Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I bought a new planner today.

It is one of those simple pleasures of the back-to-school season of which I never grow tired.

If anyone asks (and by "anyone," I mean Facebook surveys) I say that summer is my favorite season. And it is. Host to my birthday, D's birthday, our anniversary, vacations from teaching, vacations to exciting places, weekends at the lake, BBQs with friends, late-night dog walking, and plenty of sun tea and summer brews, you just can't beat summer.

But I love the back to school excitement of blank notebooks and new pens and pencils. One of my favorite little rituals (and do be prepared to be blown away here by how thrilling my life is) is to go through my new planner with my old planner as a reference, filling in birthdays and recurring annual events, making notes of things I already know are upcoming in the new year, and reflecting on all of the things that I've done in the past twelve months.

D has gone paperless with his cell phone acting as his calendar and his planner and although I appreciate that forests don't need to be cut down to keep him on schedule, I just can't give up the old spiral-bound planner. For one thing, actually writing things down helps me remember them. For another, I like to be able to see my whole month or my whole week at a glance. And maybe most importantly, I want to hold on to these planners as a sort of reductive version of a daily diary, a reminder of how I spent the days that seemed unremarkable but surely held a few pages of a book, a conversation with a friend, laughter over dinner, a walk to the park. No, I don't schedule or write all those things down usually. But in a strange way, the mundane things I do have to keep track of ("student conferences." "dentist appt." "return overdue books") help me remember all of the little joys that balance out the boring duties ("coffee with K." "shopping with J." "driving range with D.").

Some of the calendar notes fill me with the same feeling of tension and dread that they did the first time around ("chapter draft to Miriam," " Job search meeting") except not quite as much because I know they are over and done with.

Other dates remind me of good things that I get to repeat or new things I'm doing for the first time -- we splurged on season tickets to the Repertory Theater again, so I will soon be penciling in show times. Last summer's Italy trip foreshadows this year's London and Paris trip. This year I'm writing in not just my friends' birthdays but many of their due dates and baby showers.

One of my friends recently mentioned that this was just about the first year when she finally didn't expect a summer vacation from her job. She has at last gotten over her academic-year mindset and now buys a January-December calendar like most of the world.

I like the idea of getting a fresh start in the middle of winter, and I make and break New Year's resolutions with the best of them. But for me, the new calendar year will always start in August. When the excitement of back to school has not yet become the humdrum of mid-October or the vibrating anxiety of almost-finals. When I long to buy all the cute fall clothes in stores even though it is still too warm to wear them. When I'm not quite ready for the lazy summer days to end but at the same time I'm looking forward to the busy-ness of a more bustling routine.

This year holds so much promise for me and I can't wait to start marking it all down.


  1. My birthday is April 20. Our anniversary is November 10. :)

    Tia Favorita

  2. National Pie Day is January 23rd.