- My running group convinced me to sign up for a half-marathon on Labor Day weekend (“But it’s only $5!). I have sworn that I would never do that. I’m somewhere between terrified and gritting my teeth to get down to business. First training run is tomorrow.
- I got a sample Powerbar in some race swag earlier this year and loved it. Turns out that that type is discontinued. Sad trombone.
- M’s sister is getting married on Labor Day. Outside. In Alabama. The entire family is appropriately horrified (the heat! the humidity! the mosquitoes!), but she will not be dissuaded. However, as we have not been asked to provide flower girls, I am gritting my teeth and practicing my “Not my circus, not my monkeys” chant.
- 8 days of school left. Two graduation celebrations to attend. Ballet practice and recital at the same time. Everyone, EVERYONE!, is done. My teeth are gritted so hard I might never unclench my jaw again. Bring on the summer vacation.
- Crap, I type slow. 4 bullet points in 5 minutes. I’m out of practice, obviously. Need to work on that.
Mama, I saw a butterfly!
[You are a butterfly, my love.]
What color was it?
Black and white and red stripes!
[You flit through the yard in rainbow tulle, pink and orange and yellow, silver sandals and pink sequins flashing in the sun.]
But it flew away over the fence.
It’s probably eating the honeysuckle.
[Creamy white and yellow buds twining through the green trees, sweet scent wafting on the soft breeze. When you get older, I’ll teach you to pluck the blossoms and suck the sweet nectar yourself.]
Can I be in the hammock with you?
Of course, my love.
[Come nestle beside me, draping your long brown legs over mine, feet bare and muddy, breathe with me as we drift back and forth under the tall green trees.]
I love you, mama.
I love you too, baby.
[I love you forever, my heart.]
I stepped outside and breathed yellow air.
I went anyway.
Behind the building, through the ragged grass, the unmown clover.
The walls shielded me from the sound of passing cars as my steps dipped down the embankment
To the rippling water, the muddy edges lined with tall reeds bent from a rain-swollen torrent
Dry channels lined with gravel, stilled eddies warm from the sun housing fat bullfrogs, their baritone croaks and chirrups announcing their presence.
Mallards floating, flying, perching, sleeping, eyeing me warily as I approached.
I saw white clover, robin’s plantain, dandelions, blackberry brambles, henbit, yellow wood sorrel, hop clover, redbud.
I smelled fresh cut grass, my own sweat, the cinnamon-gum breath of the runner passing me on the path, the grease and rusted metal tang from the mechanic’s lot, the fryer grease wafting from the back door of the cantina.
I heard the birds, the birds, the birds, the syncopated footfalls of the ballerinas powering through the walls of the ballet studio, the dog barking, the SPLOOSH of something submerging rapidly at the sound of my footsteps, the wind.
The air conditioners, all of them, already.
The cars, all of them, rushing by on the street, the sound dipping and sliding around walls and fences and trees and earthworks, weaving in and out of the background noises of living things.
The giggling chatter of two women – the local librarians. I nodded in recognition, but I doubt they knew my face.
Far enough, time to return.
And all of it, again, in reverse.
I climbed the hill at the beginning, now the end, wiped crusted salt from my face, wished for a drink.
Wished for the bench overlooking the water behind the Lutheran church, still and silent and inviting to all who would partake of its support, freely offered.
Climbed back in the hot car, sweaty shirt pressed against me, air rushing past my face my hair my eyes my skin, through and around and out the open windows.
What I need most is what every parent of 3 small children needs – sleep. I’ve been sleep deprived since mid-2009 — I joke that I have a blood caffeine level that I have to maintain just to make it through the day. Except that it’s not really a joke.
It’s easy to say “Tonight’s the night I’m going to bed early!” But when it comes down to it, by the time I get home from work, and then we have dinner and do homework and have a bath now and then and maybe a book and a few minutes with each kid as I tuck them in, then nurse the baby down to sleep, then watch a show with M – I’m lucky if I’m in bed by my nominal bedtime of 10:30. I’m treating this as one of those things that will pass eventually; they all have to sleep through the night eventually, right? (If not, lie to me and tell me it’s true.)
There are other things that I use to replenish: running, reading books, going out with M for dinner and a cup of coffee, lunch with my girlfriends, the occasional lazy Sunday spent cross-stitching. Those are actually easier to get worked into my schedule than a nap. I feel like if I start going to bed earlier, then I have to give up some of those things, or time that I spend with my family members, or chores around the house. There are so many things that have to get done to keep this family working, and then so many more things and events that I want to do and participate in. I don’t want to live a life where I get up, go to work, come home, barely see anyone, don’t do anything, and then go to bed. That doesn’t sound like any kind of life worth living to me. I’d rather down a pot of coffee and keep on squeezing out the joy in as many moments as I can cram into my day.
The truth is, surprises make me nervous. I’m one of those people who, if you came up and yelled “Surprise!” would give you the side eye and start inching towards the nearest exit. My default assumption is that surprises are going to result in unhappy endings. I’m not as bad as this guy, but I’m not too far off.
So what surprised me this year? Snow days (multiple. In Alabama.) M’s uncle dying. That I would start crying when I saw my kids’ baby gear for sale at the consignment store. How good peanut butter stout tastes. Sitting in the grass in the front yard on a perfect sunny spring afternoon playing with the kids. A friend finally getting pregnant. Kids (multiple) starting to throw up on our vacation. Lowering my 5k PR by 3 minutes. Our friend’s dad dying. Lavender merlot blueberry jam. My grandmother dying. Losing a preschool slot. That I actually NEEDED a check for something. Another friend getting pregnant. Two of my high school classmates dying. Realizing that Fin was cutting four molars when she bit my finger. Feeling like time stopped when I walked into the Rivera Court at the DIA.
It’s a mix of good and bad. Much like life in general, I suppose. Some of them left me breathless, while some of them knocked the breath out of me and left me gasping for air. Sunshine and shadow, dappled light moving in and around and over me.
As I search for a way to wrap up this rather meandering pile of words, it hits me – I don’t feel like I am surprised that often because I am trying to release my expectations for how life unfolds. In order to be surprised, you have to have some preconceived notion of what is going to happen. And as I let go of those expectations, of the illusion of controls, I’m able to better appreciate the moments as they occur instead of continually comparing them to what happened in my head. Echoing yesterday’s prompt – maybe surprises are signposts for attachment.
Do you like surprises or not? Why?
I thought I had grown out of my list-making ways. Then I started thumbing through my notebook.
My daily, weekly and monthly bullet journal lists.
Ideas to streamline my evening transition from work to home.
Christmas presents to buy.
End of year donations.
Dreaming and scheming for 2016.
Things to do before the end of 2015.
Christmas / advent activities.
Christmas card addresses.
Brain dump planning for 2016.
My 16 in ’16 list.
Proposed 2016 journal structure.
30 Simple Ways to Care for Yourself Over the Holidays.
My work project notes.
December Reflections prompt list.
Then I started thinking about my digital lists.
Goodreads Read / To Read Books.
Amazon wish list.
All the Pinterest boards.
That’s a lot of ink and electrons spilled to organize my thoughts and my ideas and my life. They keep me on track, let me offload mental tasking onto a hard format. Sometimes they act as a sounding board or a vision board for contemplation. They document my history and provide a roadmap for the future.
But they aren’t prayers.
Prayers don’t do anything. Prayers might make you feel better, but they are only words spoken to the air. There is no greater force out there granting my pleas to find my car keys while ignoring a desperate Syrian mother crying out on behalf of her children.
Prayer is capricious, making you feel like you are doing something while taking no action. I don’t need any more empty promises in my life. I need action and motion and progress. Meditation, focusing attention, those I understand. But praying and hoping that it does something? I’m out.
30 days. In not quite 8 years, I’ve never completed an entire NaBloPoMo before. I’m rather pleased with myself for following all the way through with it.
Tomorrow starts December, and with it comes Reverb with Kat McNally and December Reflections with Susannah Conway. I invite you to come along with me as I try to continue keeping up with my daily posting for the next month.
And now, bedtime. I ran a 5k after work and all that runner’s high has worn off and I’m exhausted. See y’all on the flip side!