Sometimes I feel like all my internal cogs and wires are slowly tightening–functioning and moving, but growing more taut and tense with every passing thought, breath, step.
This week felt very long. It was my first full week back to work, and by Wednesday, I was exhausted on every level. I really couldn’t believe I was expected to wake up on Thursday and do it again, and then do it yet again on Friday. I don’t know how I made it through, but the clock was wound, and here I am, on the other side, finally starting to unwind again.
For now, of course. I have to somehow do it all again in two days. I know I’ll get back into the routine of work, but right now it seems like a crazy nightmare that someone is bound to wake me up from sometime soon. Wake up, they’ll say, gently tugging at my arm to shake the sleepiness from my dazed eyes. Of course it’s a dream. Who in their right mind would only allot two days a week for catching up, clearing out, and maybe even sleeping in?
All of this is prelude to explaining why I voluntarily skipped out on a training run yesterday. It was Friday. It’s been close to or above ninety degrees here for the last couple of days, and word in the hallways is that my classroom is the hottest room in the whole school. My friend and co-worker came in the other day while I was teaching and said to me, in front of all my students, “I can’t believe you’re actually making them work.” My internal response? “I can’t believe I have to work.” That and a little cog tightening.
My sister had set up dinner plans to celebrate a friend’s birthday last night at a restaurant close to work. Since I live forty-five minutes away from work, my plan was to run after school, drive to another friend’s house nearby to take a shower, and then meet them for dinner. I made my way to the girls’ bathroom at school, stripped off my pants, and put on my running shorts. Then I closed my eyes and tuned into my body, perhaps for the first time all day. I frequently have moments like this where, for example, I am leaving work and realize that I have to pee and have been holding it in for hours. It scares me that I can be so out of touch with myself in this way–the very opposite of mindfulness.
As I stood there in the bathroom stall, I let myself feel the heat, tension, and fatigue that had built up in my body over the course of the week. I’d successfully completed my runs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, even if two of them were a little shorter than I’d hoped. I was still on par with the training plan. I had been trying to add a mile here and there to the prescribed regimen to toughen myself up. Yesterday, as I faced the prospect of running down the sidewalks near the high school and then driving through Friday traffic to beg a shower from my friend, it just all felt like too much. The nightmare was back; where was that gentle voice calling me out of this slumber, whispering Hey, silly, none of this makes any sense because you’re in a dream. Wake up and have a cup of coffee.
Sigh. I don’t drink coffee, in reality. Standing in that bathroom stall, I really wished I did, and not for the first time. In a flash, I decided the run was out for the day, and I forgave myself for it instantly. I would take advantage of an afternoon to myself. I would go shopping and celebrate Friday, the weekend, and making it through my first full week of work.
Sometimes I really love being a grownup. Here are some of the things that I love, selfishly and with no apologies. I love being able to decide not to run if I don’t feel like it. I love getting in my car after I’ve filled it with a tank of gas and knowing that I can drive anywhere, for a long time, and it’s up to me which direction I go. I love spontaneously turning into the parking lot of a Michael’s store and, on a whim and a remembrance that I’ve always wanted to learn how to make beautiful things with beads, buying lots and lots of glass beads, both matte and sparkly and all kinds of hues and sizes. I love sitting down to a restaurant and telling the server that I need a stiff drink and knowing that it will be brought with a smile, that I have earned it, that I will raise my glass to my friends and toast them. I love going into a store with those friends after dinner and falling in love with a new pair of long leather boots, boots I do not need, and deciding to treat myself simply because I can.
And I love that when my friend tells me she is pregnant with her third child, my twin reactions are joy for her and joy for me as well, knowing that we are in two different places and that both are good places to be.
And now I am waking up to a crisp fall morning, and there is a wind stirring in the trees outside, which have already begun to drop some leaves in tiny mounds on the wet grass. I am stretching and gathering my clothes; I am deciding on a route. Soon I will feel my legs, strong and rested, reaching out for the road and greeting it, step by step, as I move into the weekend. I will go slowly, feeling the loosening and letting go, and I will find the rhythm that fits my body today. There is no rush in this moment. There is only the tuning in, looking up, breathing, and coming back to myself. This is the gift of today, and I am grateful for it.