The end of May gave me pneumonia. The end of June gave me raspberries, stuff growing from the ground we could actually eat, ducklings, and a broody hen. Everything that happened in between? Let’s just put it behind us and move on.
The last week of #powerrehab, everything was a total disaster. The contents of my house were tossed in heaps, the red head was infested with lice, people were vomiting and urinating on all the freshly sanitized bedding, and we were trapped at home by threat of rain and the rules of good citizenship.
This rite of passage followed several weeks of undoing and disruption to our schedule with house guests, growth spurts, teething, changing sleep schedules, and unending allergies. All of this is added up to the inevitable, fiercely resisted Change of Season. (That should be printed in the blood dripping, horror movie type face.)
I had been panicking off and on over the last few weeks, grabbing at the remains of #powerrehab as they slipped through my fingers. The once vast expanse of my 5am writing time disappeared into the needy full body embrace of my almost 15 month old. My long trail walks dissolved into the pounding, relentless rain. The babysitting hours were spent in long, luxurious waits at the doctor’s office.
The rhythms and routines we so meticulously crafted to support my mental and physical healing were crushed, every system broken down beyond repair.
And yet, here I am.
All good training programs end with a week that exposes the strength they have been systematically building. If the program was worth anything and you have put in the work, when you step up to the bar in that last week, loaded with more weight than you have ever picked up before, you will pick it up. Just like that. Though thoroughly unplanned, it is fitting that #powerrehab end with such a test.
Last week, as I stood under the bright lights in my kitchen, on the third hour of combing through tiny sections of wild, curly hair, carefully examining each wiry strand, it occurred to me that I did not hurt. I scanned my body looking for pain and found only the outline of sensation around my sciatic nerve. My back was strong and straight, my spine and shoulders right where they should be. My body, which could not even put on a backpack 56 days ago, tackled ten loads of laundry, eight bedding changes, vacuumed a two story house, all the furniture, beds, and the car seats, and successfully stood up and deloused three little girls all in 24 hours.
While I marveled at this ridiculous improvement in strength, it struck me as very silly that my latest PR came not with a steel barbell, but a steel lice comb and I started to giggle. And there it was, more impressive than core strength holding a wounded spine in place, a mind holding itself together. My mind, which could not handle the noise and stress of a single family meal seven weeks ago, was cheerfully nitpicking shrieking baby heads for the second day in a row.
All of my grumbling, the uninspiring work outs and painful, rose-filled walks, the life rules, the tongue biting, pill swallowing, and hashtag regret of the eight weeks of #powerrehab fell away as I stood there, calmly smiling down at hands full of knotted hair, a baby rubbing snot and string cheese from my knees to my ankles, in a kitchen washed in glitter, serenaded by the washer, dryer, and dishwasher all chirping simultaneously, and Frozen blaring through the iPad. Truly a weight I could not pick up two months ago. But there I was, being so insanely hardcore, picking it up.
Today #powerrehab is complete. Every box is checked from Holy Week through Pentecost. Ordinary time begins today, and there is no new notebook set up, no charts or graphs ready to receive gold stars, no fresh system in place to hold up my precious goals as a sane writer/mother person with a functioning spine and reasonably clean home. I do not know what happens next, other than more laundry, more rain, and a very long nap.
I’m wandering into this new season without a plan, or at least not one that I’ve been allowed to see. I trust that there is one, since there are still plenty of good adventures to navigate in the days immediately ahead — moods and medications to wrestle, school years to end and begin, a career change that is still significantly changing us, and the care and maintenance of all of these bodies. Yes, I trust that there is one, and that if I can just stay thankful that I have been given the gift of wandering, on my own two feet, without whimpering in pain, with the freedom to pick real bugs out of my kids hair instead of hallucinating them crawling across my desk, then it is a very, very good plan.
On a day you cannot move forward, you do not feel in love, you do not feel proud, you do not feel inspired, you do not want to find the energy, the effort to press, press, push. On a day when the shores are too far gone and you have no choice but to float, to glide, to wait until one or the other becomes an option. On a day that comes right in a string of days that lack reward, that do not fool you into believing you are doing it. When you are not thriving, winning, moving with the current to carve the landscape. On a day when you have not changed.
What do you do?
Do you draw circles on the page in your favorite ink just to feel your hand move on the page like a child rocking themselves to sleep? Like a smoker chewing gum? Not real, but better than nothing.
Better than nothing days. I know better than to think they won’t come, and thankfully I am wise enough to know they will go. They grate on me, the minutes scraping by, every one of them trying to convince me that I am standing still, waiting. Not working. Not blowing anyones mind. Not feeling the electric current of inspiration coursing through my being. Not living up to my expectations.
Yes, that is my expectation. The electric current of the universe coursing through my being.
What do I do on the days that aren’t like that?
First, I throw a fit and panic. I get myself so worked up in the doom of it all that I cannot possibly be a pleasant member of the Saturday morning breakfast table conversation with the tacos and the coloring books and the family I am clearly failing. I sit at my desk, face down in my notebook, begging it to please swallow my head. I very dramatically sob because the universe has very dramatically abandoned me. My husband leaves me to it because after ten years of marriage there is grace and there is wisdom. And because what I do next, often enough that I am still here, still writing these words, still moving this body, still married to this man — I get up.
With no electricity or enthusiasm, I climb onto the rails of the day. I set the table, I chew the food, I admire the exquisite Crayola masterpieces. I clear the table, I find the leotards, I braid the hair. We gymnastic. And the day goes on like this, with me on the train that is moving despite the empty sack of inspiration I’m dragging along behind it. Without fail I make it to bedtime grateful that my doing did not match my feeling.
As a person who regularly lists ZEAL (always all caps) in her top three core values, accepting that my own boredom is not a symptom of failure and irrelevant to others, continues to be one of my most formidable adulthood challenges.
My family does not require zealously scrambled eggs. My daughters do not require zealously applauded cartwheels. The milk flows freely from my breast regardless of how excited I am about it, and when I sit my body down on the couch, my family gathers around its automatically warmed 98.6 degrees and is mostly content just to have me there. Just to have me there.
So I offer this to you today, creator who found no inspiration waiting for them this morning, mother who woke up to mess, noise, and no help, anyone on psychiatric medication, and every other already tired human being who got up anyway: today, your boring, uninspired presence is doing work. You are on the train and the train is moving. You are in the river and the river is flowing. You are all the wonderful mixed metaphors that say breathing today is better than nothing.
Is this what it means to be a moment?
The way the baby grows right up and out of her clothes,
the way she stares blankly one day and belly laughs the next?
Is this what it means to be a child of God?
Beloved for shitting right through her pants,
vomiting down her mother’s chest,
screaming all night,
screaming all day.
Adored, cherished, chased,
Tended to and loved because you are
Fought and provided for because you breathe
Never doing anything more than need and want.
I will not abandon you.
I will not give you a snake.
Have you wondered what day we were on? I had to look it up. Assuming I put the hashtag to rest when my training log runs out of room for stars, there are 56 days in total (Holy Week to Pentecost).
I thought that my reluctance would have faded by now. I thought that I would be thrilled by my progress, thankful for the improvement in my pain, sanity, and mobility, impressed by my self-discipline, and pleasantly surprised by the bonus of shedding a few pounds. But I am still a whiney, whiney, baby, y’all.
I will tell you the truth, because that is what I do here: I kind of hate #powerrehab. The movement hurts, and it’s boring. I have to do it during my babysitting time because when I try to lay on the floor when my kids are around they sit on me. My diet, though familiar and highly rewarding, involves no wine or cupcakes. Have you ever had wine and cupcakes and then had to not? Yeah.
In an attempt to encourage myself, I got dressed in full workout gear last week, complete with thoroughly unnecessary high impact sports bra. I met up with a friend at the gym during the girls’ class and we sat down to talk. I tried to look so hard core there in the gym, among my people in my black spandex, but I squirmed in my seat, back and leg throbbing from the stupid reverse lunges I had forced myself through earlier in the day. I was failing at sitting. She noticed, and carefully asked, “Who do you have in your life reminding you to go slow, to not hurt yourself?”
“I am the only one who can do that. Really.” She smiled, knowingly.
“No one is the boss of me,” I said, laughing. She did not laugh.
Every professional I have consulted has told me something different about the pain and how I should work with it. There are basically two camps, Camp Avoid It — take drugs and be very still, and Camp Work With It — be smart and do painful things to get stronger. You can guess which camp I am in. I am squarely in the camp that makes for the most blogging material and the potential to use the Rocky IV soundtrack. But the problem with the Camp Work With It is that you have to use “hurt vs. harm” judgement, and I am struggling with this.
I wish there were a tiny little engineer expertly monitoring gauges, pulling levers and executing complex maneuvers down at the base of my spine. But it’s just me in here, being dumb and pressing buttons when they flash and beep. I’m reading manuals and following instructions, but most of the time they don’t seem to go with the machine I’m building or they’re in a language I don’t know yet. So I have to go with my gut and do the hardest thing ever — go very, very slow. And in this slowness remember that my aim is not to rebuild my butt.
I have to remember that my aim is to build a body that lasts a long time. I am building a body that can hold grandbabies, not just pull my current toddler out from under the couch. I am building a body that can prance around the Y at 85, not ruin itself because of pride at 35. #powerrehab is not about avoiding screws and and clearing out my pillbox so much as it is prophesying and testifying to my faith that I have a hope and a future, despite pain and a chronic illness that regularly tries to convince me otherwise.
And so, bored and cupcakeless, I carry on, visions of my winkled old self dancing in my head. And now yours. You’re welcome.
Do not stay down.
Drink your coffee and tell me a story. Tell me how you won’t be so anxious today, how you will wrap your arms around the morning like a baby, fresh born. Tell me how you will hold it and feed it at your breast, love it though you don’t know who it will be quite yet. You don’t know what it will do or say or take or give. Tell me how you will love it just for dawning.
I love this day just for dawning,
for climbing up in the thick morning,
for moving the clouds and the pages,
for bringing mercy, fresh white, well fitting.