The New Learning Curve

The learning curve when you have a baby is so steep.  All this waiting and puking and months-long migraines and watching That 70s Show.  And then suddenly you’re never alone.  Never.  The missing puzzle piece is here. You hold a baby, wear a baby, eat with the baby on your lap, sleep with the baby on your chest, nurse the baby while buying groceries.  And then, somehow, there’s another baby and you learn to do all the above with the new, tiny one, while holding the hand or the truck or the monkey of the first child’s at the same time.  And now you are certainly, aggressively, never alone.  You go to the bathroom holding the littlest, while the toddler and the cats watch and take turns dropping things in the tub or sink or garbage.

And after a bit of this, it becomes normal.  Neither of them take a bottle.  Absolutely will not.  And you know what, who cares?   You don’t need to go anywhere, be anywhere but here. You are all they need. Neither of them sleep, not alone anyway.  And who can blame them.  Would you want to sleep in a little cage in a big, quiet room, who knows how far away from anyone? I wouldn’t.

When the eldest went to half-day kindergarten, he was ready, and I was not.  My heart and my skin had never felt quite so lonely.  And so the littler one and I filled our time with nonsense until he came home.  I don’t remember how I managed it, but I once went on a field trip with the four-year-old, leaving the two-year-old in someone else’s care, and we both were heart-sick by the time it was over, him asking “When can we go home, mommy?  I miss my Bon-Bon.”  But his missing us diminished as he grew, and mine didn’t. Mine grew each day, each year.  Last year, we made the leap to him in school all day PLUS her in school four half-days.  And this year, they’re both in school full days.  Thirty-six long hours.

And I hate it.  The saving grace is that my son is finally happy at school.  Being a third-grader gives them some choice about who they eat lunch with, where they sit on the bus, what they can check out of the library.  He has a classroom of kids he’s used to, with fewer distractions and noise than previous years.  My daughter loves her teacher, but doesn’t understand why people continue to talk to her or don’t follow the rules all the time.  If they were miserable as they have been in the past, I don’t know what I’d do.

Now, all I have to do is figure out my own plan.

I had a plan.  I was going to tear through the house when they went to school and get rid of all the stuff we don’t use and the too-small clothes, clean all the things I haven’t since I was nesting, in labor with my son eight years ago, fix all the little broken handles and dents and edges.  Empty out the garage.  Take care of the yard and gardens.  Get oil changes and haircuts and make dental appointments.  Train for a half marathon, take swim lessons, go on long bike rides, go back to boot camp regularly.  Meal plan and grocery shop, actually make dinner, and make lunches that didn’t look I raided a gas station on the way to school.

Instead, I have tabs open and emails started on volunteer opportunities at school and a local community food bank.  I can’t seem to pull the trigger to tell people I can help, commit to being anywhere but on this sofa, watching these episodes, lurking on Facebook.  I have time.  I have so much time.  And I have guilt about being a stay-at-home-parent so much so that I volunteer false information to strangers, “Yes.  I’m home with my kids.  BUT I’m going back to work soon.”  Lies.

I let myself be pushed out of the microbiology lab with a sour taste in my mouth from HR and the misogynistic senior scientists.  I was happy to leave.  I got that license to teach science and I liked it when I was there, but then I had kids and the idea of spending my best hours and energy on kids who didn’t care while sending mine somewhere else was ridiculous.

I WANT to be here.  I am lucky enough to be where I want to be.

I’ve been making mistakes, though.  I spend my energy in stupid ways and so the goal, and my ability to be here and engaged with my kiddos when they get off the bus is still sub par.  I’ll get it right.  Eventually.

Do you know what this is like?  I have to open my own doors, people.  There are no small children running, arguing, crying even about who gets to push the button to open the door.  I don’t have to buckle any seat belts.  Or wait for anyone to “do it mineself,” or listen to how unfair it is that someone has a booster seat and it isn’t them.  Do you know how fast I can run an errand now?   Are you not amazed that I can go to the grocery store AND the pet store AND even get gas and no one needs to be bribed or nagged or towed along?

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Alright, so this is a ramble and I don’t know how to clean it up.  EXCEPT, that I went to see a friend yesterday.  She’s becoming a Life Coach and wondered if any of her friends would be practice clients.  Yes.  She warns me it’s not therapy, that she won’t give advice.  Still sounds good.  And within minutes of talking to her and answering her pointed questions, I’ve figured it out.  I’m nearly choked on tears and words I can not say out loud.

I miss them so much it hurts.  I am scared of not being here for them.  I am afraid of anything that might keep me from them, be it an outside commitment, a lack of energy or… an MS relapse.

I want to find my way back to me, to find something fulfilling *outside* raising my kids….and the reason I won’t commit to anything is fear.  I’m so afraid I wouldn’t have the energy left afterwards for the things that matter.  And, I’m terrified of relapsing and suddenly being unable to complete what I’ve committed to, of even having telling anyone about my MS and admitting even temporary inability.

I don’t know how to move through that yet.

But I’ve got 30-some hours a week to learn how.

Race Report: Door County Triathlon

I’m sure I haven’t mentioned that I did a triathlon this summer, or again this Labor Day weekend.  I kept it pretty quiet.  You know me, so quiet.  So humble.  I was uncharacteristically out of words afterwards…but I’ve finally found them.  Here’s my first race report:

Door County Sprint Tri, July 16th or therabouts, 2016

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First, the swim. I was ready far too early. I paced and did some swim sprints to get my heart rate up. I peed in my wet suit a dozen times (while in the water, of course) before my wave went off, third to last. I wade out with the pack when the buzzer goes.  I dove in and start free-style.  I was a pro.  I put my face in the water.  I had conquered the totally rational, everyone-has-it-even-if-they-lie-fear of sea monsters.  I was sailing along. Five strokes, ten.  But there were all these other people in the water.  Polite ones, sure (thanks, ladies!!), but also people in kayaks telling you stuff and a boat and someone with a megaphone, I think, and it was too much.  It was all pulling at my attention and I just couldn’t stop looking around. None of these conditions are trustworthy! All these moving pieces! So I did the side-stroke for a quarter mile to keep my head up and in the game.  No biggie.  I can do a front crawl at the same pace I can side-stroke.  (I’m doing a Masters class now—and it turns out side-stroke is not an actual thing.  When she says 100 yds, free choice, she doesn’t mean side-stroke.  Wut?)

I fall a bit behind my wave and it gets nicer out in the water.  I am a seal.  I am a sylph of the water.  I am a selkie.  God, this is such a long quarter mile.

I schlepp onto shore and someone calls my name and I flash a million-watt smile. I have been advised to find the camera, let it be my friend. Lo! The very woman who suggested this tri thing seven months ago is the wet-suit peeler right in front of me!  She yells “Oh!  I get this one!!” and she and her dad unzip me and rip that suit off and get me back on my feet in nanoseconds and I’m rubber-legging it up the ramp to my bike.

I don’t remember transition.  I’m already out on my bike, and it is quiet out here on the road.  And the bay is to my right and there’s hardly anyone else on the road and it is amazing.  I laugh out loud and startle myself.  What a charmed life, to have this body, this time, this ability to move, this gorgeous earth to speed across.  Then my left arm goes densely, leadenly, numb.  And my toes start to go pins-and-needles and I start to wonder what I’m going to do next.  It has only been five miles.  I put my head down. I pick up the pace.  I fly into the water station at the turn-around at mile nine and ask everyone for ice. Ice.  Ice! They are confused.  I wheel my way into their supply line and grab ice out of the buckets, cooling bottles of Gatorade, and shove it down my shorts and into my left arm sleeve. The volunteers just goggle at me.  I want to tell them to volunteer at an Ironman after 9 pm and they’ll see it all, then.

Coming back in, I am now completely alone.  There are no more waves coming out and me and my trusty 1995 hybrid are streaming through the countryside.  Med-tent stop.  Beg for more ice.  More stunned and confused volunteers.  Someone gives me a glove with ice tied inside, which I shove, again into my shorts.  Someone else picks up on the urgency and helps me stuff ice into the elbows of my cooling sleeves.

Mile 15.  Three to go.  There is no one to yell “Hybrids for the WIN!!” or, “Go get ’em tiger!” at.  There is no one panting “Good job.  You got this,” as they pass me either.  Just me and the road.  And despair. We soldier through, together.

18 miles, done.  Transition is going fine.  I have this small chest of ice holding my ice vest in it.  I have nailed down the motions of one, two, three, dumping the ice water over my head, zipping up my vest, putting on my shoes…and I can’t tie my shoes.  My fingers will not work.  I look for anyone to help and then can’t remember if officials can help or just other participants or anyone or WTF will I do if I can’t tie my shoes??  And I grab two fistfuls of ice from the pavement and hold them for a minute, and I can finally feel my fingers and tie up clumsily and boom, I’m ready to run.

Good lord.  My body doesn’t work.  I did my due diligence, people.  I did brick workouts.  I know this sensation in my legs is temporary.  But this is ridiculous.  My toes have cramped into tight, little snails.  My left leg is going numb.  My hands are on fire.  I am tired and so freaking pumped.  This jolt hits me–this dichotomy of “Oh boy” and “Yass!” is why there are addicts in this sport.  You are doing this to yourself…and it’s miserable and exhilarating all at once.  I stumble past the big crowds.  I don’t see my family, but I do see a sign for me.  For me??  On this road?  And it’s an inside joke from sixth grade.  SIXTH GRADE!?!  Did you ever once think when you were in sixth grade that 26 years later you would do a triathlon with someone in your classroom??  I didn’t.  I loved it.  I cried and kept running.

The road gets so, so hot.  I finally see people ahead.  I have found my way back to the race.  People are walking, drooping, shuffling.  I shuffle right along with them.  I walk some. I pass a woman with a “Baby On Board” t-shirt and tell her “Hell.  I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox when I was pregnant.” (Partial lie.  I could have.  I just would have vomited if I did.) I thought I would run the whole thing, but nah, son.  Not today.  I can’t uncurl my toes.  I run until I’m just about to vomit, then I walk a minute and try again.  I get the shakes.  I’m so, so hot.  My ice vest has thawed.  I’m dumping water on my feet and head and in my bra at every station.  No weird looks here.  Everyone is wilting.  I’ve set my eye on Sparkle Skirt, who is part of a Team Triumph, a superhero up ahead.  If Sparkle Skirt can push a whole ‘nother person through this, I can push my own damn self.  I yell thanks to those Angels for pushing and for pulling me along, too.  It’s a 5K.  And it feels endless.

I finish.  I don’t see my family.  I fumble and panic with getting my ice vest off, then fall into the ice pool with my finisher medal.

I did it.  It was hard.  My first thought was “Aaaand, never doing that again.”  Only to immediately remember I was already signed up for one in six weeks.

I’m a triathlete.

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Golden God

A few days ago I read about a man, Klaus Obermeyer, who is 95 and still skiing and generally being awesome.  He swims about a mile every day and says it helps him stretch out and stay young.  And I thought “Yeah!  Swimming!   could do that!” -Me, January 2, 2016

***Turns out the link above will get you to the Wall Street Journal article about Klaus Obermeyer, but you have to subscribe to read it all!  Booo! Sorry.***

You guys! I did it! It took 10 1/2 months…but I swam a mile today! 1800 yards, almost all freestyle.  That’s 1.02 miles!

When I first started swimming last January, I would just get in and go for as long as I could.  No breaks, just full speed.  I would make it about 7 minutes.

When I was training for those sprint triathlons, I had this plan to do 1000 yards, in 400 yd sets.  Or 1600 yards.  And I never did that. Never. I would swim 400 yards and I was done. I would go home and do nothing for two days afterwards.

When I went to my first Masters Swim class, I was exhausted and shaking by 30 minutes and I never went back.

When it came time to swim in my first triathlon in July, I was ready, to a point.  I could comfortably do 400 meters, even had done about 600 m in open water. Aaaand I did five breaths of freestyle and the entire rest of the quarter-mile in side-stroke.

When it came time for my second tri in September, I overheated within 20 seconds (probably shouldn’t have had my wet suit on) couldn’t get my breathing under control, and side-stroked that one too.

And now, four weeks in to twice-weekly swim classes, I finally did it.  I have a stroke that resembles actual swimming more than dragging a canoe through the water.  I do an actual warm-up and cool-down in the water.  I swim further each day.

And TODAY I SWAM A MILE!

Two weeks ago, I swam 1550 yards.  I also ran 7 miles the next day, both of which were the furthest distances I’d ever covered.  And then I watched two seasons of Shameless and ate everything, and slept a lot.  I made two false starts getting back in the pool. I missed two weeks of running and dropped out of a half-marathon I won’t be ready for. There’s a small part of me that worries that this is MS, this fatigue I can’t shake.  Fortunately, I have surrounded myself with logical, calm people.  I tell them my worries, and they say, “Uh, didn’t you just do more than you’ve ever done in two different sports, and then travel to a hot place, get dehydrated, get your period, and, uh, get woken up ten times in the night every night for years? Maybe there’s a reason you’re tired?”

I haven’t mastered the slow build-up in training.  I’m either a golden god or a sofa stain.

Today, though, Golden God!