It was Dickens who coined the phrase: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Never have I understood this paradox intimately until this summer.

As each orbit of the earth around the sun ascends and descends, sun sets on summer. A week from Wednesday, I go back to work, teaching high school students to develop a love for literature, a relationship with writing. The casual spontaneity of summer will transform into life by the clock – meticulously planned, spinning quickly into vortices composed of coffee, pencils, lesson plans, and more coffee. I’m okay with that.

This summer has been full of magical moments. In Mexico, the clock disappeared, and the sun’s position in the sky dictated my schedule. At home, the only hour that mattered to me was 3 P.M., the best hour of the day to go to the pool for some light reading and sunbathing. In New Mexico, each day was a story unfolding by the hour. All of this sprinkled with daycations, exploring places close to home.

I’ve been happy; my life is exceptionally fortunate. I never lose sight of how great I have it. My husband is kind, gentle, and giving. My home is a cozy sanctuary. My animals are healthy, happy.

It’s challenging, however, to juxtapose the wonder of this season in my life with the hardships peeking their head around the corner. I don’t want to divulge the degree of devastation in a blog post, but I’m struggling to find a happy medium, where this blissful moment in time and space is not marred by these unspeakable troubles.

But – at the same time, self preservation makes me feel guilty. I’m a walking, talking contradiction. How can I reconcile being in the happiest time and space of my life while an inferno is blazing nearby? It’s like I am endlessly in the eye of the hurricane, while destruction wreaks havoc all around. I feel selfish yet selfless. I feel the need to self preserve and the need to run into the fire and burn myself to save others simultaneously.

My heart hurts; my soul is troubled; my sleep is disturbed.

And – yet, I am thankful. Where there is light, there is darkness. Where there is love, there is hate. Where there is elation, there is despair. When you are in the best of times, you can encounter the worst of times.

In these worst of times, perhaps the best thing I can do is cling to the best of times. I’m not helping anyone else if I’m not helping myself. I can’t pull others out of the blaze if I, myself, fall victim to the fire.

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