected, and I am very grateful for every unclouded day we have enjoyed. I believe the weather helps determine the mood of my house. With an estrogen filled home (my poor husband), any natural mood enhancer is seen as a positive. I’ve had a lot of fun checking out the local badis (lake access areas) and the river with the family to cool down this summer. These little adventures are set among stunning scenery, but I still find myself missing Lake Michigan’s white-sand beaches. Our foursome has also taken advantage of our ability to travel by car to Venice and Cinque Terre, Italy, where we enjoyed loads of gelato, wine, and pasta. But nothing beats a frozen Coke from Wesco or taking a bike ride with friends to grab margaritas at the BLT. You can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take Michigan out of the girl. Even though I’ve been able to charge my expat battery a bit here and there like a Tesla at a charging station, which has helped me limp along without running the tank dry.
I have been doing my best to muster up enough energy to end the summer strong, but it’s been hot lately, and I’m feeling drained. The C-word has exacerbated my feelings of lethargy. I’m exhausted from hearing the words COVID, virus, mask, pandemic, and unprecedented. Now more than ever (that’s another phrase I never want to hear again), I just want to go about my day without hearing this annoying chatter in the background. I am totally aware that there is a pandemic. I have my mask at the ready, and I’m armed with hand sanitizer. I wash my hands, keep my distance, and do my best to be a good global citizen. I get it, and I’m trying, but I am tired.
I must admit, I’m tired of a lot of things – but adulting is at the top of the list. There is never a moment when I feel like I can just sit and be still because my mind is always racing with thoughts of what needs to be done, the ‘can’t forgets’ and the ‘what-ifs’ of life. I’m rarely alone, and I’m constantly on the move – cleaning the house because no one can pick up after themselves, breaking up fights between siblings because that’s what sisters do, walking the dogs very slowly because my boxer has turned into a sloth, as well as buying and transforming food into meals no one wants to eat because I enjoy wasting my time and throwing money into the compost bin. It’s all very rewarding work, and I’m totally aware that these are called responsibilities, but OMG, momma needs a break.
Over the past months, I have done my best to keep my energy from waning and have pushed myself to be active. Hell, I’ve even taken up running. If you know me at all, you know I loathe running. But, it’s just one more attempt to find some uninterrupted time just for me. Each time I put on my running shoes or open my laptop, an invisible hourglass turns over, and time begins to slip away. I anxiously await when the door opens or the phone rings, interrupting my endeavor to find calm to be asked if we have any more Nutella. Did you even try to look in the cupboard?
The other day I found myself sitting on a stool in the pantry. I think I meant to sit for just a second to rest my feet and read a couple of unread messages. I ended up staying there for nearly thirty minutes and found myself with a fist full of tears. I had hit my breaking point of holding it together for everyone else. Do you know how many times I was approached by someone with opposable thumbs and the ability to read and write while I sat quietly sobbing in the dark? Four. And that doesn’t include the two wet noses that sat staring at me thinking I was going to offer them a treat. It made me realize how much I am depended on by my family (which fills my heart), but it also revealed how much I long for the sole company of myself. I kept internally pleading, “I’m begging you to just leave me alone for a little while.”
I am not usually one to rush the seasons, but we all know 2020 isn’t doing itself any favors. I really do love the morning idleness of summer and the late-night stickiness of the fan swirling air around my bedroom, the tan limbs, rosy cheeks, and sun-bleached hair of my girls, and don’t forget the smell of a BBQ wafting smoky aromas around the neighborhood. It’s been a great ride, but I’m ready to get off now. I’m fatigued by the laziness of life and prepared to add a bit of structure back into my days. You know, like a daily shower and some well-deserved me-time. I do not wish away summer, but I am looking ahead to a change of pace that the start of school offers.
This year’s return to school feels like life is finally pressing the play button again after a very extended summer pause. I seriously cringe at the thought of early morning wake-ups, homework I won’t know how to help with, and the idea of packing school lunches. But, I am excited about spending some much needed time with me, myself and I. Like I said before, this momma needs a break. I need time to totally relax, refresh my resilience, and completely recharge for the year ahead. I do realize the return to school will not halt the need for adulting and will probably lead to new things for me to complain about, but is that what I need? Am I longing for some unique challenges to tackle instead of just thinking about how I’m going to entertain my kids today? Abso-fucking-lutely. So, stay tuned.
Side note to all those parents that aren’t getting a break when school starts:
I realize my kids could return to home learning at any time, and I feel for every single parent getting ready to drop another ball into the juggling act of life. Standard everyday life is hard enough without the additional layer of stress brought on by virtual home learning. It’s like being served a shit sandwich and it truly sucks. I am sending you as many good vibes as I can conjure up. Just remember, it’s okay to find a stool, sit in the pantry, and cry. I wouldn’t say it actually fixes anything, but it did make me feel a hell of a lot better.