I’ve endured 20 consecutive Middle Tennessee Augusts.
Even in the years where I worked acting contracts in other states, I always, always had to battle my way through my least favorite month of the year before change would spark. What do I have against August? First of all– it seems to me that August contains the most oppressively humid and woeful hot 31 days in the calendar year. Summer in Nashville typically starts baring its sharp and gritty teeth around mid May and stubbornly bites down all the way through mid September, as if holding on for dear life and warding off the briskness of fall at all costs. Flowy white sundresses, twinkling fireflies, and nights of sipping iced beverages while lounging on outdoor patios are quickly going out of style. The heat has long since lost its intrigue and the humidity, even when the sun has given up and gone to sleep, becomes an annoyance as ordinary as sitting in traffic.
Forgive me for blaming my impulsive Sagittarius nature on external factors, but I feel as though August inspires something I like to call “Heat Induced Insanity” within me. Nothing rallies impatience and that pit-of-your-stomach yearning more than than a relentlessly blazing mid afternoon sun. I find myself quick to anger, making rash judgements, and more frequently than not, in a state of creative depletion after accomplishing the most minor of tasks. I recently heard on a Podcast covering the topic of long-term happiness, that unless it’s a particularly traumatic event, the human brain does not typically linger on a negative experience and its accompanying emotion after three months time. If that’s the case, then why is it that in the hot and stuffy boredom of August I dredge up retired grievances and heartbreaks? It seems that all things previously put to rest return to roost and stir up feelings of discontent in August.
For someone who struggles with seasonal depression, I actually find myself far more restless in the dead of August than I do in even the darkest days of the bitter cold months. Don’t get me wrong– I don’t do well with extreme cold either (see What I’m Doing While I’m Not Acting for my perspective on Philadelphia in January), but at least when it’s cold you can cozy up with a novel, wrap up in a blanket (or two or three), sip on a steaming cup of hot chocolate or simply put on some sensible layers. But if it’s hot outside, what are you going to do? Strip naked in protest? If winter blues feel like coming home to a completely dark and empty house, then August Heat Induced Insanity feels like someone is forever spinning you around in a circle, but you never actually get to the point where you stop and hit the piñata. There’s no satisfying release when you manage to strike the colorful cardboard, bursting with sinful sweetness…and there’s definitely no sugar coma reward after the dizziness.
Every year, August lashes out in volcanic fury, rising with the din of morning traffic, its great metallic wings smashing against the ground, heating the air with ever-increasing intensity.
August means beach trips have long since ended and have now become melancholy memories not to be relived until next year. There is always something off-putting about driving home from vacation, putting your disappointment to rest by reciting with you family, “we’ll be here again next year”, and yet– who knows what the upcoming year will bring? Not even in a morbid way, but as you grow up, in just a logistical way you can’t always be sure that busy schedules will align. Any time multiple adults with full-time jobs are able to simultaneously daydream, sunbathe, and discard responsibilities for a complete 7 days straight, it is a miracle as rare as an unknown actor getting cast from a video submission.
I’ve noticed that as I grow older, August hits harder because beginnings (and do-overs and natural “fresh starts”) are fewer in adult life. The beginning of August used to be full of too-short days scrapping up the last remaining hours of freedom before the frenzied excitement mixed with dread of a new school year. It’s odd how the smell of a new box of crayons used to contain such a thrill of possibility, so delicate that I used to scold my parents and little brother for exhaling on my fresh 24 pack of Crayolas. “You’ll ruin the smell!” I complained. I would cautiously anticipate our yearly shopping excursion to Costco and Target. I enjoyed picking out folders of all different colors, trying out backpacks, and finding just the right complimentary lunch box. I enjoyed lining up all my school supplies on my bedroom floor and imagining what school would be like this year and who I would become in the next several months. Would I be popular? Would I finally meet a best friend? Would I be suddenly really good at math or science or develop some new and unexpected skill? But I engaged in this daydreaming cautiously because while I had images of myself breaking out of my shell, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was a socially awkward dreamer, always preferring the comfort of lying wide awake amongst the shinny new school supplies on the floor of my bedroom than the reality of fast forwarding a few months to when the crayons had lost their smell and I sat alone at lunch. (For more on beginnings check out First Times and Borrowed Spaces)
As an adult, August has notoriously acted as a period of limbo between action and inaction, longing and fulfillment. This has always been a frustrating state for me to find myself in. It’s the time between first conception of an artistic project or creative idea and the actual execution and it’s damn near excoriating. When I’m in this state– I don’t know why– but I visualize myself as slowly drowning in quicksand. The ground is sinking beneath my feet and swallowing me whole, but I have a thought, an idea, an epiphany that I need to expel and shout to the world! …but I don’t have time to form the words before the sand’s risen to my mouth and then completely consumed me. The cheerful planning and dreaming stages can quickly turn a gray corner when self doubt and practicality kick in. These thoughts don’t vanish until I finally just do the thing– write the play, start the project, begin the new routine, produce the show; fulfill the dream, whatever it is.
I know that I can’t expect to continue forging through life “with my brain on August”–it’s unhealthy for me and, I assume, unbearable for those closest to me who have to deal with my lethargic outlook. So, I make small attempts at breaking out of this humid head space by creating game plans: developing new routines, trying out self care rituals, planning future vacations, etc.– but none of which are actually successful until September…
Every August is the same.
I feel like it’ll never end–it is one of the longest months of the year after all– but then as inevitable as its beginning, it always comes to a well earned end and miraculously it is September. It’s still hot. The high is supposed to be 93 in Nashville today and it’s September 3rd… but still, I know that if lifestyle bloggers are starting to lose their minds over all things pumpkin spice, cooler weather and the real possibility of change is on the horizon.
We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghosts.