Yesterday I hit a wall. Big time. I had made it through my day fine and talked Free into doing her gymnastics workout as usual. After dropping her off, I drove to my gym nearby to get in my run on a treadmill. All of a sudden, when I shut off the car, that wall appeared. Out of nowhere but powerful nonetheless. I was stuck–mentally and physically. I could not–literally could not–do anything. I couldn’t open the door, couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t do a single thing. I sat in my car for a while. (It turned out to be almost an hour, but at the time, I had no real awareness of the time passing.) I just sat. I didn’t do anything else.
I remember it took an extreme effort to eventually pick up my phone and call Newman, who was wonderful–patient and supportive and encouraging and accepting all at once. He asked if I wanted him to come and be with me. No, I said, I’m fine. He asked if I was going to go into the gym. I hadn’t decided yet if that was possible, I said, but maybe. He called me back after we hung up and a few minutes had gone by. I was still sitting, but I managed to pick up a book and read some pages while I waited…for what? I don’t know. Something. I couldn’t even think about what was happening.
Was it a panic attack? Was I exhausted? All I felt at the time was that this was familiar but not at the right time–this was what happened in January or March, not October. That thought alone was enough to stop me from wanting to think about it anymore. So I sat, and I waited. I cried a little, and that helped. I tried not to resist the tears or judge myself. I tried not to blame myself for the passing moments, for the run that wasn’t happening, for making Free work out when I myself was unable. I just sat.
Eventually, after the hour passed, I started the car and moved it to the other end of the parking lot near the grocery store. I got out, went into the store, and bought some food for dinner: a rotisserie chicken already cooked, some Annie’s microwaveable Mac ‘n Cheese, and some strawberries for dessert. It made me feel better to be walking through the store with items in my head that then became items in my cart. I liked that dinner would take no longer than 5 minutes to heat up for Free. I paid and returned to my car. I had another hour before she would be done with practice. I drove to her gym and sat there, watching the girls practice and feeling incapable of doing anything else.
I just wrote about the same gymnastics scene in my last post, but this time, I felt none of the color and light that had inspired me then. This time, I felt bruised by the bright lights, burdened by the other parents’ chit-chat happening around me, and I went inward, concentrating on how to get through the hours from 6:30 to 8:15 when I would need to be “on” for Free so she wouldn’t pick up on my state of mind. It took some significant effort for me to get through those hours.
At 8:00, Free hit her own version of a wall. I had gotten her through dinner and a bath with patience and love and encouragement, but then she got into bed and picked up her diary to write in. It was already past the time she should have been asleep, but she hadn’t done any of her required homework for the day. My plan was to read to her for 5 or 10 minutes and do some math flashcards, as quickly as possible. She resisted because she was writing and wanted to finish. I tried to explain the priorities, that sleep and homework came first and everything else had to be fit in elsewhere–mainly on the weekend. She tried to brush me off, and when I gently insisted, she went inward, shoving her journal at me and folding her body into a tight fetal knot. She was all stress and tension, and I could have cried while looking at her, recognizing what I had just been through myself. I took a breath and decided to give her a moment to recover. While she did, I opened the journal, one I had not seen before. Inside were some of the sweetest drawings and words I have ever seen–they are her first attempts at real creative writing, snippets of poems and lyrics from songs she had written that I recognized she had sung to me before.
That moment broke my heart a little. Here I was pushing her to get her homework done (with good reason, of course) and not letting her explore her creativity naturally. I wasn’t wrong to try to get her to understand the limits of time and things that are necessary to complete, but what IS wrong right now is that Free has no time in her life to do the things that will really feed her soul and help her nurture the spark within. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not giving myself enough time to do the same thing for myself.
I hugged her and kissed her and whispered to her that we were going to figure out what to cut back on so she could have more time. “I love your writing,” I told her. Before she fell asleep, she was back in my arms, her body relaxed and open again. I count that as success, but it’s limited until I can really follow through on my promise to her. I am nervous because her dad and I are on different pages with how important down time is for her right now, and we do not communicate that well these days. Negotiations are difficult for us, and I have to make him see that it’s all too much, that we need to schedule unscheduled time for her, not just on the weekend, but during the week. It will be a struggle to figure out what to cut out and how to adjust, but it’s something I’ve decided is vital, and I am going to commit to figuring it out.
As for me? I woke up today and took my first Vitamin D pill of the season. After work, I called my mom. I thanked Newman for being so loving. I counted my blessings…again. I went to the gym after work and refused to let myself think about anything between the turning of the car key and putting my first foot on the treadmill. I ran 4 miles in 34:30 minutes (in other words, as fast as I possibly could) and got the hell out of there. Newman was waiting nearby, and we got dinner together as he is leaving tomorrow for a weekend away with his kids. I am functioning, writing, and getting through things. I’m still not feeling much, but I am ok and will be ok.