Sophomoric Slump

Here’s something to make you smile from a friend’s facebook:

Camp Soap

I’m importing my laughs today because my 20 year-old son just offered some of his always spot-on feedback:

“Mom, your blog isn’t funny anymore.”

Finally something we can agree on! Yes, darling son: My blog is not funny (“anymore”). I don’t know what’s going on, exactly, but I am in a creative — and possibly also a cognitive — slump. I must have lost my mojo somewhere between the brain freezing vats of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and my weekly wheel-spinning over at TIME.com about hilarious topics like the gender distribution of mass murder and a new contraceptive method called rape.

Things just seemed to get progressively less side-splitting, blog-wise, over the summer. You know what I mean? I just lost a little Je ne sais quoi. It’s all so very disappointing, this cascade into po-facedness. I’d like to blame it on the upcoming election about which I am foul tempered. (Did anyone see the movie, The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zack the Plus Sized Greek guy? It’s not hyperbole! Seriously, we Americans really do like the lowest common denominator approach to government.)

But here’s the real reason I’m feeling a little crestfallen: See, the summer was supposed to be all about moi. Me. Me. Me. I was supposed to be reading the Russians and making heirloom tomato salads and sketching the sunrises from my bedroom window and having meaningful emotional engagement with my family members. (Okay, that last bit is fiction. That was never part of the program.) But I was definitely supposed to be frolicking in the woods with my dogs and having deep thoughts. And I was supposed to be practicing what I will pompously refer to as my writing ‘craft’ (ie putting down the In Style magazine for a few minutes each day). I even had the idea of beginning to plan work on a book proposal (note the many layers of obfuscation in that last objective). Most pertinently, I was supposed to set some important goals for the next decade, foremost among them figuring out how to “monetize” my professional talents for once in my life.

None of which happened, in case that wasn’t totally clear…It’s not that I didn’t have a very Me-centric summer, because I did, but somehow all that “me-ness” didn’t result in my finishing the new (and most excellent) biography of Michel de Montaigne. But surely I spent super-high quality time with my kids, right? Uh… No. (They voted with their feet and fled to the distant lands of wind-surfing, Mandarin speakers, and solar cells.)

On the other hand, there were a few milestones I managed to reach, against crushing odds, and I’d like to share them – not to boast or sound conceited, mind you, just to provide a little inspiration for those who were less productive. So I present for your edification:

Erika’s Summer 2012 Achievements

(And I sure hope my example can prove motivating to you!)

  • Successfully packed on nine (!) full pounds of fat (and not muscle!), adding as much as one whole inch to each of my already-plush thighs. (That’s 4.05 kilos for my international blog visitors.)
  • Busted out of not one but two pairs of my favorite normal-person-sized jeans. (And by ‘normal’ sized, I’m talking about jeans that are at least one size smaller than what I can safely wear without causing internal organ damage.) Bonus points for breaking the zipper while on a late-night jaunt to buy organic chocolate milk and gelato.
  • Implemented a medley of highly effective Exercise Avoidance Strategies (EAS… should I patent this?), despite living in an outdoor mecca known for its multifold recreational opportunities.
  • Fortuitously discovered that living in a rural mountainous area does not preclude blowing hundreds of hard-earned dollars (at the nearby King Arthur Flour mother ship store) on essential baking implements such as a special “Afro pick” fork to rip apart hunks of angel food cake and an 80 piece frosting and meringue tip set and muffin tins in the shape of honey bees, autumnal cornucopia, and miniature wedding cakes.
  • Drained the bank account on the Vermont locavore movement. Unclear how the local economy survived without my daily peach pie and fresh mozzarella habit.
  • Also proved myself a deft sketch comedy artist, producing several laughably reductionist door-slamming ‘skits’ (aka arguments) involving my husband and sundry unfortunates who got in my way. A close family member hung up the telephone on me on two separate occasions and, additionally, I provoked all three of my teenage/young adult children and two nephews into swearing at me and I made my beloved ten-year-old niece cry.
  • I turned 49, whoops, I meant to write thirty nine. Gosh, sorry! Middle aged brain…
  • Um, actually… I really did turn 49. WHICH MIGHT AS WELL BE FIFTY. Heck, let’s just ROUND UP AND CALL IT ALMOST SIXTY.
  • I spent inordinate amounts of time worrying about the meaning of being half a century old and panicking that my life is likely way more than half over and I haven’t begun to achieve all the spectacular accolades my 25 year-old self had imagined a long-in-the-tooth person such as my current self would surely have racked up by this decrepit milestone blah blah blah. And I filled even more of my down time feeling guilty and pathetic for wasting those fleeting hours on Planet Earth on said worries instead of, you know, Living My Best Life! (qua Oprah) or, alternatively, just quietly appreciating the fact that most of the world doesn’t make it to forty-nine and/or lives in abject misery.

So… I could go on. So many achievements! But I really need to stop making lists of all my impressive feats and get on the damned elliptical machine. I’ve always got a handy supply of Exercise Avoidance Strategies for every occasion (EAS… should I patent this?), and today’s excuse would be 100 percent ludicrous if it didn’t happen also to be 100 percent true: the humbling reality is that I walked straight into a glass door this morning – slammed into it, really – and banged up my whole face (prominent, witch-like nose bearing the brunt of it but also forehead, mouth, and teeth.) It hurt so much I saw stars and cried. My husband says the face has a lot of nerve endings and people get dis-inhibited when they get wacked in the head. My nerve endings are stinging from embarrassment more than injury.

An episode of glass door colliding does give pause, particularly in my advanced dotage: Is this the beginning of an ignoble end? Am I a bigger loser than I’d thought? Do I need a walker? A mental status exam? I’ve been having more and more of these little Q and A’s with myself now that I’ve reached the precipice of DEATH, I mean the half-century mark.

I don’t recommend it.

But compared to the alternative… What can I say? Notwithstanding the sturm und drang, I think I’m feeling okay. For one thing, I spent endless happy hours with family and dear friends who traveled far and wide to sip a drink on my porch. (Add that to my list of achievements!) And I also celebrated 25 years, on July 13th, with the love of my life. Who could have predicted that bona fide achievement (about which I am totally and unironically proud)? Certainly not my slim, sulky, and unmoored 22 year-old self. But it’s true: this summer marked 25 years of being deeply in love with the same guy.

I had a nice summer is what I’m saying.

Hope you did, too.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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14 Responses to Sophomoric Slump

  1. adauphin04 says:

    LOL! You DID have a great summer! Lofty goals, notwithstanding. Also, “normal-person-sized jeans? What EXACTLY is a normal person’s size? WOuld that be the size that society deems normal? Jus’ wonderin’…

    • Thanks! Hope you had a good summer, too! I have my own special definition of ‘normal sized jeans': they’re always one size smaller than the jeans I can currently safely wear without crushing my internal organs.

  2. Daphne says:

    Belated happy birthday. And the post was funny.

  3. Thanks, Daphne! Hope you had a good summer too!

  4. Hahaha! Erika, you’re hilarious! This sounds precisely like my Rockefeller year (My EAS are greatly boosted by Chinese pools so crowded that I got kicked in the face three times when I tried to go swimming yesterday.) Also, if it makes you feel better, I will be turning 25 soon (yikes!) and I assure you, you had the same soul crushing anxieties then, you have just conveniently forgotten them in favor of remembering your jeans size.

    • Thanks, Laura! I’m adding that ‘crowded swimming pool’ image to my list of EAS. You are so brave and clearly having an amazing experience in China. No more soul-crushing anxieties, deal?

  5. Wonderful summer. I am sure I packed on the same 9 pounds or more eating one piece of blueberry peach tart after another from local fresh blueberries and peaches. I cannot resist these 8 inch tarts with vanilla ice cream and I say to myself, ” I will eat dinner first” and then I skip dinner and have another piece of tart with ice cream. I just finished my second 8 inch tart and my quart of ice cream and I swore to my husband of 30 years we would share and share alike each tart but I greedily have skipped regular meals just to eat pie and cream. Wicked woman that I am! I lie to the man every time I make one of these darn things and I sent him to the store for more blueberries and crust today. Once again, promising this dear man I would definitely “this time” share the tart right down the middle but, I lie, and perhaps, he knows it by now, I will not share the pie right down the middle. I will make two more 8 inch tarts and I will eat most of the one, perhaps he will get a small slice or a bite, and I will “put away” the other tart in the freezer for my Mom’s 91st birthday but will it make it to her? Again. I am turning into the biggest liar of all time and over summer fruit and cream? I must confess I need to go to church this Sunday or soon and do quite a few “mea culpas” or so before I? Delve into the pie again! Oh cursed me will I never repent and amend my ways? I guess not because as long as God keeps making blueberry bushes and these people keep picking them and bringing them to market where my husband can be sent to buy and purchase them for me I am sunk! totally screwed! But, what a guilty pleasure, eh? Cheers Erica and I understand totally your 9 pound summer addition! I am sure I am up at least that much but of course, it is more. I just lied. Again! Wretched me! Liz+

  6. Mary Horvath says:

    Your post is hysterical; I am sorry to hear about the collision with a door. I feel exactly the same way about my current mental state, and I am 8 years older than you. The hardest thing for me is having two young adults who want nothing to do with my genome let alone my advice. In fact, they think their own genius is a miracle because clearly it came from neither parent. Like you, we are having to cope with one in Beijing for an entire semester working on his Mandarin at Beijing University, toughing out the life of an American intern in a news agency, and learning more about rural economies and social norms inside and outside the university setting.

    Meanwhile Dan has decided to sever the so called close tie with Mom and Dad by having nothing to do with any schools that are within 400 miles of Massachusetts.

    Keep writing! You are an amazing WRITER.

    P.S. My early years were spent in Norwich, Vermont, home to King Arthur Flour and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, where I lived in the rectory, sadly I can’t blame it for my own weight gain.

  7. Mary Horvath says:

    P.S. Hope to get Lysander and Dan together one last time before school starts.

  8. Richard Hussar says:

    Summer is not over yet …. Do you think the jeans will fit by November when there are no fresh peaches available for pie with vanilla ice cream. We are at Casa Hussar and it’s rather warm but nothing like we left in Palm Springs. My hairbrush and a few other bathroom goodies were still in the BR cabinet …. Like coming home. Boys seemed very happy to see the Uncles and put a dance review for us. It was a bit of insanity but we loved it. Carry on Ericka .. I enjoy your writings.

    • Hi Richard,
      Yes, those boys are adorable – and they’re lucky to have you guys as uncles. I look forward to meeting you one day! One of the unexpected pleasures of writing a blog has been connecting with new people of varying degrees of separation. Thanks for your kind words!

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