When it comes to doing things for myself these days, I have truly mastered the fine art of procrastination. I stall when it comes to getting my training started. Dragging my feet forever as I hem and haw over when to begin. Circling around in my kitchen. Not accomplishing anything other than wasting a serious amout of time. I walk around wondering, “Maybe the kids need me to get them this?” Or, “Perhaps I need to get this done first.” So many tasks fell to the back burner as my training amped up for Ironman and I want to do them all now. Anything outside of the Necessary got put off prior to the race which left many things undone.
Children fed — check. Laundry washed and sorted unfolded into baskets — check. Groceries purchased — check. The essentials were always done and we always made time to play together as a family, but there wasn’t much room to … say … change a lightbulb. At the start of summer, my youngest son’s ceiling lights were burned out for about a month — okay maybe two months. Through the winter and into spring, his lights slowly started burning out. Three broken lights were okay because one still worked. But summer came and I remember going into his bedroom and hearing a pop as I flipped the switch. Which followed by my tired, heavy sigh and probably a knowing laugh. Neither my husband nor I had the time or energy (or fortitude for that matter) to go to the garage, climb over everything in the way, brush the mouse turds off of the ladder and wrangle it from the
shit-hole mess. Instead, we found flashlights and headlamps and played camping for a month until finally my husband pulled half an hour out of thin air and changed the bulbs during our Ironman taper. I think we all did a little dance to celebrate when my son switched on his lights. Grinning and nodding at each other in his brightly-lit room. Thinking, “Wow! It’s amazing in here with all four lights!” Because it was.
Now, after Ironman, the closet doors that weren’t closing all of the way and the projects I had left for months are calling my name like a relentless mosquito buzzing in your ear as you try to sleep. These projects are hard to resist. My kids are hard to resist too. I haven’t written here in weeks. I still post almost every day on Facebook, but blogging has fallen by the wayside because it requires more thought and preparation. Blogging at WordPress isn’t as quick or easy as picking up my phone, taking a photo and writing something as it comes to mind. So it doesn’t get done. Yet I know that writing and training soothe my soul and fuel my heart and mind. I miss writing. I miss making the time for it and simply having the time for it without children constantly calling my name and clamoring for my attention. It’s hard to think, let alone write with three kids home all day long. I’ve been joking that I’m going to change my name to Fred and live in a tent in the back yard. I just might.
At first I was okay with letting the things that are important to me go. I was grateful for the rest and it felt good to spend time getting the unfinished projects done and going slow with my family. I felt guilty that so much of my time this summer (and year) was spent training for the Ironman so I was trying to make up for this. However, what I neglected to see was that in truth, much more of my time was spent transporting my children to and from activities and swim team practice. I spent more time doing things with and for them than training. We played games, hung out and just went slow together. We vacationed in the Adirondacks and saw many friends when we raced at Lake Placid. We had a full, rich summer but I had lost sight of that. My guilt about taking care of myself got in my way. I wasn’t seeing the big picture and my perspective was blurred.
August brought us a month of truly going slow with nothing on our schedule. No plans. My kids and I had an amazing spontaneous adventure together; visiting Mount Tremblant in Quebec and watching the Ironman there. We got to see our friends again and we cheered together this time. We listened to books on tape as we drove, ate gas station candies and ice creams and snuggled up in our hotel room together. We had fun exploring the village, playing, celebrating summer and appreciating our free time together.
But these last two weeks, as summer lingers and we amp up the school prep, I’ve realized that I’ve lost myself a bit. My procrastinating has led me to be lax about the things that are important to me. Neglecting to take care of my whole-self, not just my mothering self. I’ve noticed that in addition to procrastinating, I’m also sleepwalking through my training these days. Half-assing it, if you will. “I’m tired,” I tell myself. Because I am. I just spent the last year working hard towards a goal. It makes sense that I am tired. I gave myself permission to take it down a notch, which was okay for a little while but it doesn’t feel good anymore. I don’t feel good.
Thursday I did my bike ride but I didn’t do my swim. Instead we sorted through closets filling bags of outgrown clothes for Goodwill. Friday I skipped my training completely. We had planned to go swim together, the kids and I, but school prep, shopping and getting ready for fall took priority and we just never made it to the pool. Procrastination and excuses got the better of me.
Friday night I sat on the floor with my kids, sorting through school supplies and I felt pretty yucky. I was irritable and half-distracted. Not fully present and lost in my own thoughts. I began beating myself up; consumed with regret, disappointment and second-guessing. As I was trying to figure it all out, I realized this — sometimes it takes truly missing what makes us feel good to know how important it is to us in the first place. I felt disappointed and upset that I had missed the training and I was sad that I’d been slogging through the training I was doing. I was worried that I’d set myself up for being let down in an upcoming half Ironman race. But eventually I just let it go. I had to. I wasn’t helping myself by feeling bad and guilt is such a useless emotion. Guilt keeps us from seeing clearly. Instead I just let myself feel and appreciate the fact that skipping does feels awful. It just does. I ache, I feel irritable and I feel disconnected from myself. Which for me, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is not a good place to be. I need to stay in my body, not disconnect from it. Writing and training help me stay connected to myself and I need to embrace those pieces of myself again.
So I’m reining myself back in. Reconnecting with myself and not letting guilt call the shots. I have to continue to listen to my heart and to take care of myself. Truthfully, taking care of my whole-self adds so much richness to my mothering. It doesn’t take away anything. It allows me to give more because I’m filling myself up first.
After the school supplies were finally labeled and sorted, my youngest son looked out the window and marveled at the full moon. He kept asking if I’d go out with him so he could hop into our pool before putting on his pajamas. I kept trying to put him off, hoping he’d finally relent and just let it go and wait until tomorrow. He didn’t and so I stepped out into the beautiful night air with him. About 99% of our outdoor lights have burned out and of course, we haven’t replaced them. He didn’t care. He simply ran inside and somehow managed to procure a flashlight from an overstuffed cabinet — giggling with his own accomplishment — and stepped out onto the damp grass. “There might be a snake I warned.” Trying to put him off again. “I’ll catch it!” He countered back with conviction. There was no stopping him now. He ran to the pool and jumped into the cool water shrieking and laughing as he splashed in. He was his usual magnificent self. I could see that clear as day in the dark night sky.
The best part, the most remarkable part was this — when he was done, we turned together and walked through the grass guided by just the moonlight. As we walked, I looked up and saw our home glowing and shining up ahead in front of us. Our bright, happy, luminous home all lit up in the night sky. My heart leapt, I held my breath and I truly paused in my path. Holding my son’s hand, I whispered, “It’s beautiful.” I stood there, taking it all in and really saw our house from the outside. My eyes filled with tears and through them I didn’t see the cluttered closets, the unfinished projects or the messes. I saw the joy. I saw the love. And I saw all of the promise radiating in front of my own two eyes. Sometimes we just need a different perspective to see things as they really are.
Training makes me happy. Writing fills me up. Taking care of myself makes me whole and being whole allows me to see the beauty and light within my home, my family and my heart.
Happy end of August. Take care of yourself!