When I was young, my family vacationed at a house in Wimberly, Texas with a malfunctioning refrigerator. It kept food cold, but a wiring issue created a short circuit and anyone who touched its handle received a mild shock. We must have thought it strange to find a single tennis shoe parked in front of the fridge, but we learned quickly. If you pirouetted on that shoe as you opened the door, you were fine.
This story may be meaningless to anyone but me and my brothers and sisters, but it has stuck with me as a metaphor. I’m always searching for that shoe.
Every Sunday I anticipate another work week with mild dread. After the conditioning of seventeen years as a student and almost twice that as a teacher, I’m looking for a way to rehabilitate Sunday. Nice weather, plans with my wife and kids, working ahead to clear space for reading, painting, or writing—none of it ever saves me entirely. I gird my loins in preparation for the now too familiar shock.
Life works that way. You won’t welcome every task, and, for me, the necessary and repetitive tasks require the most acute resolve. Waking on Sunday means accepting another set of ungraded papers and another rereading and another report, college recommendation, or plan. But acceptance isn’t exactly that shoe.
Some people are better with mild shocks. Their bodies channel electricity organically. Some seem to enjoy the stimulation. I worry—how many more shocks I can stand?
Often, I fantasize about the day they’ll stop and picture myself in a cardigan doing the crossword. I have time for talk, new books, and watching tidal light flood the living room. The dishes are done, the house orderly, every list empty.
My friends must be sick of hearing me say I’m tired. When I complain, they tell me, rightly, complaining doesn’t help and I’d miss the productive feeling of having work before me. I’d love to convince myself a jolt is something I can relish, but, so far, no shoe.
I wonder sometimes if it’s me, and not the fridge, that’s broken. I want to pirouette again. I spread the shocks out, eat only when I’m really, really hungry, and practice amnesia to help forget the last touch of Sunday. Still… the moment arrives.