Sitting quietly in the moment

I tend to live life in a flurry of activity. I enjoy a certain level of busyness (or as some might call it chaos). I’m a bit of a challenge junkie, always pushing myself to see what I can accomplish next.

Imagine one of those old school cartoon characters juggling plates or carrying boxes, stuff gets stacked on, higher and higher until whatever they’re carrying is teetering dangerously (and somewhat humorously) close to toppling over. And every now and then it does all come crashing down around the ridiculous protagonist. That’s a pretty accurate metaphor (simile?) for me trying to manage my life. But I like it; I thrive in chaos and a certain level of craziness.

The sweet spot is that point where everything wobbles just enough to make you question if (or when) everything you’re piling on is going to fall. That visceral feeling in your gut, hovering between fear and excitement. The adrenaline that courses, turning into a pleasant, heady rush when your personal tower of nonsense stays erect. That’s it. Because when everything is about to come crashing down into a natural disaster level mess and you’re on the brink of being declared a national emergency but then, then at the very last moment, it doesn’t and you’ve somehow pulled it off (maybe with a few more grey hairs and slightly elevated blood pressure to show for it), you feel like you’ve accomplished something. You’ve succeeded. And, damn is it impressive!

The “I don’t know how you do it all”s and comments of the sort, made with a certain amount of awe but in a baffled tone that says “why would you even try?”, they’re gratifying. Sure a normal person would not take on so much at once but who wants to be normal. Downtime is overrated anyhow right?… Right?!?!

That’s the zone I thrive in. But right now my life is not there. Instead I’m in a place of seemingly static waiting. Everything is going to change, there is going to be a major shift towards chaos, but not for months. And in the meantime…. What?

Just daily life and waiting.

I’m trying to use these next few months before dental school starts to relax and enjoy life. Play games and go to the library regularly with my kids. Do all the fun runs. Start and finish projects. Take small vacations. And that’s all well and good, but in the day-to-day it’s slow. For me that’s frustrating. My instinct is to push forward, to be focused on the next hill. To go go go. Not to come home from the morning rush of getting the kids to school and look around and think “Now what?” So far I haven’t been handling the apparently empty days very well. (To be sure, there’s always things I should be doing but they’re the boring, mundane chores of daily living that I’d much rather avoid.) I’ve been restless, antsy and on edge. My temper is a little too quick and irritations often lurks just below the surface.

It’s a struggle to sit quietly and be content in the moment. But that’s what life is showing me needs to be done right now. It’s a time to embrace the stillness, take a few deep breaths and enjoy where I am instead of trying to jump to the next phase. I’m sure in six months, when I’m balls deep in the first semester of dental school and trying to manage four kids in school and fall extra curriculars, I’ll miss this phase.

Rally the Troops

Sometimes a seemingly random occurrence is actually preparing us for something further down the road. Maybe much further.

This dawned on  me tonight as a large bat was swooping around my workplace. Said workplace is a house but, still, bats = Not Cool! Not cool at all. But luckily I was prepared because I’ve dealt with bats in the house before (my own house that time and it really was not fun). While my coworker was legitimately freaking out I knew exactly what to do. (Open one door, turn off all the lights except by that door, and try to gently direct the bat out if it isn’t finding the exit on its own. In case you were wondering.) And, although it was a terrifying ten to fifteen minutes, we had the bat out in ten to fifteen minutes. Had I not had previous bat encounters this night could have been a lot worse. I’m not sure I could handle a lot worse right now; just being at work is bad enough.

giant bat

The giant bat: An interaction with him is NOT my ideal night at work.

This week is one of those off the charts crazy weeks. Really it’s been the last two weeks. Last Wednesday, after furiously studying for way less time than I should have, I took the DAT to complete my dental school application. It went decently well and I was extremely relieved to have that out of the way but I had to hit the ground running with graduation open house planning as soon as the test was over.

My oldest son graduated from high school this spring (on my birthday). At the time he was adamant that he did not want an open house. I told him too bad; the open house isn’t for him, it’s for his family and all the people who have supported and encouraged him over the years to celebrate our  his achievements. He reluctantly conceded to a party. I think he realized that I wasn’t backing down on this and he really didn’t have much choice. After being invited to a few of his friends’ & classmates’ open houses he warmed to the idea…especially after he heard how much his one buddy got at his open house. (Apparently he didn’t believe me when I told him people give you money at these things.)

Because of the aforementioned test and my daughter’s horse shows there weren’t any feasible open house dates in June but my son’s 18th birthday fell on a Friday AND it was not one leading up to a work weekend for me. I pitched the idea of a graduation open house/18th birthday celebration to my son and he actually seemed to like it. Well, that weekend is this weekend. The open house is Saturday (technically tomorrow as it’s 3 a.m. right now) and my son’s birthday is…well, now. Unfortunately this not being a work weekend means I’ve worked the seven, maybe eight, days leading up to the weekend (including tonight, obvs). Not short shifts either, ten to twelve hour night shifts. This schedule is really not conducive to preparing for an open house.

Way back at the launch of the open house planning process I emailed my ex husband asking if we could collaborate on this. Not only would that make it more affordable but we could divide and conquer the work. Plus planning an open house together provided an opportunity for a much needed exercise in cooperation for us. Even though we’ve been divorced for three and a half years and separated for over five, there is only bare minimum communication between us and even that is tense and unpleasant. At some point we’ve got to get past that. Our kids can’t have two of everything. I mean, are they going to have two weddings: once for their dad’s family, once for mine??? NO! Sadly though my ex  did not see things the same way and declared that I could do what I wanted and he’d “Celebrate separately”. This, of course, left me running the graduation party show all on my own.

And once again lessons learned in prior life experiences came back around in a real and useful way.

Implementing a graduation party at my house (which is not typically visitor ready) in ten days or less seemed like No Big Deal…until I was staring down the barrel of those ten days. I got a little overwhelmed, paralyzed by how much work there was to get done in a short week that was already full with work. Holy, holy crap!

Just as I was on the brink of sheer panic my instincts kicked in and I did what I do more and more when I need help. I called my mom.

To be fair, a couple people had already asked what I needed help with but I wasn’t even ready to think about that until the DAT was out of the way. But now, roughly a week before Open House day, I needed the help! I’m insanely lucky (blessed?) to have a large, supportive family. Throughout the stressful, somewhat traumatic process of the dissolution of my almost twelve year marriage and the subsequent divorce and custody hearings I learned just how helpful and supportive my family is. We aren’t touchy-feely people, my family; we don’t verbally express our love and appreciation for each other. Not very often and when it does happen it’s a sign of deep concern. But that doesn’t mean those feelings (or whatever you want to call them…talking about feelings so much is starting to make me a little uncomfortable) don’t exist. It’s just that we’re Do-ers, not say-ers. The things we don’t say we show by doing, by being there when needed.

My mom offered to pick up meat and taco seasoning from me and cook all the taco meat (I’m having a taco bar at the party); my youngest sister spent a day and a half cleaning up my house and hacking away at brush in my yard; one of my brothers-in-law is coming over tomorrow to help set up the yard stuff; other people offered to bring something, to contribute. And suddenly I was not alone in this crazy endeavor.

And that is a thing worth remembering. Sometimes all you have to do is reach out and accept the help you need.

graduation selfie

Awkward graduation selfie because, much like the open house, my son was not entirely on board with this.



Good Ol’ Fashioned Angry

I’m feeling a little angry today. And yesterday. And maybe the day before that, it’s been quietly building for a little while now, lying in wait for the perfect moment to sneak up on me and yell “Boo!” It found its moment, that good old fashioned anger that used to simmer just below the surface back in the good ol’days when everything was in a tumultuous state of turmoil. It’s been relatively peaceful for a bit so I guess I was due for a good bout of repressed anger rearing its ugly  but all too familiar head. It’s not like it used to be, though, with no rhyme or reason to it. There’s reason. But I’m not going to make it rhyme.

The old patterns are back and mounds of frustration with them. Largely because there is literally nothing I can do about it now, nothing at all. I’ve exhausted all my resources and gotten no where. Like a dog chasing its tail, I’m all worn out but have gotten no where. A very expensive no where, thousands of dollars in legal fees, days spent in court, a year of insane stress crushing down on me. Very expensive indeed, a lot spent on a whole lot of nothing.

Round and about we went going no where, getting nothing but dizzy. And then it ended in a fizzle of stupid admonishments and court ordered counseling. All that and nothing to show, back to square one. Or negative zero. There were a few brief months of playing nice because you thought you’d won. I sure felt like I had lost so why not? Maybe you did. I’m pretty sure we’re all losers here though. And now it’s back to the basics, no new reality just the same old shit and bad behavior. The same guilt, spread thick, to manipulate and damage the kids. The same games, punishing me by not bringing them to their end of season awards banquet. The upset kid going to school and telling his teacher, as he fights back tears, that he won’t be going to middle school camp because it’s his dad’s week and his dad was making him feel bad about going to camp because his dad had plans for his birthday. The kid’s birthday. The kid who now feels guilty about going to camp with his classmates and friends because it happens to fall on his birthday. (But don’t tell my mom because then she’ll be mad at my dad.) The same kid who just now texts me from his brother’s phone to ask me to bring his camp stuff, clothes blankets, and all because it’s too much for his dad and step-mom to pack and prep these basic needs for the kids. Even though he’s at their house. But “Hey mom can you bring my stuff…Because my dad said since you signed me up that  you have to provide.”

It’s bullshit. It’s fucking bullshit, that’s what it is. What kind of asshole does this to his kids?

So, yeah, I’m a little angry again. I’m ranting and raving, shaking my fist at the sky. Trying hard not to let it seep from my pores. Trying not to let it dominate my life and steel my joy. Because there is joy to be had. Even with no good answers, no solution, just an awareness that this is the way things are. What can you do? Be the change you want to see? There is no fucking change! This is the perma state of life, your burden to bear, kids, and mine. The thing that will eventually fuck you up and already has me. All I can do is balance, and try not to eff you all up even more. Be steady, be calm and kind even when I’m writhing inside with a white hot anger. Good luck with that! Deep breath in, deep breath out. Punch the bag, this is why you have it, go for a run. One foot in front of the other, go go go…


(Insert quintessential angry little kid foot stomp here)

Life has been crazy here the past couple weeks…Kuh-razy with  a capital K!

I mean crazier than usual, teetering on the brink of utter chaos. A good breeze would probably tip it right over the edge right now. Although if you walked in my house you might think we’ve already arrived at chaosville (so please just don’t).

What happened to increase the  entropy of the system you ask?

I disrupted the balance; I picked up a couple extra shifts at work this week.

Currently my life entails taking a full course load at school (16 credits), working part time  (gotta pay those bills, sometimes just barely though), running a household on my own, training for a half-marathon, and keeping up on the demands of parenting a high-schooler, two middle schoolers, and two elementary school kids (again, sometimes just barely…barely keeping up on it that is, not barely parenting).

My life is like that game, Jenga, if you pull out the wrong tab it all comes crashing down. At first you hesitate when pulling out the little blocks of wood, you’re not sure which ones are the necessary support blocks, but as the game progresses you start pulling at the pieces with more confidence. Even though the stack is more precariously balanced now your success thus far makes you feel almost invincible.

Well I’ve been pulling out blocks left and right without even realizing how unsteady my stack is becoming.

jenga falling

There’s no crashing quite yet but the tower is definitely teetering.

As I’ve already mentioned, I picked up a couple shifts at work this week. I’ll get just under 50 hours in by the end of the weekend. That in itself wouldn’t be too bad but it seems like life is really piling it on at the moment: Sick kids, an out-of town Cross Country meet that ate up half the weekend, finding out that one kid is failing a class, laundry that’s threatening to overtake the house, and there are NO clean socks!

Yesterday morning I literally dragged my crying five-year-old onto the bus and ran away. Just as I pulled up to drop the kids off at the bus (which we almost missed) he started fussing about staying home with me and not wanting to go to school. Tuesdays I’m at school all day starting with a nine AM lab class. If you’re late the professor literally does not let you in. It’s a forty-five minute drive without traffic…and there’s always traffic. There’s no time to deal with separation anxiety on Tuesday mornings. The bus driver said “It’ll be okay.” So I turned and ran. That’s just how it’s got to be sometimes.

I’ve had two giant bags of apples that we picked weeks ago slowly decomposing as they wait to be processed. When we were at the orchard a full bushel sounded like a good idea (even though it was pretty expensive). We all like apples and I can make and freeze some apple pies and applesauce for later….you know, in all my spare time. Of course now those apples are taunting me. If I don’t do anything the hard earned money I spent on them is a waste. I really hate waste! Just seeing them sitting there getting less usable by the day reminds me of all the things I need to get to and just haven’t yet. Who knew that apples could make you feel pressured? Next year someone please remind me NOT to get a full bushel; a half bushel is plenty. (Of course I vaguely remember thinking the same thing around this time last year as I was desperately trying to do something with a whole bunch of apples before they went bad.)

Have I mentioned I’m running a half-marathon in a little over a week??? And I haven’t had time to run since Saturday. (I’m going to remedy that in just a few minutes though). I’m trying to reassure myself that all the miles I’ve put in up to this point mean something and it’ll be okay. Plus if nothing else comes up this week I should be able to at least get close to my 20 miles a week goal.

Sometimes I overestimate myself…but I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.

If someone tries to tell me I can’t do something my instinct is to show them just how wrong they are. Not only can I do it, but I can do it well! My Fuck-You gene starts expressing itself. I’m pretty sure that’s an actual gene (and  dominant one), I mean, just look at my family, pretty much all of us have signs of it.This can be a good thing. It drives me to be successful even (especially!) when circumstances make it difficult, it makes me persistent and resourceful. These are good things, traits I like about myself. But on the flip side (there’s always a flip side) sometimes I take on too much.  I have to stop and consider the possibility that maybe I can’t actually do it all.

But maybe, maybe I can if only for a little while.

I did finally get some pies made...two for the freezer and one already eaten.

I did finally get some pies made…two for the freezer and one already eaten. And some applesauce started. At least my house smells nice now.

apple sauce

This week I feel like the Universe is trying to tell me that I just can’t have everything.

And of course I’m stomping my foot & saying “YES I CAN!!”

And I will; for the moment I’ve got it all, I’m doing it all…just barely.

Next week I’ll be paying though.The weekend is going to be consumed with homework catch-up, I’m going to have to spent extra time with the laundry, I’ll pay the price of less sleep than usual, and when I’m running the 13.1 miles next weekend I’ll probably be wondering what the hell I was thinking taking on so much this week.

And then in two weeks I’ll have a half marathon under my belt, we will have survived another high school cross country season, and life will be (relatively) calm again…

Okay, maybe not calm but at least back to its normal level of managed chaos.

Misery & its Companions

Misery loves company. Boy does it!
We’ve all heard this; cliches become cliche for a reason. But sometimes misery needs some alone time to shut the fuck up & get over itself.

I’ve wallowed in my fair share, and maybe more, of misery this past year while coping with the less than desirable outcome of a stressful, drawn out divorce process. There were a lot of sad work weekends (and weeks) alone in my big empty house where I did basically nothing other than work and sleep. Maybe I would go for a run… maybe, but every other week the cold, dark days of this past winter were ,for the most part, spent holed up in bed trying to avoid…basically everything.
I was a bad friend and a terrible employee.
If people called I didn’t return their inevitably missed calls citing my crazy work schedule as my excuse when they’d finally catch up with me weeks later. I pushed the window of lateness at work regularly, rushing in (past the annoyed looks of afternoon staff waiting to leave) & heading straight to the time clock to get punched in before I was technically late.
Thursdays were the worst day and then the best day of the week; my kids switched back and forth between their dad’s house and mine each week as I rotated between living and coping, human and robot, while this thing that I never thought would happen became our routine.
I was sad, angry, lonely, and just generally miserable. The weekends without the kids were always the worst. Weekends are supposed to be fun but every other Thursday evening after my kids had left and the usual whirlwind of chaos that is life with kids died down I’d look into the bleakness of weekend with a sense of dread.
And I would wallow in it.
Mentally burrowing into the blankets of loneliness, of sadness and general disappointment in life.
It was during this time that I discovered Divorce Blogs.
Turns out other people were wallowing in misery too.
And they were writing about it.
All that uniquely similar pain was laid out in Blogland. There it was written up in stories that were different in the details but expressing an emotional turmoil that was oh so familiar. Somehow that was comforting. There was an odd solace in finding others who were wallowing in the same brand of misery that I was currently imbibing in. It was like I had stumbled on a sad, secret club full of anonymous members and just belonging, knowing the code word to get in the door, made my state of being more tolerable.
It was kind of great.
I could read and commiserate while maintaining my self-imposed isolation. Here and there I’d read someone else’s pathetic tale of divorce and think Yeah, I know exactly how you feel. Other times it was more along the lines of Psh, you think you’ve got it bad that’s nothing (I mean, seriously, you’re upset because the ex wants to joke and act friendly??? Try dealing with the constant barrage of insults via text and e-mail that I get on a bi-weekly basis….but whatever.).
And of course there is always someone who has it worse too.
At any rate, my misery had found companions and was truly enjoying itself…if such a thing is possible.

But then something happened.
A couple weekends ago, it was a work weekend/weekend without the kids, the old familiar sadness was creeping in. Plus I was struggling to stay asleep and needed a distraction. I tapped the WordPress icon on my phone screen and scrolled to the Divorce Blogs. As I shuffled through and read I realized my usual tactic wasn’t having its usual effect.
I could definitely empathize with these anonymous friends but other than that I felt…fine.
Mildly sad, irritated that I wasn’t sleeping and should be but in general I was okay. Or maybe better than okay.
I was good.
Life, overall, at that point was… good.
It suddenly occurred to me that sometime over the past couple months ,during the business of surviving the end of another school year with the kids, through the process of accomplishing my goal of enjoying summer I was just living again. Even though there were and still are down times and moments of sadness I really wasn’t wallowing anymore. I didn’t need to.
While I was busy living, my life started moving forward. In fact, when I stop to think about it I realize I am living the dream, accomplishing long term goals on a day to day basis.
I own (well, me and the bank) my own home and have finally stayed in one place for more than two years.
I’m in the process of training for a half marathon.
Starting this week I’m a full time student again with a concrete plan in place for a career and one I’m excited about. I’ve gone on vacation this summer (first time in almost six years) and I’m even dating and meeting new people.
Yeah, my life is pretty good.
But here’s the thing about good, it doesn’t exist without bad.
If you don’t have bad times you won’t recognize the good ones. There has to be contrast and perspective to be able to appreciate when life is not bad. It’s easy to get stuck in the Life-is-Bad mentality, to perpetually wallow.
Sometimes one must pause and evaluate the state of things and decide how bad they truly are…or are not.
Sometimes we need to break the habit of being unhappy and look for what it positive in life.
They say it takes more muscles to frown than smile but sometimes to smile does require more effort.
It’s well worth the effort though.

This song reiterates my point…plus it’s fun and I like it.

To Run or Not to Run…

Is that even a question?
Yesterday it was.
You see, on Monday evening I wrenched my back whilst lifting a saddle rack (yes, with the saddle on it) into my van and talking on the phone at the same time. Sometimes multitasking is not a good thing. But I had too much to do and not enough time to do it all.
Like this is something new and different? Nope, not so much.

As I was picking up the saddle rack, while holding my phone between my shoulder and ear, I twisted just wrong and twinges of pain shot through my lower back. I immediately set the stupid thing down and swore a little while grabbing my lower back like a stereotypical old person. Then I spent Monday evening (after getting my girl & her stuff up to horse camp, her pony settled in, doing some much (always!) needed grocery shopping, and getting the other kids to bed) on the couch with and ice pack, some vodka, and an episode of Mad Men.
It helped. On Tuesday morning my back still hurt…but only when I moved.
This wasn’t a debilitating pain by any means; it was more of a make life extremely uncomfortable pain.
The most annoying part of this all was that conditions were perfect for a daytime run on Tuesday morning.
Since late May daytime running opportunities have been scarce. My little guy has been out of school but the older kids have not. There is nothing about running and pushing a 45 pound kid in a stroller that appeals to me EVER…AT All. And leaving a four year old home alone so I can go for a run is generally frowned upon.
Really though he wouldn’t be alone, the dog would be with him.
It worked for the family in Peter Pan why not me?

peter pan dog
Tuesday morning I had a short meeting at work and had to take the kid to my sister’s anyhow. My work happens to be relatively close to my favorite State Park. Like I said, perfect opportunity except for this lower back pain every time I moved.
So to run or not to run?
I weighed my options and decided it couldn’t hurt to at least try. Well it could actually hurt to try but then I could just stop trying.
If I didn’t even try I would never know.
Maybe running would help.

I know that sounds weird but running is a little magical that way. It helps pretty much anything.
Have a headache? Go for a run (and drink some water then take a Motrin).
In a bad mood? Go for a run.
Need to make a big decision? Go for a run.
Bored? Go for a run.
Hot & tired? Go for a run.
Cold? Go for a run.
In a good mood? Happy? Go for a run (You’ll be even more happy when you’re done.)
You get the idea.

Running is my version of “Rub Some Bacon on It.”
You haven’t heard of Rub Some Bacon on It? Allow me to remedy that.

So I went for a run figuring I’d just try and see how it goes.
Turns out it actually did help. I ran an easy paced four miles and afterwards my back was feeling much better.
So yeah, go for a run! It’ll probably help.