Last week, Emily’s post The Last Time gave us a chance to reflect upon beginnings and endings. Lately I have been in a different place…a less poignant, more ambiguous place…the time in-between. You’re not quite here, but you’re not quite there…
I am not very graceful during times of transition. I like to be in the thick of things: hitting my stride during a long run, getting immersed in a writing project, falling in step with the lazy cadence that accompanies the dog-days of summer. I relish the consistency of a routine and the rhythm of repetition. Transitions make me feel adrift and rudderless. The fear of the unknown, the anxiety of not knowing what’s next, the break from routine- it makes me a little crazy(ier). A few years ago I did a triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL. The segments of time for moving from one event to another (swim to bike, bike to run) are called your “Transition Times.” The average transition time in an Olympic distance triathlon is about 50 seconds. Mine was 8:32. That’s right – EIGHT MINUTES AND THIRTY-TWO SECONDS. I remember standing in front of my bike in a dripping wet suit, starting at my gear like a deer in headlights…that had been Tasered. I knew that I somehow needed to get out of my wet suit and onto the bike, I just couldn’t remember how to do that exactly, or in what order to dress myself. When my husband Phil saw the breakdown of my final time, he said, “An 8 ½ minute transition? Did you stop at a bar?”
Like I said, transitions are not my thing.
Yet here I am…it’s the end of spring, but not quite summer. Preschool is over, but camp hasn’t started. I sat at the kitchen table on Sunday night, feeling the blood vessels in my forehead constrict as I stared at a completely blank week on my calendar. “What am I going to do with them all week?” Well, I do what any self-respecting, Type A masochist would do. I set goals: stupid, unrealistic goals – the ones clearly doomed for failure.
We will start each day with an invigorating workout! (Haven’t been to the gym since my surgery 8 weeks ago.) We will pack away our winter clothes! (That have remained in the closet for the last two summers.) We will do arts and crafts! (Phoebe eats crayons.) We will finally put away ALL THE LAUNDRY! (You can see where this is headed.)
I woke up Monday determined to stick to my plan of productivity. While we made it to the gym, things began to unravel quickly:9 AM: Realize after 5 minutes on treadmill that body is not quite ready for a run. Walk slowly around track with senior citizens. 10:00: Load girls in car. Look at Emma’s very short shorts and wonder why I let my 5 year old wear hot pants. 10:02: Emma sneezes volcanically, showering herself with snot. Screaming ensues. Desperately search through diaper bag for tissue. No luck. Hand her a diaper. 10:30: Play on swings. “It’s too hot!” “There are bugs out here!” Go inside. 11:30: Make lunch. Phoebe dumps water on head. 12:00: Put on T.V. Mommy re-groups with some coffee. God bless the Keurig. 1:00: Put Phoebe down for nap. Realize that the diaper used as a tissue was the last one. Put Phoebe in swimmy diaper, pray she doesn’t poop. Reminded of the time in my early 20’s when I ran out of clean underwear and wore a bikini under my work attire. 3:00: Fill up baby pool. Put girls in bathing suits. Realize Emma’s hot pants are actually Phoebe’s shorts, size 18 months. 3:10: “There are still bugs out here!” Go inside. Put on T.V. Try to forget what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about no television before the age of 2. 3:15: Call my mom. “Are you still going down the shore this week…and can we come?”
While I was grateful for the change of scenery, it became clear to me that I could run, but I could not hide from this time in-between. Even Long Beach Island, my favorite place in the world, appeared to be somewhere between the worlds of sleep and wakefulness…like a bear coming out of hibernation. Many businesses had not yet opened for the summer, and the girls and I practically had the beach to ourselves. However, because the familiar sounds of summer – the lifeguard’s whistle, the song of the ice cream truck, the shrieks of wave-jumping children – were silent, I was able to discern the quieter, more subtle hum of preparation. A man cleaning his sailboat. The township workers cleaning up the beaches. The hydrangeas just starting to bloom by the fence out back. I caught a glimpse of the new life that is always percolating underground…even during times of perceived inertia. So I returned from LBI with an antidote for those Tasered deer moments:
T3- Three Tenets of Transition
- Acceptance: Transitions are hard. They don’t call the worst part of labor and childbirth (you know, the part when you start shaking, puking, and your head spins around like Linda Blair) the Transition Phase for nothing.
- Try a Little Tenderness: Hey, I had a colon, and now I don’t. I ran a marathon 6 months ago, now I sometimes poop my pants getting the mail. Maybe I should cut myself some slack with the goal setting.
- Let Yourself Marinate: Hey, it works for tofu. Maybe by letting yourself be still enough to soak in your surroundings, you are actually becoming a zestier, more delicious version of yourself.
Now, I am not pretending that one trip to the beach has totally recalibrated my Zen-O-Meter. The Dali Lama I am not. However, I am noticing that –even in times of transition – there are a lot of little arrivals along the way.