We’re in the down elevator. Look out the window and there’s summer, visibly diminishing with each earlier sunset. If you’re lucky, you might get out of your home and your head, take some time off and away. Upon return, you might be blessed (or cursed?), as I was recently, with that post-vacation clarity, whereby the excesses of one’s everyday life seem gaudy, nearly intolerable.
It’s good to be home, sure, but home is also absurd. Home, with its black-hole coat closet and dust-covered knickknacks and so very many condiments, is too much. A week spent living out of a suitcase and the concept of owning more than one sweatshirt seems silly. I keep thinking about the wise friend who told me that everything you buy makes everything you own less valuable.
It’s not the stuff itself — having enough stuff is a privilege — but the complications that accompany the stuff. You spend time in a new environment, on a different schedule, maybe eating different things, trying on other ways of living. Back home, you question things. Why do we always eat the same thing for dinner? Why don’t we have the same curiosity about the town where we live as we did about the town where we spent a few days? Why are we hanging on to the cords and cables from every electronic device that ever crossed our threshold?
This change in perspective, I think, more than even the rest and relaxation, is the most transformative possibility of vacation. You get to shed that life’s worth of accumulated mental freight for a short period, and it feels freeing. You return determined to maintain some of that lightness.
Even if you’re not taking a vacation this month, there’s nothing stopping you from questioning the way you’re doing things. A day trip, perhaps, or a long walk. What’s weighing you down? What feels sclerotic or overdetermined or just too much? Sometimes the problem isn’t something that announces itself as troubling, but a garage that’s too messy, a Saturday routine that doesn’t have to be so boring, a tiny spot in your life that’s become complicated and that, it turns out, you can alter in an instant.
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THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🎬 “The Adults” (out now): Michael Cera has made a career of wringing charm and sympathy out of a knowing awkwardness, whether as the young George Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development” or as Allan in last month’s superhit “Barbie.” His latest loner, Eric, is a poker addict who returns home for as brief a visit as possible. In her Times review, Amy Nicholson calls the film a “keen-eyed dramedy.”
📺 “BS High” (Wednesday): This HBO documentary explores the bizarre saga of the football team at Bishop Sycamore, a start-up high school that was clobbered 58-0 in a nationally televised game in 2021. The blowout prompted scrutiny of the school, and journalists uncovered legal and financial problems. “Almost overnight, Bishop Sycamore became shorthand for sports factories that cynically masquerade as schools to produce elite, made-for-TV athletes,” The Times wrote months after the game. Michael Strahan, the Hall of Fame defensive end, is a producer.
Grilled Chicken Skewers With Tarragon and Yogurt
We have begun our descent into Labor Day, but there’s still time to take sound grilling advice from Clare de Boer, a chef at the restaurants King and Jupiter in New York City and at Stissing House in the Hudson Valley. In this recipe she wrote for New York Times Cooking, Clare decisively guides you to skewered and grilled chicken that’s flavorful, juicy and tender, which she serves with grilled scallions, pita and yogurt sauce. This is August food, to be eaten outdoors at twilight, sighing in the last days of summer.
Blue light glasses: They’re unlikely to help strained eyes. Here’s what does.
Birthday suits: For some extremely online gay men, explicit photos are go-to gifts.
Covid: Here’s what we know about the health effects of repeat infections.
Fall marathoners: Time to increase your mileage and find your pace.
Stylish frames: Display holiday photos and your kids’ artwork on the wall.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Simplify back to school
For parents, August means two things: summer break hitting peak chaos and school supply lists hitting inboxes. This year I’m sending my youngest to preschool, and the kind but absolutely mandatory reminder “Please label all of your children’s clothes and gear” has resurfaced. In the past I’d begrudgingly reach for a Sharpie and try my hand at legibility. But this year — after researching and testing the best labels for kids’ gear and clothing — I’m overly eager to label every water bottle, lunchbox, onesie and sock. The delight of smacking labels will be a respite for me and, more important, a helpful tool for my toddler’s teachers. — Lauren Sullivan
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
England vs. Spain, Women’s World Cup final: One of Europe’s powerhouse teams will win its first World Cup this weekend. Spain is a slight favorite, thanks to stars like Alexia Putellas, the reigning winner of the Ballon d’Or, and Salma Paralluelo, a 19-year-old sensation who has emerged in the past few weeks. But the Lionesses, as England’s team is known, have been ascending for years. They reached the semifinals in the previous two World Cups and won the Euro championship last summer. “We’ve got resilience,” said Lucy Bronze, a defender. “We’ve got an inner belief that, I think, is bigger and better than we have ever had.” 6 a.m. Eastern tomorrow on Fox.