On the Treadmill

No, this is not an account of my latest exercise endeavors.  The only personal story I have about treadmills is my daughter’s run-in with one that ended in road-rash (see what I did there?).  That still makes me giggle.  Don’t judge.  It was her own fault.  I’m pretty much in love with OK Go’s endeavors on treadmills, too.

But me, no.

Which is ironic because I’m on one every damn minute of every damn day – the metaphoric treadmill of motherhood.

Maybe it’s unfair to blame all of my mania on motherhood.  There probably is some part of my personality that would still schedule me to my utmost limit – but it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if I ‘only’ had to work without the constraints and constancy of mothering.  And even pre-kid working me would binge watch Trading Spaces in a blob on the couch after a particularly hectic day of work.

Now, when I get the chance to step off the treadmill, I’m like that blob – but without the decision-making capabilities of any grey matter.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the grey matter used for ‘personal’ decision-making is so underused it has atrophied.

When we get off the treadmill so infrequently, our bodies and minds know not what to do without the cycle and incessant motion.  Being at rest is so foreign, that part of ourselves we’ve shoved down for so long is like a salamander with a light shone on it.

That part that cultivates hobbies, interests, passions; rest, rejuvenation, relaxation.  That little corner inside ourselves closest to our souls.  The part that should be getting more play, not the least amount possible.  Not so little that when it can come out to play, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

By some stroke of luck and generosity, I find myself alone and stuffing my face with donuts.  I’m also sipping on a caramel-sea salt-molasses-coffee concoction.  The caffeine and sugar combination is already thumping in my veins and lining my blood sugar up on the cliff.  BUT what else does one do when you can stuff your face with forbidden foods without little people’s pleading eyes killing your buzz?  Yoga without a little person sitting on your head or smashing into your pelvis while you try to relax into savasana?  A warm bath with the aromatic soaks your friend handcrafted!?  Scrap some of the eight-thousand photos that would bring you into the last decade?  Write that folktale you’ve been ruminating on?  Or the several posts you’ve been marinating?  Or actually get down ideas for the next big jump in your life?

Or you could stand in the middle of your living room floor, holding onto your phone with your atrophied little T-Rex arms and scroll Facebook on your browser – not the app because you took it off your phone for Lent so you wouldn’t go on FB so much – and not sitting down because that would mean it’s not just a temporary distraction to which you’re not totally committed.  You could stand there and fill the void with more vacuous activity instead of plucking one valuable thing out of the myriad you haven’t had a chance for in so long.  You can give in to the confounding paralysis that comes from wishing desperately for more time and then desperately wanting to do all that you’ve missed out on once you get a bit – that you do nothing.  You could also invite your anxiety in so that even watching Trading Spaces or whatever binge-worthy show has replaced it is ruined because you can’t let go of the things you’re not doing.

The answer, I suppose, is to get more free time; take more free time.  Part of that is impossible because – treadmill.  Part of that is more difficult because of my ‘prepping for a sub is more work than a day of teaching’ theory.  And a huge – perhaps the most insurmountable – part of it is breaking ourselves of the mental and emotional habits that have led to this.  Yes, we can be angry at the treadmill, curse the unseen figures that keep turning it on and programming it to higher, faster levels, but we need to learn how to unplug it, unplug ourselves.  So that even when we get some time, we don’t spend the whole time trying to unwind.

Now I face the insurmountable task of unwinding with a gob of caffeine floating throughout my system.  I’ll let you know how savasana goes.  Or maybe I’ll have an energized bout of writing.  I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.

Contradiction in Terms

For all the bitching I do about taking care of my children, I stood listless on my porch this afternoon as I watched them drive away with their grandparents.

When you take away the main reason for my modus operandi, where does that leave me?

A skiff adrift, a compass needle with no magnetic pull, a mother with empty arms and a quiet mind.

I stood there for a moment, thinking I should literally be jumping for joy as I face down a weekend alone with my husband.  But I couldn’t get past the immediate feeling of ache.  A dull feeling somewhere around my solar plexus as I watch my babies leave.

They waved, and beeped, and yelled goodbye out the window.

And then I thought, okay, now what do I do with these hands, now idle, but so out of practice.  The hands and mind forget what it’s like to do something other than the constant care of children.

But once I allowed the thought in, my mind raced with possibilities.  I can write on the deck under the umbrella!  I can read in the sun.  I can put my feet up and have a nice cool drink.

What did I do?

I finished the laundry I’d started before they left.  I unpacked the schoolbags they’d forgotten about in their rush out the door.  I swept the crumbs they’d left under the table at dinner last night.

Giving me time off is an exercise in futility, no?

No.

Remember when your child was an infant and that hour during which they slept and the floor clear of squeak toys and random detritus was like heaven?  And then they woke up and flung everything from its cute little basket and all over the floor all over again?

Now imagine a larger child.  Now multiple that by three.  Now multiple that cute little basket into one huge mess of stuff.  All over the house.

This weekend is like that nap.  If I can clear all the stuff away now as soon as possible after their departure, I can enjoy a house free of gak for that much longer.  And I rushed around and did it as quickly as I could so I could still get to my laptop and get some writing in before my husband came home.

Time with the hubby is sublime.  But it’s also nice to feed our own soul.

What do we go to first?  How do we prioritize when every item on the list is important?  Dabble in a little of each so we can appreciate each in its contrast?  I don’t rightly know.  Hell, the one time I clean the house is when I should be eating freakin’ bon-bons while soaking in the bathtub.

I miss myself when the kids are here.  I miss my babies when they’re gone.  I miss quiet conversations (I’d even go for simply uninterrupted) with my husband.  I miss doing whatever the hell I want because no one is demanding anything of me.

I am a contradiction in terms.  And I have a whole weekend off to celebrate it.

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