The Day Before The First Day

Painting: Fall Blueberries by Laura Tasheiko
Painting: Fall Blueberries by Laura Tasheiko

I ran this morning. For months now, running has caused me angst. I want to run in theory. But when I actually find a moment where running is possible, I’m overcome by lethargy. My muscles feel preemptively sore. But this morning, the day before the first day of autumn, I wanted to run. There was no dread, just a slowly rising sun, a blue sky, and long shadows.

I ran my five-mile route—a route that I’ve been putting off for weeks. The sun came through in pieces through the leaves. I took in my favorite sights: the field of cows with their quickly growing calves, the blueberry fields already turning red, the bright open field that opens just after the forest. A young deer crossed in front of my path. (This is what I love about Olympia: run five miles and you can pretend you live out in the countryside.)

While I ran, my mind stayed busy rehearsing for tomorrow, the first day of fall quarter. Always in the days before I meet my new students, I practice who I will be. I am my best self in those first few weeks, my spirit restored from summer. My students file in with the intention of doing everything right. They laugh easily at my jokes. I intend to be consistently inspiring, clear, and Prepared for Anything. By November, though, the sky will cloud over, the stacks of papers will roll in, and we all will submit to the grind. Here and there I will drop the ball. Here and there my students will test me. By December we’ll be ready for the end.

But for now I’ll just linger in autumn’s brightness. I know it won’t last, but still I’ll reap its pleasures.

I am that dog

A friend of mine shared this on Facebook yesterday and I laughed.

At first I thought I was laughing at the dog. Then I realized I was laughing in recognition of my own fool self because I am that dog.

I am that dog when I feel distant from my partner and so I try to connect by starting an argument about who changed the last diaper or does she really need to bid on another doorknocker on e-bay? At first, maybe I think I’m kidding, but then twenty minutes later I hear my own voice, somehow both prodding and defensive.

I am that dog when I insist that my son takes a bath even though he’s asked politely to skip a night, and then forty minutes later I’m yelling because he won’t get out. And I am that dog every time I make plans about all the things I will accomplish while my children sleep.

I am that dog any time I think I am acting in my own self-interest when really what I am doing is getting in my own way.

I was that dog two months ago when I signed up for a half marathon training group. I paid 75 dollars to run at 7:30 every Saturday morning during the rainiest months of the year with a pack of people I don’t know. I thought it would be fun—I had done this very thing two years ago and loved it. The dog in me failed to note the differences between then and now.

Two years ago, I had one child and he had crossed the supervision threshold, meaning he could play on his own for more than a moment. Two years ago, I was sleeping through the night, riding my bike to work three days a week, and running on alternate days. Two years ago, it felt invigorating to wake up early on a Saturday morning and run ten miles in the rain.

Now I sleep an average of six interrupted hours a night. Now I’ve got two kids to juggle, and one of them, if left unattended for over thirty seconds, will climb into the bathroom sink and knock over the mirror.

So I’ve been growling at my own hind leg for the past few months, mad at myself for not getting it together.  It was only this weekend that I realized: Though I should be running at least four days a week, I’ve managed to fit a total of zero runs into my workweek during the last three weeks combined. (0 + 0 + 0 = 0) This is not going to change next week. On days where I’ve had time for exercise, I’ve felt more like going for a walk. And on weekends, I’ve wanted to sleep as long as the baby will let me, then go for a quiet five-miler. What’s more, I realized that if next week I somehow managed to force myself out of bed at 7:30 for a ten-mile run I would not be heroic, I would be stupidly risking injury to my undertrained body.

All this time, I’ve been telling myself Bad-Dog-Bad-Dog-Bad-Dog, until it finally hit me: I am not being lazy. This is just the current state of my life.

So I hereby officially quit. It’s hard for me to let go of that 75 dollars just like it’s hard for that dog to let go of his bone.  But it feels really good. (Wait, I think it does. Some little part of me is still growling. If I tune in I can hear it.)

You see, I’m trying not to be that dog.