A post in which I use a tired metaphor because my brain is tired and I can’t really think of anything else.
If I were a geologist, I would have seen the earthquake coming. Unless it’s one of those disaster movies (why do I love them so much?!) where the fancy ass scientists don’t recognize the warning signs and only the nerdy crazies know what’s coming but nobody listens to them. In that case, someone would have noticed, but I digress.
I should have. (Shit. Does that make me the obtuse and narcissistic scientist? Let’s pretend no.)
I barely got out in time. I am, if we’re sticking with this metaphor, still driving as the ground crumbles behind my back tires. But we all know that I will make it. You all know that that dusty truck ALWAYS drives toward the rainbow.
But now I recognize pieces of my life are beginning to settle into old and new places.
I am consumed with hope simply because it has been so long.
It’s itching at my clavicles and my heels. It was there all along.
This is new. Before, I drove and sobbed and contemplated and reckoned carefully. I am sure I am not finished driving and sobbing and contemplating, but it is no longer ALL.
And the aftershocks are coming, I know. I am going to do just what I always want my characters to do: keep my running shoes on, pack water, look up.
While the end of soccer season always brings a visceral, and bittersweet, relief, the beginning sneaks up on us. A practice here, a game there, until BAM. It’s October and everyone is out of clean underwear (either wearing dirty ones inside out or none at all) and you haven’t had a hot meal before 9 pm in two months.
This is what the beginning of this soccer season looks like for me:
I change into my running clothes before every practice. I pack one work-related activity. I spend the first 30 minutes working or reading, and the rest walking or running. I was feeling pretty smug about this until I realized it’s only August. Actually, I’ve written this post before, haven’t I?
I guess the good news is that we always survive to see another season. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve this season though.
PBJ suppers- no whining allowed.
Cereal always trumps Pizza Hut. No restaurants after games.(Playoffs excluded). This will easily save us an hour and a half each game night.
Freezer meals. I’ve already planned out meals to put away for busy game/week nights.
This is my least favorite: morning work outs. I’ve been practicing since July, and think the habit is setting.
Thursdays and Saturdays are for grading (and soccer games). I will find the nearest Tim Horton’s or McDs and use their Internet while waiting for C’s game.
One needs to know me for about five minutes before they know without a doubt that I am not a morning person.
Just a couple of days ago, Matt tried to wake me up in, let’s say, a very unsatisfactory and much too creative way. It didn’t go well. I did end up fully awake by the end of the encounter, which extended beyond thirty minutes, but I also maybe told him any of the following: “I JUST DON’T WANT TO SEE YOUR FACE RIGHT NOW!!! ARGH! I DON’T WANT TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU. I WANT TO BE ON A DIFFERENT PLANET! YOU FUCKING SUCK SO SO SO MUCH!” I picked up my head to sneer and then flopped it dramatically on my pillow. I tried to punch him in the penis, which was not where it, ahem, should have been in the first place. I pulled the covers over my head and rolled around until I was wrapped up like the tightest little burrito in the freezer bag. I was, we could venture to say, not ready to wake up yet.
I’ve learned plenty about myself over the last few years. I like to think that I was pretty self-aware before I met Matt, but the truth is that you don’t know a lot about yourself until you are living with another person. Matt, most days, wakes up and begins his day immediately. I, on the other hand, need Time. The alarm clock blares thirty minutes before I need to get out of bed. I don’t talk (or think or eat or do anything) until I’ve finished my first cup of coffee, and sometimes even the second. If it’s a weekend, I read in bed for a bit. On a work day I tend to review my schedule and skim a few news sites for interesting info to incorporate into lessons.
I’m slow to warm up.
For me, this goes beyond mornings. It means knowing what is coming far in advance. It means accepting homesickness a full year after a move. It means the first two miles of any run will always be the hardest.
We’ve adapted at home to try to negotiate this. I keep a color-coded Google calendar and I’ve only totally messed it up once in three years. Matt does an admirable job keeping me updated (why, God, won’t he just use the Google calendar?!) on any changes in his plans. We meet during Sunday night dinner and The Simpsons to talk about the upcoming week and review our meal plan. Colby accepts gracefully when he asks a question that I answer with “I’ll get back to you on that, okay?”.
It also means that I need to learn some new skills, as in, How to Deal When Something Comes Up and You Want to Totally Lose Your Shit.
Because life happens whether I’ve put it in the schedule or not. Games get canceled, plans change, kids come home sick and boy, there is nothing like a last-minute assembly and/or fire drill and/or lock down at work.
When I begin my runs, I start slow. I walk for a bit, jog for a bit, and hit my pace when I’m ready. If I’m training I reign those times in, but the setup stays the same. By the time my first two miles are over I feel like going another two. This is why the 13.1 is my favorite distance.
Two things have come from this realization:
1. I’ve been consistently running two milers. I figured if those were the hardest miles, those were the miles I needed to work on.
2. I’ve translated some warm-up activities into my life that help me deal with the unexpected.
I plan out my whole school year before it begins. I mark all scheduled holidays, teacher in-service days and the estimated weeks/months where testing shows up. I still won’t know a lot (field trips, sports games, flu season, pep rallies), but I’ve accounted for everything I can. I know what units come when with ?# assignments per unit. Two miles.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I begin and complete one short task: clear dishwasher, sweep, fold laundry, etc. Voila! I’ve accomplished something. Two miles.
I’m working on those two miles, friends. I enjoy the warm-up, whether it is the first two miles of a run or the first two hours of a Tuesday, but it would be so nice to enter fully into everything just a little bit sooner.
I feel like summer is a boulder rolling, rolling, rolling downhill and picking up speed. I want it to stop. STOP. Now. Thanks.
My wedding registry tells me there are 57 days left until the wedding. This means only 50 something days before school begins again. *sigh* I’m not physically ready for the wedding or spiritually ready for school.
I have Colby a grand total of six days in July. Six. That is not enough. I’m so happy that he has a chance to spend some time with his father, but. . . more on that later.
I am reading like a fiend. Check out my book list page. This is one of my favorite things about summer. Also – all of my reading and writing time counts, for me, as “professional development”. That’s what I tell my family anyway.
I am awaiting a lumber delivery as we speak. Matt and his father have been jacking and digging and mixing concrete and pulling up boards. I cannot wait for the barn to be finished and have Matt back. I’m sure he would rather be at camp instead of pulling boards in 90 degree weather too.
I have a list of recipes that are nearly ready to go up. We have been eating swiss chard, more swiss chard, and occasionally cereal.
I’m running again. We’ll get back to that.
I am officially enrolled on my local yoga studio‘s teacher training program. I’ve been waiting for this FOREVER. Like since I was 10 years old and pulled a yoga sequence article out of my mother’s Redbook. I’m dropping out of university to go to yoga school.
And now, I’m going outside because I cannot stand to see the sunshine without being directly in its path.
Nothing juicy here, just a little Sunday morning productivity. To me, the productivity part is a bigger surprise than an unintended pregnancy.
I’ve been up since 4:30. I had a dream that I was signed up for a sprint triathlon (which I recruited friends to do with me) but I was late because I was folding laundry at my parent’s house. We made it there as the starting gun went off but I couldn’t find my bike and watched all of my friends start without me. As-freaking-if any of those things (aside from my lateness) would ever happen. Surprising I couldn’t fall back asleep after that . . .
Some good came out of that adrenaline-producing dream, though. Both of my yearly syllabi (behemoth-like documents including yearly plans, quarter-by-quarter schedules listing all school events, expectations and grading guidelines, sample assignments and more) are FINISHED. Finished as in: spell-checked, date-checked, major assignments and due dates included complete.
My father and I have this thing where, most afternoons, we call each other and see how the day went. The conversation is predictable: An ‘A’ day, not an ‘A’ day, or even worse – “a Day”.
Today was a Day.
My fat pants didn’t fit. I’ve been reduced to pants and skirts with drawstrings and stretchy waistbands.
I teach seniors who have three official school days left.
I had to grocery shop after 5 p.m. without Colby (he is THE best grocery shopping companion of all time).
Two important decisions need to be made pronto. I can tell nearly anyone exactly what I think they should do. I tell them to take care of themselves, to make a list, to prioritize, to think. For me to do these things, well, a totally different story.
My two decisions may directly address the problem of ill fitting pants, though. I need to decide whether or not I’m going to sign up for this triathlon (I’ve been dreaming about it all year) AND if I am going to apply to yoga teacher training (which I’ve wanted to do since I was 10 and saw an article on yoga in my mother’s Redbook).
Both decisions have financial implications for my family. Both events will *hopefully benefit me, my health and my sanity.
This evening will find me grading, folding laundry, taking a creative look at our budget, and making up my mind.
When people ask me how we’re doing, how life is, I inevitably reply “crazy” and then immediately feel like an asshole. Here’s the thing – we are living the same life most of you are living (or have lived through OR are quickly on your way to experiencing). I, WE, are no different from any other working family with active, school-aged children. What I do is not exceptional, it’s what we all do.
Nearly every day is a sprint-to-the-finish mission to just effing lay down. We herd kids, we drive kids, maybe we even teach kids. We go from sports practice to music practice to off-season sports practice to homework time to are-you-seriously-telling-me-your-science-book-is-at-school and where did you leave your pants?! time. I’m not sure about you, but by the time I’m halfway through my dinner glass of wine I am ready to hit the ground. As in, I would curl up ON the ground, with or without a blanket, and go to sleep if anyone would let me. But the dogs need to go out and the dishes aren’t done and my work bag is glaring at me from the corner and, insert your own after-dinner demon. I do not tend to end my evenings reflecting on how well my day has gone on the parent, partner, teacher scale.
Thank God this has finally happened.
Snow came yesterday and graciously canceled all after school activities, freeing up two or three extra after-school hours for us. I had a migraine and I had papers to grade, but had the odd ambition to run and swim. I’ll fill you in soon on exactly why and how fitness and general self-care left my life for a few months, but for now just know that this was a rare event. I decided to pick Colby up from school on-time and head over to the University of Maine rec center for a run and a swim.
Colby was both compliant AND excited (an anomaly these days) and packed quickly. I planned for him to use the indoor track with me to run and then hit the pool and hot tub. When I came out of the changing room (single mothers with male children – we need an entirely different post about the inherent problems with this system) he was nowhere to be found. Three frantic text messages and ten minutes later I spotted him on the basketball court with a bunch of his friends playing a pickup game. Once I was done being pissed about his lack of communicating his whereabouts I was elated – I got my solo run upstairs!
After I finished my (first in a looooong time) ssllllloooooowwwww and sweaty two miles, during which I realized some running pants actually do require you to wear underwear, I went downstairs and found Colby like this:
Happy and sweaty, just like his Mama.
We swam in the pool and soaked in the hot tub and left feeling like entirely different (and better) people. We kept asking each other “Uh – why don’t we do this all the time?”.
It took nearly a million years to get home on the snowy roads, but it was the best spent time we’ve had in so very long.
Here’s hoping that I won’t forget this small fact: we need to play, to hit pause in the general craziness of our lives, if we plan on enjoying any of it.
Before that, though, my day was frantic if normal. I even made time to go to the new makeup store with a friend. I’m having difficulty being productive in between schlepping Colby everywhere (school ->basketball->orchestra->home->bed), so filling up 30 in-between minutes looking at sweet smelling false promises was a welcome activity. I bought some body oil and detangler and new foundation. I left in time.
Colby was totally ready to roll when I picked him up at practice.
I dropped him off at orchestra practice, which just happens to be where I work. I let him know that I was going to the gym first and to meet me in my office when he was done.
At the gym, I ran for the first time in a few weeks. It was slow and visceral and I was so so happy to get sweaty. Then my phone rang, and I answered it even though I NEVER answer unfamiliar numbers. Never. Colby didn’t have practice. He had been waiting at the school for an hour. I turned off the treadmill and wrestled with my keys and earbuds while checking my email because he said “Mom. I sent you an email…”. It read something like: “mom, I’m hungry, come get me before the janitor kicks me out”.
I made it from the gym to my office in three minutes to find all the lights off and no sign of my kid.
Seven awful minutes and three bathroom checks later, I found him, but not before I had to tell a group of co-workers that I lost my kid and had they maybe seen him anywhere.
This must be my lucky week though, because not only did I find him in one physical and spiritual piece, he told me “mom – don’t sweat it”.
I tried to give them an out all week long. Really, I did. But at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I threw us, a bunch of food, and multiple changes of dry clothes in the car. Matt drove, Colby slept and I stretched and annoyed Matt with endless attempts at meaningless conversation. We left in the rain, driving toward more rain, and arrived promptly . . . ahead of schedule. I should have recognized our punctuality to be indicative of something great, but I didn’t. The boys waited, I paced. I ate a cookie. I slopped Body Glide all over my toes so that they were slipping all around in my socks every time I got back out of the car to use the bathroom, again.
I’ll give you the short version: It was rainy. I ran 13.1 miles, alternating between conversation bombing (a personal flaw I’ve decided to turn into a skill) people around me and turning my attention inward. I ran and enjoyed the (foggy) ocean view. I took deep, restorative breaths of ocean air. I ran and took mental notes on amazing landscaping. I ran and prayed what Anne Lamott coined the “Help, help, help” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you” prayers, with a new ‘help’ and a new ‘thank you’ every mile. I ate my new favorite Honey Stinger gels at miles 4 and 8. It was truly awe-some. I ran without an ipod, iphone, or a watch. I came in about two minutes under my goal time to shave about 7 minutes off my half time from last spring.
I don’t know what happened.
Because I lost so much training time I had planned out a walk/run schedule, but when I got to my first walk time I felt good, so I kept running. And so on and so forth. I had been holding a finish time of 2:30 in my head all summer long, and last week during a training melt-down (during which I almost dropped out) I decided to let that time go and be happy with a finish. Once I realized that I was on target for a possible 2:30 finish though, I reformulated that plan.
I held back early on just because I wanted to finish and finish strong (read: not vomiting and not in the medical tent). About halfway through I made a deal that I would turn it on a bit after mile 10. And I did. After the last clock I knew it was going to be close, but I stayed strong and steady. Coming into the chute I saw the clock counting up 2:28 . . . and I put the hammer down (does anyone know what that saying actually means? I don’t but it seems appropriate, so it’s staying). I crossed the line AT 2:30, but as of last night my official time was 2:28:42. Air punch karate kick.
While I was wiping myself down in the backseat of the car (windows were fogged, no worries people) Matt asked the perennial “why the hell does anyone actually want to do this”. And I’m not sure I have the answer, but I have my answer. I do this because in a world where so much is dependent upon everyone else and so many people are dependent upon me, this is the one thing that really, truly is all me. My training or lack of, my perspective, my juju (good or bad). All of it.
And as much as I need to be in control, it was awfully nice to let go and let my training, my body, and some benevolent higher power take over.
Before I re-started my running life, I wondered why it was that so many of my new co-workers were either marathoners or some other form of endurance sport competitors. While training for my first race, though, I realized that that marathon (or for me, 5k or 1/2 marathon) was the perfect metaphor for the teacher life. I pluck along each summer reading a teacher book here, writing a curriculum unit there. If I’m especially ambitious I take a class or two. I run, swim, and kayak. I cart Colby from camp to camp and force him to go to the beach with me. We eat late because we are busy fitting everything in. The last couple of weeks in August, I taper. Everything slows down. I’m still doing the things I usually do, but more purposefully, much more slowly. Everything I do is aimed toward the general goal of beginning the school year with a reserve of energy, patience, good will and good habits.
This school year, finally, the starting gun was less intimidating. Like a smart athlete, I had goals that I worked toward all summer long (organization and routines) and I have been able to see my, um, training, pay off. I’m waxing poetic about this because I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and so far, proud of the results. I tend to be one of those “fuck it I do the best I can” people, which really isn’t as effective as I think it is. I’m all for cutting yourself a break, but I needed to cultivate an attitude with more push and less couch. This has not been easy. However, if I can sustain this pace throughout the year … awesome things will happen.
Really though, I’m nervous about the 1/2 coming up at the end of the month. I’ve struggled with a weird left tibia shin splint since the week before my last 1/2, and my training has been on and off. I’ve integrated more yoga and bike riding into my training and I shelled out an obscene amount of money for a pair of new (ohsodreamy) running shoes. I’m trying to build strength and endurance without killing myself, because I reallyreallyreally want to break 2:30 this time. And now, my knees really, really hurt. So I’m going for one good bike ride per week.
Which brings me to the constant playing of Queen in my head. Because really? I want to ride my bicycle. I ride this gorgeous 7-mile loop right from my house and when I’m done? I can still walk! My knees don’t creak every time I attempt to lift my leg to say, walk to the bathroom. I pass four horse farms, ride up and down challenging hills, and observe the subtle seasonal changes. I have no plans to abandon my running life, but . . . I want to ride my (purple $20 yard sale little girl’s mountain) bicycle. The only thing better than riding that 7 mile loop on my yard sale bicycle would be riding the same loop on an actual road bike. In a pair of bike shorts with some, uh, strategic padding.
I want to go back out again right now, but I won’t. Thunder is rumbling, and I have a long run tomorrow, homework and housework today. And the looming presence of the Sugarloaf Marathon next Spring? I’ll keep the tab open on my computer, but will wait and see how the Maine Marathon 1/2 ends. Hmmm.