The last day of vacation, the day before we leave our cabin on the lake, is one of the hardest days.
The afternoon is a frenzy of packing and taking the boat out of the water and my MIL and FIL getting completely packed so my MIL can slip away at 6am, before the triathlon starts. She hates goodbyes and endings… and she just wants to be in her own house.
We have spent the day at an amusement park this year – Lucky and my nephew are just tall enough to ride alone, and the two of them want to ride everything there. We get back just before dinner, and Charlie runs off to help my FIL get the boat out of the water.
My MIL comes by to vent. I never should have said things were going really well between us. He’s been snippy with me all day and I’m about ready to smack him.
I soothe her by saying, The last day of vacation is hard.
Later, after the pizza and the packing up of the cabin and the gathering of all the things we’ve dropped all over during the course of the week, Charlie and I are sitting on the couch, sipping wine and listening to the waves lap at the shore through the open windows of the cabin.
It’s just that I look forward to this all year, I tell him. And now have nothing to hold on to: next year’s trip is SO far away.
So we dream about taking another trip, coming here for a long weekend this fall, knowing we are booked up for weekends through September. And anyway, it wouldn’t be the same, just the three of us, in the cooler weather, where we can’t spend the day playing in the water and sitting on inner tubes and Lucky and his cousins can’t roam between four cabins like the flock of ducks that comes by every day.
We’ll wait until next year.
And it’s so far away.
This year, Charlie’s cousin’s boat is still in the water, and Charlie decides to do one last early morning fishing trip, since he’s caught only one fish all week. We are mostly packed, and when my phone wakes me up at 6:30, the pink tinged light in the window tells me it’s going to be another glorious day.
I make coffee, open my journal, and write a bit. But then a voice inside me tells me, Go outside, and I listen.
The lake is as still as glass, the orange and pink glow of the sun reflecting off the water. I breathe in; the air is cool and clear, with a hint of fall. I hear only the hum of crickets, and I’m reminded of the passage from Charlotte’s Web:
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”
I should feel sad; vacation’s over, and summer’s nearly over.
But inside me, I feel something else. Quiet. It’s a solid calm that’s centered deep inside; I almost feel like I can touch it in the center of my chest.
The anxiety, my closest companion all summer – is it gone? I take a cautious moment and look for it. It seems to have evaporated, or left for a little while. All I feel is quiet and calm and easy breath, even when my mind starts casting about, looking for the worry. What about the packing? You really should take a shower, Serenity, Lucky will be up soon, and make sure you get him some breakfast and you should text your dogsitter and make sure that Happy gets home okay.
The thoughts buzz around me, swirling in the morning air.
All summer, whenever my mind starts up like this, I’ve had a physical reaction to the worries. A tightening of my chest. A feeling my heart will beat out of my chest.
I can feel is that solid quiet.
I look forward to this all year.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s point about laundry?
I discovered this morning that the very same bedsheets, the ones I blogged about yesterday… they’re still in the washer.
No joke. I HAD intended on folding the laundry in the dryer so that I could get the sheets dry last night. But totally forgot.
So Charlie Brown’s point about my default mood, even though he
says he was joking?
Was actually spot on. My default is angry. Followed closely by tired. Which, by the way, makes me angry – I just want to be in my bed.
I knew I had moods, yes, but I never REALIZED how pervasive it was.
So one of the things I’ve been working on recently is to try and NOTICE, really notice, when I’m tense. And it shocked me when I realized just how much it happens. Multiple times on my commute into work. At home, sitting on the couch. During the day, in front of the computer.
Often, I’m not thinking about anything particular at the time. I’m just zoning. But my breathing shallows, my shoulders creep up toward my ears, and my mind starts racing.
And the funny thing I’ve discovered this week?
It’s actually an easy fix.
Because I already do it when I’m running.
As a runner, endurance does not come easy to me. I am the kind who starts off a run waaaay too fast and then can’t sustain the pace: I hit walls early and end up walking far more than I should. Whenever I get tired, I end up speeding up because I just want to get the pain over with. Which makes for some incredible paces at really short distance. Not so much for the long, slow distance.
Which is really important for runners. Long slow distance gives you time on your feet and helps your body figure out how to run aerobically. It’s a better workout, burns more fat, changes your body composition. Gives your body a break from pushing pace and allows for a longer run without being as tired. It’s a REALLY good tool to have in a runner’s mix of workouts. And it’s essential if you’re going to run anything more than a 5k or if you want to want to RACE (as opposed to just running a race nice and easy).
At the end of last season, before the marathon, I was really good at pacing myself. I knew when I should scale back my pace a touch, and could really sustain a long run up to about 15 miles without hitting the wall.
Still, though, always, at the end, I’d have to focus on my breathing, forcing it to be slow and deep. And I’d repeat this mantra: Just Breathe. Just Believe.
But it worked. Because at the end of a long run, when I was tired, I wanted to go faster, my breathing got too quick, and my whole BODY would tense in trying to will my legs to keep going. And somehow, focusing on my breath really helped me release the tension from exertion.
And it’s helping right now as I realize, hey, wait a second, I’m slipping back into Default Mode.
I’m just amazed at how often I FORGET to breathe and how tense it makes me. And how much STRONGER I feel, more in control, more empowered, when I focus on my breath.
And when it feels centered, deep inside me, I have this sense that anything’s possible.
I’ve spent the past few years on this space thinking that I should blog about all the big stuff that happens to me. You know, the big, deep stuff which I need to work through; to put on paper and figure out how I feel about it.
But then, you get a week like I’ve got going on. I’m entirely too busy and juggling a monstrous task list (yes, of my own doing) with insomnia. My entire days are spent on monotonous, repetitive, mind-numbing tasks which create no value.
Like laundry. Seriously, what is the freaking POINT? You spend hours to get some nice clean clothes which IMMEDIATELY go back into the hamper once you wear them. I have no feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT when I get it all done because I know the dirty clothes are going to reproduce and I’m going to have to do the same freaking thing again in two or three days.
And I realized on my way here this morning that I left wet laundry in the washer AGAIN this morning. Which means I’m going to have to re-wash it this afternoon when I get home. Maybe I’ll actually get it into the dryer tonight?
I know you’re all waiting with bated breath on that one.
*sigh* Laundry is lame.
But this week is Lucky’s Birthday Week. And it’s VERY important to me that Lucky feels celebrated on his birthday. My favorite memories of growing up were my birthdays; my mother ALWAYS made them special for me. Presents on the kitchen table when I woke up, I got to choose the menu for the day, my own special birthday cake that *I* got to pick out and my mom would bake for me. Candles, singing, special gatherings with my friends.
So this weekend, Lucky will wake up to presents on Saturday. Then Charlie Brown’s family is coming over for New England Boiled Dinner (it IS St. Patrick’s Day, after all!) and Lucky’s ‘special’ egg free cake. And Sunday? We’re taking him, my nephew, and his best friend from school to a playspace and then having pizza, presents, and cupcakes at our place afterwards.
I’m also trying to balance being billable for 8 hours a day when I work. Before now, I never felt pressure, per se, to get! things! accomplished! quite to the level I am now. Because I am billing this client for every hour worked, which means that I really need to be PRODUCTIVE with that time. I can’t waste time.
This is a long way of explaining why I haven’t blogged for a couple of days: My head is clogged with stuff that needs to get done, but doesn’t really make for good blog fodder.
That said, I love the flexibility of my new job, and I especially love how I am not at my old company right now. I love that the client here treats me with respect, asks me what I think about an accounting issue. I love that I’m working with a former colleague from my Old Audit Firm. I love that I can leave here at 3 and hit the gym or get in a 4 mile run in the afternoon before I pick up Lucky from school. I love that I’ve turned into That Mom who shows up to pick up her kid in workout gear.
I am busy as hell, but I gotta say: I really like it.
Balance is going to be my new challenge, though. I have had days where I haven’t gotten everything I want crossed off my own task list and I get stressed out by it. My BFF J pointed out that I’m taking on Charlie Brown’s tasks as my own, and I have to make sure I’m taking time for me, too.
Which is hard. I took Mondays off to catch up so that things are easier on my FAMILY. And I am stealing more time to work out, so that has to be enough. Which is dangerous thinking, of course. Task lists are good, but they need to be realistic. Maybe I need to schedule in tasks for MYSELF. Like lunch out, or a hike, or a walk in a park, or an hour or two with a good book at a coffee shop.
Balance. Always my challenge. But I’m working on it.
In the meantime: how is it that I will have a four year old on Saturday? When did that HAPPEN?
(By the way, it’s Kir’s birthday. Go over and wish her a happy one. She’s a gorgeous person and deserves all the love that surrounds her today.)
Given the past week I’ve had and all the emotion it’s evoked in me, I’ve decided that it’s high time to start embracing the notion of Just Being Enough.
My view of myself has been so skewed for SO long. It’s like I decided a bunch of years ago that I wasn’t, in fact, worthy of being loved unless I was Perfect. Or close to it.
And that’s defined me for nearly two decades now.
My self-esteem is contingent on being a Success.
Except? My definition of Success is unattainable. So I am setting myself up for failure right off the bat.
And THIS, I’m sure, is my subconscious way of punishing myself. I need something with which to feed my Inner Critic. Because I’ve never existed without her. Ever.
My Inner Critic is both keeping me from real, true happiness… but she’s also my crutch.
I know it probably seems clear to you all from my writing that I really need to leave my current work situation. And I wish I was overstating it when I said leaving is fucking terrifying.
It’s admitting defeat. I’ve spent 18 years proving that I can do anything I put my mind to… and leaving here, after this blowup, is saying, Well, actually, no, I didn’t succeed at that job. I hit a rough patch and ran with my tail between my legs.
That’s one way to look at it, of course. That’s how my Inner Critic sees it. She makes up these stories, you see, about how bad of a person I am. I don’t work hard enough, I didn’t spend enough time managing the situation. I failed.
But this weekend? I started to see glimpses of a different story.
I am starting to see that maybe I can CHOOSE happiness. Where maybe, instead of running away from Fail, I have the power to create the life *I* want my family.
Where instead of being held captive to external forces like a shitty job, or IF, or winter, I choose my OWN path.
I have felt far too powerless in the past few years.
Yesterday, when we mentioned that I was planning on giving my notice this week, and explained the situation, our practical New Englander friends told me I should wait it out. Because if my instinct is right and my company is planning on replacing me, I might get severance and unemployment out of the deal.
And yes, that IS practical.
All through the game last night, I wondered why that wasn’t an option for me. I mean, financially, it’d be better. More money is better than less money, right?
Except it’s not about the money. It’s about taking control, making a CHOICE. About stepping onto another path, that winds off into the distance into the underbrush, twisting and turning away from what I’ve always done.
It’s the first step for me to Just Be Enough.
And that’s why I’m going to take that path.