I work out five days a week. There are days when I don’t want to. There are many days when I don’t want to, but I continue to go because I know I will feel better, both mentally and physically, if I do. Sometimes, when I’ve wrangled myself into my swimsuit and topped it with a warm-up suit, I think about how I’d much rather be in my pajamas under the covers. Sometimes, after I’ve dropped V off in the child care center and I’m unloading the contents of my backpack into my locker, I think, “I could just sit on this bench here and just do nothing until I have to pick up V in two hours.” Sometimes, I have a poor performance in the pool and think, “That was a waste of time and energy”. Despite all of those scenarios, though, I know I would feel much worse if I never crossed the Fitness Center threshold at all. Truthfully, I don’t consider a workout successful unless there is a full on flop sweat coursing down my face. Physical exertion is one of the best ways to move through and beyond a sour mood. The ordeal that is our morning routine is sure to leave several of us (okay, me) cranky and uptight before we’ve even left the driveway. When I’m gripping the steering wheel like Homer on Bart Simpson’s neck, I know that once I get situated on the Elliptical or the Stairmaster and get the sweat flowing, I will be in a much better place. Even as I type this, I’m struck by the thought of being bathed in sweat, the sweat actually cleansing me of negative energy. All of the nasty feelings, critical thoughts, nuggets of self-doubt or what have you are being carried out in rivulets of sweat and evaporating into the air. Poof! Gone, leaving me red-faced and soaked through, but considerably lighter in temperament. The release of sweat re-calibrates my internal metronome, enabling me to march to my own beat without missing a step.
The Hubs and I are both in the midst of serious professional growth. It’s been challenging for me in that I work from home. There are precious few hours that I can 1) devote to my projects and 2) work on my projects with some semblance of focus. I am getting up at five in the morning to put in some work before we start our day. I sneak in an hour or two while V naps, and then if I’m lucky (i.e. not delirious and cross eyed with fatigue), I get squeeze in another hour after lights out for the girls. Then it’s to bed and back up for a repeat performance the following day. It’s a grueling schedule to keep. I’ve never been much of a night owl; I’m more of an early to bed, early to rise kind of gal. The cumulative effect of these early morning, late nights began to take its toll on me. The day came when I could no longer keep it together after manning this ship on domesticity while the Hubs traveled for work. I was tired. I was cranky. I was feeling unappreciated and overwhelmed. I was resentful of the Hubs and his ability to just get up, get dressed, and get out the door unencumbered by the petulant whines and cries of three little people each with their own very strong opinion. I was mad that I had passed another sleepless night and that I was caught in the hamster wheel of Monday through Friday. I flung the covers off, got out of bed. I stewed about what had happened and what needed to happen and I began to cry. Hard, angry, hot tears that caught the Hubs completely off guard.
“I’m just. . I’m so tired,” I snotted and sobbed into the shirtfront of my bewildered husband. And when the Hubs in a Herculean attempt to calm me offered to go get bagels for the girls, I snapped out of it. I grabbed my big girl panties off of the shelf, stuffed my tears and general malaise up on the shelf in their place and carried on my day. Despite his best efforts, bagels weren’t going to suffice. Shelving my emotions was not a solution that would prove to be an enduring one, either. As we continued in our roles, the feelings ballooned up until one day, I found myself clicking on the television to babysit the girls so I could go upstairs, lock the door and cry. And cry. And cry. I lay face down on my bed with the comforter balled up in my fists, the corner of our decorative throw pillows catching the onslaught of water sluicing from my face. I cried furiously, thoroughly, in body-wracking disgusting sobs, hiccuping and snorting like truffle pig searching for chanterelles. I cried until I was scooped out and deflated, until the only sound in the room was the raggedness of my breath coming in ever diminished bursts. It was a cry for the ages. When I peeled myself off of the bed, I saw how the shedding of tears left a soggy, Hilary-sized impression on the bedclothes. I felt clean, like a slate had been wiped, like someone had hit the re-set button. While my situation was the same, I was now empty of everything that had been weighing me down as I tried to manage it. With each tear, I jettisoned anger, frustration, fatigue, and resentment. I was hollowed out and determined to be replenished with only good things.
I love the beach, plain and simple. I didn’t grow up near the beach. We didn’t vacation at the beach growing up or with any regularity as adults. I could choose my vacation destination, however, with the exception of Paris, I’d be going to the beach. The calming, repetitive nature of the surf coming in to and pulling away from the shore is hypnotic. I love the feel of the sand between my toes and watching the sugar-like crystals be swept away by the angry fingers of an ocean wave. I’ve been lucky enough to visit beaches on the East Coast and West Coast, in both warm temps and not so warm temps. It doesn’t matter, I love it all the same. I’d be just as happy in a rolled up jeans and a chunky sweater, strolling down Chick’s Beach in October as I would be in a bathing suit and Ray Bans laid out getting tan in Costa Maya in August. I’ll take it all and every point in between.
Our immediate family is trying to keep a tradition of a bi-annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard in motion. We’ve been more successful with this than we have been with Pancake Saturday, but I digress. The beaches on Martha’s Vineyard are both public and private. The Atlantic is cold and sometimes is met with rocky shores or smooth, windblown sandy beaches. Whether it’s Tashmoo Beach, Longpoint Beach, the Inkwell or State Beach, it’s of no consequence. The 12 plus hours it takes to get to the Vineyard are magically erased when I lay my towel down and pop open the umbrella. Everything is right with the world. I don’t know much about astrology and zodiac signs, so I don’t know if or how my birth sign corresponds to the elements. According to the books, I’m more earth-centric, but given my way, I’ll take the ocean any day.
I remember laying back in the waters in Costa Maya, thinking about this old Foxtrot cartoon I had read. Over the course of several installments, the Fox family goes to their cabin for the week The husband, Roger, locks the keys to the car in the ignition. The rest of the family goes about the week while he tirelessly tries to unlock the door with a hanger. Once he successfully liberates the keys, he tries to share his joy with his son who replies, “Mom told me I have to pack.” The next panel shows Roger floating in the lake, imploring the waters to soothe him, calm him, restore him to his balance. By the fourth panel, we see his wife yelling, “C’mon, Roger, the car’s packed and running! It’s time to go,” to which Roger replies, “Hurry up, water! Hurry up!” It’s easily been ten years of more, since I’ve read Foxtrot, but I can’t ever float in the ocean or in a pool without thinking of this cartoon and how we rely on the water to heal us.