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Running again

I went running yesterday.

For much of last year, running was a normal part of my life. Since Katja was born, though, I’ve had difficulty finding time to run. I did half mile jogs once in a while, but there was no way to consistently fit in exercise because her schedule in the mornings was so variable.

Xander is starting his new semester this week, so there are times that I can force myself to run. He’ll park the car away from my office twice a week and I will run to get it at lunch. Saturday mornings will be my third run of the week, and I will try to at least go walking other days.

The first day I picked to go running was, of course, during a storm. I had declared that I would go “come hell or high water”, though, so I was determined to go anyway. I got dressed in normal running gear, added my winter coat (it’s blue, very long, and I’m short, so it is referred to as the Smurf coat), and headed out.

I am restarting the Couch to 5K program, so I walked and ran for half an hour. My toes were cold and wet by the time I got home, but after a nice hot shower I felt great. The snow was not the best beginning, but I did it. I’m a little sore today, but I feel much happier for having this back in my life.

Recovering workaholic

I feel like I am planning to be selfish for the next while, maybe even a year. I want to go to work, come home, go swimming, and dance. Xander is planning to teach me how to play video games. We’ll go to see friends, maybe see a movie or two. I’ll read a lot of books. I won’t do anything that means much to anyone except myself.

I’ve been so tired that I can’t handle much lately. It feels like I’ve been tired for a very long time. Planning to not plan things, to have hours of uninterrupted time off, is alien to me and a little bit scary. I am a little unsure that everything will work out, that it will be fine. I know, on some level, that it won’t be an issue, but at the same time I’ve been very busy for long enough that it has become habit.

I think the biggest issue is not doing anything that matters to anyone else. I like being useful. I like feeling like an important cog instead of a completely replaceable one. I know that everyone is replaceable, but I flatter myself by thinking that it would be hard to replace me. I want to matter. That is overbalanced, though, by wanting to not be exhausted all the time. I’m planning to simply be on weekends and evenings, to do only what I actively want to. I want time with Xander that isn’t layered over with worry about timing and making sure everything is done and whatever else I can think of.

I want to get good at relaxing.

That’s a pretty scary thing for a workaholic to say, but I think the past two years have really convinced me that down time is essential. I’ve made it through, with Xander’s help, but I can’t do much more, certainly not after the blows we’ve taken this year. It’s time to enjoy the fact that we have enough, we have each other, and we enjoy each other.

It’s time for me to relax. It’s time to stop and breathe and take more joy in life than I sometimes think I know how to do.

It’s scary. I will have to be very careful to avoid finding other things to fill my time until I feel like I am at least somewhat less frayed and worn. I’m just too tired to keep up this schedule, and if another blow falls, I might not be able to handle it unless I have some reserves. Right now there just aren’t any, but getting enough sleep consistently will help with that.

Moments

I spent yesterday morning puttering around the kitchen and the afternoon hanging out with kids. A little tiring, but ok.

In the evening, Xander and I and a teenager who is the daughter of a friend of ours went to Controlled Burn’s Compression, the yearly Fire Arts Festival. We went to see the belly dancers, essentially. Someday I will have enough energy to stay awake until the fire dancers actually go on, but they weren’t on until 9:30 or so, and the night before had been more waking than sleeping, so this time it was just for the belly dancing.

We got there just in time for Hipswitch, which was fun. I enjoy watching them, and maybe next year I’ll be back to dancing with them. Depends on how much energy I have at the time. I got to say hello to people I haven’t seen in a few months, which was good. We sat on the grass while various ballroom-type dancing was going on.

I was surrounded by people. I was there with two people I enjoy. As I sat on the grass, though, I felt dislocated and lost. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, and I was overwhelmingly sad. I had a wave of missing Daniel more than usual, wanting him to slide his fingers between mine as he had since he was tiny, to go for a walk and tell him all the strange and wonderful things I’ve seen. I wanted to make him laugh again.

In the heat, in the midst of people, watching people dance and talk and wander and eat and drink, I was very, very alone.

By Xander’s request, the teenager came up next to me and stuck a piece of grass in my ear. It’s very hard to be lost, unhappy, and wrapped up in my own head when someone is sticking grass in my ear. It made me laugh and jolted me out of the long minutes of sadness.

We watched a belly dancing group in from another area. They were technically good, but they didn’t seem to be having fun. Not one of them smiled. The response from the audience was half-hearted. Yes, it was pretty, but it was a remote kind of prettiness, nothing anyone could connect to. It seemed somewhat disappointing.

Asha World Dancers came on, and the audience perked up. They were having fun, being silly, playing, telling a story, and the audience was coming along with them. The energy was totally different. People were laughing and paying attention, and the dancing was very good. When they finished and went offstage, the applause was louder and more energetic. The audience had fun. The first set of technically good dancers had come across as somewhat remote, professional, doing their job but not loving it. They felt like artists putting on a very careful show of their talents. Asha was technically good, too, but they seemed to be having fun, despite the heat. They drew the audience with them and made us laugh. That’s performance on top of artistry, and it’s a lot more fun to watch.

We went to dinner after watching the dancers. I didn’t have the energy to be around that many people for much longer. The food was good and we relaxed. I got very sad at one point, which still happens often. I try hard to control it, but sometimes there is no controlling the emotions, and I am learning to just let them wash over me. I’m not very good at that yet.

There are good moments and bad moments in every day. The bad are still really hard to deal with, but there are good ones even on the worst days. I am allowed to cry, to be sad, to feel lost and disconnected. At the same time, when someone pulls me back into the present, I am allowed to be happy and silly and goofy. It’s a balance I haven’t learned to walk yet. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, learning to balance this new kind of life with a big hole in it, is not easy, but family and friends are helping me through.

Sometimes a moment is all I need to bring me back to realizing that there is good in the world or just that a teenager needs to have grass stuck in her ear, too.

Scattered

I usually have some clue what I’m going to write about, but today I don’t.

I’ve been sick off an on for a while now. It’s probably the stress beginning to tell. Much of it will be removed by the end of August, but until then I will just keep moving forward and keep trying to stay healthy. I’m not very good at it. I know I push too hard. I have slept 10 or 11 hours every night this week (although the morning that Nyx woke me up at 4:00 AM wasn’t quite as restful) and I am still tired. I’m on antibiotics, and whatever it is seems to be clearing up slowly, but even today I had a fever spike rather unexpectedly.

I’ve been pushing somewhat hard for over a year and a half now, and the past year has been unrelenting. It’s my choice, but it hasn’t been an easy one.

I know I’m being cryptic. I’m sorry. I just can’t explain a lot of what’s going on. Suffice it to say that my job, while challenging and interesting, can also be tiring, and, on top of that, foster children can need so much that I come home drained. We don’t live with any of them. I think good foster parents have to have an amazing amount of patience, because I couldn’t do what they do. I make jokes about not getting bitten or kicked in a while, but they aren’t very funny jokes.

I get to spend some time with kids in stable, strong families with intelligent and loving parents. Sometimes I forget how good it is to just be able to hang out with kids without having to actively work with them or keep an eye on them or make sure they aren’t doing things they shouldn’t. It’s a whole different level of awareness, working with kids who are so damaged, and it can be exhausting. Our friends’ kids are a relief, a balm to what is sometimes a very weary existence.

I think I am still grieving a little, too. Scratch that. I know I am. Friends of ours recently told us that they are expecting. I was, and am, very happy for them, but on the way home I cried. I wanted to be able to raise our child with Xander. Mostly it’s ok. If I get enough sleep, enough exercise, enough down time, it sinks into the background and doesn’t bug me. Once in a while, though, if I am particularly vulnerable and something triggers it, the feelings are there again, raw and sad. My response? We stopped and got good chocolate, and I am eating my share a little bit at a time.

Monday I have completely off. I may not do anything interesting with the time. I may spend the day on the couch. If I feel really motivated, I’ll take Nyx out for a nice long walk. If not, though, I’m not going to feel bad about it – she’ll share the couch with me all day quite happily.

The last year has worn me down. I am tired even when I have had enough sleep. I feel like I used to be better at things than I am now. I know that my attention is too fractured at the moment to do as well as I have in the past, and I am very glad I’m not trying to take classes right now, because I think I’d fail them.

Next week is a short week. The week after that I am actually taking some time off. I’m trying hard to make it through August, to have enough money set aside so we don’t have to worry about money for Australia whether or not a certain job market improves. My job is stable, and I’m happy there. I’m learning a lot.

It’s just a few more months. I just have to keep moving, and if I get too tired, I’ll skip a day, one way or another. I’ve been pushing too hard for too long and I think I can’t do it for much longer. I don’t have to, though. We’re almost there.

Time, change, and peace

I’m taking the summer off from belly dancing. It feels odd, like Friday nights are emptier than they should be. At the same time, it’s freeing in some ways. I have two weekday evenings in which I can simply come home and crash, relax, not think about anything. It’s more likely that I will putter around the house, but there is the option of falling over and reading or sleeping which, just by existing, is relaxing.

I don’t think I knew quite how nice having free time was until I didn’t have much. It’s been a while since I could look at my evenings laid out in front of me and feel anything other than stress – too many things to get done, not enough time. Fairly soon I’m going to have free time again. Weekends and evenings will stretch out in front of me. If I have something scheduled and I don’t feel like going, I just…won’t go. It won’t upset anyone or make anyone’s life harder.

Time has seemed almost tangible for the past couple of years. I chop it into carefully delineated pieces and hold it tightly to make sure I don’t miss anything. I plan everything. If plans fall through, I worry that I made a mistake. I get irritated at traffic (which, in Reno, is negligible, but it can cause me timing issues). I want to hold time, but it is always slipping through my fingers.

I want to be able to be spontaneous. I’ve never been very good at it, but it sounds like fun, at least in small doses. I’ve always worried about time and money, ever since I started high school, and I’ve always felt like I’m a step behind.

This summer, that is changing. A lot of things are changing. Money is not as tight. We still have to be careful, but it isn’t a problem at this point, and it has been a point of stress for a long time. My time will be opening up a little over the next few months and then drastically in September – normal hours, normal work. I can live with that. No more school to pay for, at least at the moment.

I can look at the next four months and have some idea what is in store, at least as much as anyone has. It will be a busy summer, but there is an underlying peace that I have been missing.

I used to believe that I could just get a job, no problem. That certainty became stronger once I got my MBA. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. In a normal economy, perhaps it wouldn’t have been, but in this economy finding work is painfully hard. I was unemployed for six months because the start up company I’d been with for several years went out of business. I looked for jobs every day. At first I was very picky, but eventually I ended up just looking for something that paid the bare minimum we needed to get by. I found it.

I’ve been very lucky in that I think I may have also found a career. I love working in this area, even though some days can be hard, and I am fascinated by learning everything I can about it. There’s a lot to learn. After a year and a half, I’ve just scratched the surface.

Sometimes there is a moment when I realize that all of the puzzle pieces, dumped out of a box, just slid into place. This moment, this brink of change, feels like that. There are new possibilities opening up, new ideas, new challenges, and the time and money to meet them joyfully. Today I am centered and calm, happy and relaxed. It’s a good place to be.

I know there will be more stress coming up. There is always more stress waiting in the wings. My baseline is changing, though, to something more relaxed, less twitchy.

I don’t generally like change. Change is scary and hard and not comfortable. I think this set of changes will be somewhat easier. There’s a steep learning curve, but I can live with that. I have the energy to move forward again, and I’m enjoying thinking about the future without feeling like I’m hanging on by a thread.

I’m looking forward to a good weekend. I hope you manage one, too.