humanity, loneliness, men

The Summer of My Discontent

Overnight, Texas soil went from saturated to cracked. Grass that grew too quickly to keep mowed in May is brittle gold. Leaves and pecans fall early. And house dogs wait until eight at night to walk their owners. Even then it’s ninety degrees.

It’s nothing new. Every late July the soil cracks, the trees stress, the gardens and flowers planted with good intentions in early spring wither. Locusts rattle from the post oaks under an endlessly sunny sky. Country folk watch for any chance of a cloud and conversations end with, “Let it rain.”

It’s an endless routine. The same seasons and patterns. The same fears and problems. Drought followed by flood. Selling cows and restocking. Praying for rain that doesn’t come until harvest. The same conversations year after year. “I’ve lived in this county for sixty years, and I don’t remember it ever this dry.”

There’s never a July or August that I don’t wish I lived somewhere else. Somewhere cooler. Somewhere cloudier. Somewhere wetter. September gives me hope. We pretend it will cool off in October because that’s what it’s supposed to do. And maybe it will in November.

I’ve lived through this cycle for forty-four years. And I’ve worked in the same job for sixteen. A job as routine and unchanging as the seasons. As steady, safe, and secure as any job can be. And as boring.

We work eight hours and come home to busy spouses and busy kids on their way to work or practice or social events, and we do what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before. Some laundry or dishes or a small repair or Ben needs air in his bicycle tire or Lily needs a ride to gymnastics. I was tired of mowing last month, but I miss it this month.

My wife has good friends. They are planning their annual fall hiking trip now. For several years, I’ve told her this is the year that I’ll make friends and do things. Maybe I’ll hike at Yosemite. But another year goes by, and the only things I’ve managed to do beyond what is required are play with my weights and try to write a few stories about the adventures I used to have.

I’ve grown increasingly discontent since I turned forty. I want to do something but don’t know what it is. Start a business. Write a book. Return to my former studious ways. Hike the Appalachian trail. Move to Iceland. Join the military. (I realize I’m too old.) Travel to Spain for the running of the bulls. Run with the bulls. Steal the hearts of the Spanish ladies.

Off and on throughout my life I’ve felt this longing for something. A place I’ve never been, or an experience I’ve never had. As I get older, the longing gets stronger. At some level I realize my time is getting shorter. My time to live and experience more of the world than my dry and withered corner before I wither and am buried and forgotten in my dry and withered corner where the dandelions will grow and bloom and die and the ground will crack above me.

Discontent is the cousin of loneliness, which I wrote about last year. In general, men are not as good at meaningful relationships and friendships as women are. Over the last year I made three attempts to make new friends. All good guys whom I have things in common with, but none of us have the time or energy. The friendships withered and died like the petunias we plant with such hope in April.

Spring turns to summer. Rain turns to drought. Meadows turn to chaff. Petunias die. But each spring, with new hope, we plant them and fertilize them and water them and promise that this year we will be more diligent. We don’t give up. This will be the year of harvest—whether tomatoes or friends or new adventures. Where there’s life, there are possibilities. Dreaded August is here, but it brings the promise of September. And September gives me hope.

About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.

Discussion

35 thoughts on “The Summer of My Discontent

  1. Wow! We think in mostly same way about everything that you have written here.

    When we started families, we gave over ourselves to taking care of those families and when most of the long hard work has been done, we begin to realize that we have neglected ourselves. I will soon be staring at my 50s wondering “what do I do now?”. I stare at maps almost daily thinking about going to random places and seeing things i have never seen. I am afraid of being too comfortable and relaxing the rest of my years away.

    Nice read. I always enjoy your posts.

    Posted by Jason Frels | July 30, 2019, 8:05 pm
    • Thanks so much, Jason. It’s good to know people relate. From your posts, I do think you and I like and enjoy a lot of the same things. Let’s not relax our years away. There are lots of hiking trails right here in Texas that neither of us have been on.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | July 30, 2019, 8:31 pm
  2. I think some of us feel what you describe in this wonderful, deeply insightful post. As we get older we begin to lament what might have been, what should be and what we will do. Running of the bulls huh, Didn’t you do that as PBR back in the day? I know there’s a difference but damn you were a professional bull rider, you have great stories about those experiences. The ground will always crack underneath us, the grass will always turn yellow, flowers will always wither, it’s what life brings forth. You can and will accomplish all you want to, but don’t let you get in the way of you having those adventures 😉😎

    Posted by thehuntress915 | July 30, 2019, 8:22 pm
  3. I’ve had my eye on the pacific crest trail for quite some time. I’ve ridden or hiked all of Washington but I’d like to do the whole thing in a summer. We can start at Mexico in the spring and be to Canada by September. Hmm.
    True John, I’ve got lots of memories but making fewer and fewer. I’m ready for my another adventure.

    Posted by jim- | July 30, 2019, 9:26 pm
    • I’d love to hike that trail. More than the Appalachian, really. I just like the west. I think it’s great that you’ve covered all of Washington. Mexico to Canada sounds like a plan.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | July 30, 2019, 10:14 pm
  4. It seems the closer we get to old age and death, a sense of manque sets in. We wonder what could have been, had we gone in a different direction, or if it isn’t too late to change direction now. I don’t think it’s ever too late to make radical change. But much has to be sacrificed, and the question is, is the sacrifice worth it? Or will life be satisfactory enough, holding onto our progress and continuing in the same direction we’re heading? These are tough, but interesting questions to ponder.

    Posted by Tippy Gnu | July 30, 2019, 10:43 pm
    • I often wish I’d gone in a different direction until I consider my wife and children. If I’d done anything differently, I wouldn’t know any of them. And so I’m grateful for the path I took, mistakes and all. But we’d all like more adventures. You’re right–they are interesting questions to ponder.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | July 30, 2019, 10:48 pm
  5. This is such a beautiful and insightful post – and a common experience, I think, as one starts to get older. I’m in a similar position just now. I look back over the past and wonder what I could have done differently, and what my life might be like now if I had. I wonder if I can realistically change direction at this point; I think I probably could, but at what cost, and would things necessarily be any better? I was chatting about it with someone the other day, someone who was going through something similar. I wondered if all of this might be symptoms of a midlife crisis. She took a moment to consider this, and then asked, “Midlife crisis, or reality check?” An interesting question, I thought. I just wish I knew the answer…

    Posted by Mari Biella | July 31, 2019, 1:49 am
    • Thank you so much Mari, and it’s always great to hear from you. Yes, that is an interesting question. “At what cost?” That’s the problem.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 1, 2019, 8:08 am
  6. Sounds pretty similar to our lives over here at the opposite end of the world (Nordic region). Each winter, people complain about the darkness and dreariness, each summer they complain it’s too hot and sunny at 20 C. Each summer the tabloids announce extreme heat and each winter there’s a recirs amount of snow or lack of snow or something else. Blah. Friends are made at kindergarden and if you weren’t there, you don’t have any. New friends are rarely picked up along the way and new members are unwanted in existing groups. Maybe people are the same wherever you are.

    Posted by The Snow Melts Somewhere | July 31, 2019, 2:52 am
  7. Typo: recirs = record ! 😊

    Posted by The Snow Melts Somewhere | July 31, 2019, 2:53 am
  8. I can relate to this post in a number of ways. For one, I have that longing to do more with my life, it seems to grow as you get older. Also I’m finding I have much fewer friends than I used to. Part of it is having a less tolerance for BS, but I notice it takes a lot more effort to make new friends as you get older too. I have a good core group of friends but we all live in different cities so we don’t catch up as much as I’d like.

    Posted by TheCovertAtheist | July 31, 2019, 3:41 am
    • I’m really glad to hear that people can relate. And you’re right–as we get older, we have less tolerance for BS, drama, and fake people. Sometimes it’s easier to just avoid it all. Easier and preferable.

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 1, 2019, 8:06 am
  9. Beautifully written, if a trifle depressing. I think as we age we all look back with regret at the things we meant to do and never did…. but as long as you’re in this side of the dirt? There’s time. Cultivate your friendships.. they need water and care just like your cracked Texas soil. (90 at 8:00pm? Good God man, move to Iceland!) Hike Yosemite… what’s stopping you? There will come a day when you’re truly unable to do these things. Now that’s depressing!!
    😉

    Posted by Rivergirl | July 31, 2019, 5:14 am
    • Thank you. Yes, I should do those things while I can. And I will try harder in the friend area. I appreciate your comment (and reading)!

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 1, 2019, 8:04 am
  10. Believe it or not, it’s stifling hot in Ottawa Canada these days too. We try not to complain because the coldest winter in history was not that long ago.

    Posted by Middle Aged Momma | July 31, 2019, 6:59 am
  11. From October thru April, every month was the coldest on record. It was the winter that never ended. 🥶 We have extreme weather here. But every now and then we have a perfect day!

    Posted by Middle Aged Momma | August 1, 2019, 8:07 am
  12. This is beautifully written and totally captures the hunger I feel for more experiences too. Perhaps it’s a feeling that never leaves no matter what changes we can make in life.

    Posted by Hannah Louise | August 1, 2019, 3:48 pm
    • Thank you so much. And I’m glad you relate. Maybe the feeling is a good thing in that it leads us to take action. Thanks for visiting and reading!

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 2, 2019, 6:43 am
  13. Ahh join the club. I think we all experience that feeling and it gets stronger with each passing year. Have you tried joining a running or hiking group?

    Posted by Snowbird In Training | August 1, 2019, 6:18 pm
  14. This is an eye-opening post and these comments have me terrified. I’m probably one of your younger readers, but I still relate to a lot of what’s being said. My bucket list gets longer by the day and I’ve barely crossed anything off of it.

    I am going to Spain in September though, so maybe I’ll steal some Spanish lady hearts.

    Posted by Shayne | August 1, 2019, 6:50 pm
    • I’m glad you’re starting your adventures early, Shayne. If I was going to be old man enough to give advice, I’d say travel all that you can before you have too many other obligations. Have fun in Spain! And thank you for reading!

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | August 2, 2019, 6:41 am
  15. Beautifully written. I think you should push yourself to take that hike. You sound like you work hard. Perhaps some time in Yosemite is just what need, to immerse yourself in lush green life. It’s amazing how rejuvenating and inspiring spending time in nature can be, especially for the soul!

    Posted by Ashlee Marche | August 1, 2019, 7:57 pm
  16. Such a lovely bit of reflection. Here’s hoping this is the year when you make new friends and do new things. You’re still young enough for that. My old folks are in their 60s (68 and 66) and they don’t even think about stopping, so don’t you dare! Easier said than done, I know, but hey – September is just a couple weeks away! Who knows what it’ll bring! 🙂 Hope you’re well, and sorry for the delayed comment, but I felt like I should say a little something.

    Posted by Jay | August 14, 2019, 8:29 am

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