On Endurance

There’s a new employee at the cat store. She doesn’t yet know that I’m there every three weeks to buy lots of food and even more litter. She stood there, a little slack-jawed when I scooped up two 50-pound bags and walked out. “You’re stronger than you look!”

Uh. Oh.

With the post-race blues I sometimes get, Tuesday I got run over with the twin semis of “Not Enough” and “TOO DAMN MUCH”. I don’t usually pay any heed to those messages, like it’s a weird radio station and I can just change the channel, but this time the words stuck.

I planned ahead this fall. I planned to be BUSY. On purpose. So, I had two sprint triathlons on the schedule in September and October. I scheduled all the dentist and check-up appointments and flu shots. I even got to add a mammogram to the mix! Hello 40! I volunteered to chaperone ALL the fall field trips. I made meal plans and stocked the cupboards. I made weekend plans of Ironman WI volunteering, Forced Family Fun time trips to the orchard and camping and mud runs. I signed up for a trial fitness sampler and tried out boxing (NOPE), a rave/cycling class (more NOPE), and yoga in a new studio (eh, if it’s not Ruthie, it’s not Ruthie.) I helped build the school playground and went kayaking and found the one Chinese bakery in town and actually bought moon cakes in time for the Harvest Moon festival.

Moon cakes
It only took four years of poor planning to find moon cakes in town. Thank you Asian Sweet Bakery!

Yesterday was the day I ran out of stuff. My races are over, and I’ve slowed my half-marathon training to head off injury. So….that unsettling emptiness finally caught up to me. There’s nothing on the schedule but absorbing more of the news. The stuff we’re all inundated with that is all so disgusting and terrible and haunting and disappointing.

Honestly, my heart is still broken from the first day I dropped my son off at 4K. It never healed. Back-to-school open house was last night and we walked through his fifth-grade classroom, then caught his kindergarten teachers in the hall. And he got a hug from them. I didn’t know he still wanted hugs from Mrs. B and Ms. F. Oh, my heart.

Fifth grade sucks, guys. State capitals are okay, but learning division amidst a bunch of turd blossoms is exhausting. And, one of his classmates put another in a headlock in P.E. yesterday, and while I admire her spirit, more than one kid was scared to go to school today for fear they would be next. There were tears last night and this morning from my son, saying fifth grade has pushed him too far, and can we have a serious discussion about homeschooling.

There were tears at bedtime from my daughter wondering if she’s always going to be in pain, if she’s always going to be sick. That black hole in my heart is now so deep it’s no longer a separate entity.

This is our standard. I miss them terribly and they don’t want to go. The needle is still tipping to public school, but goddamn it for being so stressful.

And my old cat, my first true love, is getting, well, older. He’s getting thinner and pretty ratty looking. His face is shrinking away from his eyes and his fur has stopped growing in. In his heart, he is wild, and once he escapes the house, he’s in the wind. Two nights ago I made the half-hearted attempt to call him in at dark, knowing I’d either hear from him at three in the morning when he ‘sings the song of his people’ at the patio door, or two days from now. BUT he came. He slowly walked out the bushes and into the house. My son witnessed this and said solemnly, “Stuart has retired.” oh, Stuart.

Do you have a list of what you’re handling at the moment? And is some or most of that list things you can’t actually talk about? And it’s not the real thing, but the last thing that gets you?

For example, I could tell you that Infinity War broke me. I got into Marvel heros just two years ago, and mainlined them, and then curled up in a ball and sobbed in my theater lounger last spring. All seven of us who were in there sat, and sniffled and walked out, absolutely shattered. Screw you, Marvel. We’re done here.

Three times this week, someone has asked me what to do now. As if I know. I had to pull over and throw up while listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony. I meant to sign up for a Mindfulness in Motion class, but by the time I remembered AND found my password, I had lost my debit card. I was dressed like a teenage slob when I went to my mammogram last week. There was a piece of foam pipe insulation by the front door for a week before I realized it was actually cat shit.

But….

I have been reading books about endurance. It started with “Born to Run”, and then “Natural Born Heroes”(both by Christopher McDougall). Then a post by The Oatmeal that drove a sad, yet hopeful spike into my heart, then “Life’s Too Short to go so Fucking Slow,” (Susan Lacke), “RUN! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” and “Ultramarthon Man” (both by Dean Karnazes) and finally, “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. I find it compelling to know not why people do amazing feats of endurance, but how.

Because I’d sure like to know.

There are lots of reasons I do sprint tris, most which I can’t even articulate, but the one I’ve been thinking about most lately is that it’s good practice for the everyday. And I need the practice. You work hard. You put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you just do things. You wanted a challenge. No one said it would be easy…. You get the idea.

I don’t know what your list is right now, but I hope you’re enduring.

Me? I’m going to take a shower, go to a going-away party, collect my kids from the bus stop in the hopes that no one got put in a headlock or had their soul crushed or feels terrible, and keep going.

I’m also going to refill the calendar with fuel for the perpetual motion machine of coping. Other ideas:

*Offer to do dishes or laundry for a new mom, but don’t be upset if she wants you to hold the baby instead,

*Walk your dog, or someone else’s,

*Get a kitten,

*Cut up and roast the damn vegetables already and eat like a grownup already,

*Go for a run,

*Volunteer at the polls, or for Meals on Wheels, or in your local school library, or at the next local event,

*Call my dad. Or your dad, but my dad is pretty great,

*Watch Trevor Noah, or The Good Place, or Superstore or The House,

*Drink something warm, or at least hold something warm in your hands, like a kitten. Or a baby.

*Sign up for ice skating or ukelele or bike maintenance lessons to fill November and December and beyond with,

*Hug your kids. Play their games, let them put up garbage decorations, read them the Winnie-the-Pooh story where Owl contemplates pushing Rabbit off a branch, put together puzzles, build a fort,

*and remember what Tom Hanks once said, about waking up each day and reminding yourself to breath in and out until you don’t have to remind yourself anymore.

You might just be stronger than you look.