“You look tired” said the YMCA employee to me, as she passed me on her way up and down the locker room aisles with a broom and dustpan. I am running a comb through my hair, pinning it back up into a bun, getting ready to go back to work. “I am pretty tired,” I say, affixing the clasp on my necklace. “I just ran three miles, and my knees hurt.” “Bookie,” she called me, and got away with it as only an old sweet soft black lady could, “you hang in there and have a blessed day.”
Truth is, the run wasn’t what made me tired. I’ve been worn down by life somewhat lately. We all have peaks and valleys, and I was in a bit of a valley for a while. That, plus constant work, has kept me from updating much in the past few weeks. I get up early in the morning before the boys wake up and have to bill hours. I open the laptop after they go to bed and have to bill hours. I eat lunch while billing, pump milk for the baby while billing, talk into my Dictaphone while driving so I can bill even those minutes of my commute. Also, the baby and I have both been sick, so for several weeks in a row there I was not able to sleep more than hour at a time, without being woken by a grumpy, snotty, feverish little baby – or by my own coughing.
Litigation ebbs and flows, and whenever it flows the whole of my life is consumed in trying to keep up with it. Add in sick kids and sick self and it’s just a nightmare. The world narrows, my hope and optimism begin to dim, and I realize that even with all of this work, and our care with spending, we are still poor and going bankrupt and the kids are miserable and everybody’s gonna die and aaaaaauuuuuggggghhhhh.
Once the spiral gets to “everybody’s gonna die,” I realize that I have allowed the circumstances of my life to overtake basic self care. I decide that deadlines can go hang – I must make exercise happen. I get off the phone with a partner, promising him a draft of a Motion to Compel within the hour, and then grab my gym bag and go to the YMCA to change for a run. I have to accept that the Motion will be late, that he has not set a timer that will literally ding in an hour, and if I’m late he’ll maybe fuss a little bit but I will not be fired and life will go on. I have to force myself not to stress out about missing this tiny internal deadline, because if I do not crowbar a tiny little wedge of time for this exercise, I will never interrupt my Woe Is Me Spiral of Depression.
The run does me good – it’s a relatively mild day, and I go out into the world instead of jogging on the treadmill. I do a slow but satisfying 3 miles – lately I have not managed to do more than that, partly because of time constraints and also because of an asthma flare up that wallops me in the chest if I push too hard. I’m operating on a pretty serious sleep deficit as well, so I’m not breaking any records with my mile time. But it feels good, almost like the blood pumping through my body is literally clearing out cobwebs. I visualize each beat of my heart pushing stress and pessimism right out the top of my head and into the air. When I return to work, red-faced and with frizzy hair, I feel tired but in a healthier way.
Life still holds its charms. The Professor does funny accents while putting the kids to bed, and Jack runs to me, breathless and giggling, and shouts “DAD IS SPEAKING FRENCH!!! It’s hiLARious, you gotta see it!” Craig learns to pull himself up on furniture, he doesn’t know what to do after he gets up there but seems drawn to do it again and again and again, compelled to develop those gross motor skills. Liam learns to read, almost overnight – his easy grasp of phonics astonishes everyone. The first day of fall brings with it some cooler temperatures, and I feel the urge to make stew. I bake cookies to send to two college students for whom I feel some responsibility to send care packages (our summer nanny, and the sweet girl – now grown woman - who read a passage at our wedding, and whose parents served in loco parentis for me while I was in college when this girl was just a toddler).
I would write more, but Mr. Pull Up On The Couch keeps popping up next to me and insinuating his chubby little fingers onto my keyboard, and his two older brothers are hungry. I have laundry to do, grocery shopping, the week’s meals to prepare and freeze, and we may even squeeze in one last visit to the pool. Au revoir, my dears.