I was telling friends the other day that these recent months - training for the marathon, working, life in general with three kids - have comprised an exhausting "but in a good way" period of my life.
When I look back on this time, I'm going to remember an intensity that I think I have actually been longing for, although, in attaining it, what I now long for is a week or two in a spa that does not allow children or exercise. So much running, you guys. Waking up before sunrise to get in 5 or 8 or 10 miles then whipping off drenched running clothes to take a shower before just making it to school drop-off. Working a few hours before shifting into afterschool mode, then dinner and then I can barely stay awake.
As the miles have ticked upward my physical exhaustion has increased. It's a real kind of fatigue that feels better than the harried kind that comes from too many parental duties I don't know how to handle. That's more what I've felt in the past and I prefer this: leg aches and climbing into bed devoid of all concerns except for wondering how fast I can get under the covers. SUPER fast, it turns out.
J and I have lamented lately that there is not much time for either of us to relax, although it seems we are both experienced enough adults at this point to realize that relaxation will return and, if it doesn't, we can reconfigure our schedules to make it so. For now, sleep is the relaxing part and we cherish the precious hours to do just that. Before we know it, Gabriel's coming in around 6:15 a.m. to inform us that he has to go to the bathroom, despite the fact that we have told him one or two hundred times that this is not a necessary announcement. Just go, buddy.
When I was talking to my friends about this being a busy but good period, what I meant was that instead of saying how busy I am and then second-guessing how busy I am really, as I have in the past, this is the real deal. My hours are occupied with things that for the most part are very fulfilling. Even my social media usage - obsessing over Twitter to stay abreast of this circus of a political season, for instance - seems slightly less mindless lately.
(If in this post I seem overly-impressed with myself please note that we are mere weeks away from the onset of winter and I will be updating you with plenty of complaining then, PLENTY).
Yesterday I was home with Gabe and Aidy awaiting Nora's bus. I'd woken up incredibly early to get a long run in that I didn't have time to do this weekend, and it wasn't the most brilliant plan. Although it's sometimes helpful to schedule early runs and I generally like exercising in the morning, heading out in the dark before coffee seems totally barbaric. I survive those runs, but I don't enjoy them very much. And this one, I hated.
I was so physically tired by 2 o'clock that I had no choice but to lie on the couch for a few minutes. Gabe, who can be intolerably cranky after school, despite the fact that his kindergarten teacher says he's perfect in the classroom, was worked up about some art project gone awry and Aidy was hungry, so I set her up with a snack at the dining room table and somehow convinced Gabe to calm down and tell me about his day. There'd been a pumpkin festival at school and he and his classmates had received a basket of knick-knacks. "Come tell me about all this stuff!"
I laid back on the couch. I felt my thoughts melt into a sweet nonsensical mish-mash and then drifted off for a minute or two; enough to feel just a modicum of sleep's restorative powers and not enough to get arrested for child neglect (I don't think, what, exactly are the laws?)
When I awoke I found Gabe quietly placing a band-aid on my right foot. I've escaped some of the more dire side effects of marathon training but on my last few runs I developed blisters on both feet and am having a hard time getting the remaining wounds to heal since I have to keep engaging in the offending repetitive motion. I keep band-aids everywhere and there was a small pile on the ottoman that afternoon.
He was addressing the worst of the spots - not terrible or too painful but clearly in need of some attention - and when I opened my eyes to find his little hands carefully smoothing the bandage, I was filled with such appreciation and pure love that I couldn't help but sit up and give him a tight hug. He hadn't woken me to express his annoyance that I was not paying attention to his new treasures! He had, instead, taken care of me!
He didn't like the outpouring of positive attention, he never does. He pushed me away and shook his head, unwilling to accept my perhaps overzealous affection. But I couldn't help texting J to tell him that I'd just experienced a memorable parenting moment. In our sea of scheduling and homework help, a quiet success. A few seconds of pure relaxed joy in a lifestyle that's been eluding just that.
"Well," I wrote to him a few beats later, "a great parenting moment except for falling asleep while taking care of my children." Except for that. But everyone was still alive and I had recovered just enough to haul myself off the sofa and carry on through our unyielding routine. It was only hours until bedtime, anyway, which, I had already decided, would be embarassingly, gloriously early.