Son eyes me warily but with a twinkle in his eye. We’re in a standoff, him on one side of the table, me on the other. Whenever I move, he moves in the opposite direction. His 37 pounds is lightning fast and I’m gasping for breath, but I haven’t caught him yet. I ignore the ragged sound and inch a little to my right. He inches to his right, and we move in circles. Daughter stands at the room entrance and screeches with glee. She’s next.
There! His eyes shifted just a little in her direction. He looks to be planning to dart out the door. I wait, my fingers splayed and my stance ready for whichever direction he chooses. He bolts. Damn, he’s fast. He squeezes past his sister and into the living room, me hot on his heels as I pursue. He screeches a laugh of his own. “You can’t get me,” he taunts. He’s probably right, but for the fact that I can out think him, which won’t always be the case. I lunge. Grab. Snag his shirt. He’s off balance, and I take that second to regain my own balance and close the distance. Yes! I’ve got him!
I pin him to the floor, hold his hand high above his head, exposing his tender underarm, and wiggle my finger in there until he’s crying with laughter, begging to be let up, promising the world just for a little tickle relief. Daughter has climbed on my back, showing her brother that she will stand in solidarity with me, protecting him regardless of the cost to her physically. I concede to his promises of early bedtime and eating his veggies after I feel I’ve gotten enough childhood belly laughter to recharge my own batteries, and I let him up. Gently, I peel Daughter from my back so I don’t conk her on the head or set her down too far from a soft landing. I lay back. I breathe, in and out. I’m sucking wind, cannot breathe, my throat on fire and I need some water pronto. I groan, roll over, get to my knees, brace my hands on the couch and heave.
When did it get so hard to get up from the floor? When did it get so hard to have a tickle fight with my kid? When did I get so out of shape? When did Orville Redenbacher move into my joints, making them pop pop pop popopopopopoPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOP when I stretch or exert? Nasty squatter.
“McDonald’s! I wanna go to McDonald’s for dinner!” This from the backseat as we pass the Golden Arches while we’re out and about. We look at the time. We know that our errands will take us through the time we’d normally be cooking something, so a home prepared meal means not eating until after 8 pm. We look at each other. We don’t want McD’s again. We’re sick of McD’s. Daughter chimes in, “Frrrrriiiiiiiieeeeeessss.”
Great. She has a total lexicon of about 10 words, and one of them is fries. Might as well not worry about her saying ‘shit’ or ‘douche canoe’ too. Perhaps we can get her a carton of cigarrettes for her birthday on Sunday and teach her how to flick a Bic while we’re at it. After all, while fries aren’t necessarily carcinogenic, they are in no way a healthy thing to eat. What are we teaching our kids?
I sit at my desk, feet propped up on my CPU. I stare blankly at the report I’m looking at. The same report I’ve done every month for 8 years and three months. That’s 12 times a year, 8 years, 96 times, plus 3 months, 99 times I’ve done the same report. I’m the only one in my department who can do the report with any consistency. It is the reason I have a job, and also the reason I was given a good raise a couple years ago, moreso than average anyway. But god, if the procedure hasn’t become boring. What’s so fulfilling about telling a man who inherited millions and a company and didn’t spend one hour in college how much richer he’s gotten that month when, after nearly 10 years, I’m still trying to pay college off? I curse my mother for not marrying a wealthy business owner. Then I think of my father, a lawyer and a good man, oxymoron like Captain Jack Sparrow . He used to take all kinds of payments, knowing his clients couldn’t always afford cash money. He’s received cookware, a boat, a car, stocks, and all manner of bartered items. He’s gone to visit clients in the hospital because in their divorce, they’ve alienated everyone they know and he’s the only friendly face they have left. He’s waived fees for those who truly can’t pay. He loans his personal vehicles to clients who have no other means to travel when their only living relatives are out of state. I don’t know that I would trade my dad for a bank account. But I realize as I sit counting my beans/inventory/standards and variances that I am just a cog in a wealthy man’s grandfather clock, and not a very important one at that. Except for this report, which honestly, doesn’t move me. I open the file, save as a new month and begin the report again for the hundredth time. And daydream of one day finding a purpose to my career beyond making the rich get richer.
My alarm blares. I groan and squint. 5:00 am. I roll over and sleep for nine more minutes. It blares again. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze. Finally, Mike nudges me about getting up since he doesn’t have to get up until 7, when I’m herding the kids out the door. He used to snooze for an hour (using the same alarm I do, so I’d be the one hitting his snooze. For years this went on. I see nothing wrong with a little payback now that he gets to sleep a little later before anyone judges harshly.) Finally, at 6 I drag my butt out of bed. My limbs feel utterly incapable of propelling me through the next hour, let alone the day. It’s only when the spray from the shower hits my face that I truly begin to wake. Why am I so tired all the time? I scrutinize myself cruelly in the mirror. Never did lose that baby weight, but who’m I kidding? I was this weight before I had my kids.
I sit on the floor, my face puffy and swollen, my nose completely clogged. I cannot talk without a nasally tone, making my words sound more pathetic to my ears. Mike sits on the bed, his arms crossed, his body half turned away from me. Look at him, I think. He couldn’t be more obvious about not wanting to be near me now. We’ve spat words at each other with such venom and anger that someting inside me broke, releasing a flood of tears. This isn’t the life I thought I’d have. This isn’t what I want for myself, and by extension, my family. His words, “You’re mad all the time,” echo in my head. I’m miserable. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings. I hate my job. I have a coworker that hates my guts and the feeling is mutual. But The Crazy sits next to me and the tension wraps itself around me like a slanket/snuggie, making me grumble at the stupidity of the entire situation and I would like to stand up and shout that I’m not this person I’m accused of being. But much like the stupidity of the slanket, it’s viral and spreading, and I can only ride it out and choose to ignore it while I continue on with my day. By the time I get home, I’m such a miserable wreck that I snap at my kids. I snap at my husband. I make everyone feel as miserable as I am. I am dragging everything down. I can’t keep up with my kids when I do find the time/energy to play with them. I sniffed at my clogged nose, pleaded with Mike not to pack a bag and leave for a few days to let things cool down. I opened my chest, ripped out my heart, and handed it to him again. I promised that with understanding of my emotions and what they were doing to me and those around me can come change. I promised him I would not live a miserable life. He stayed.
All of this began in October with a crashing realization that this horribleness was avoidable. There were some financial implications for us that brought everything to a head, ripped the scabs we’d built up over and over off and forced us to take a true look at ourselves, our lives together, and our future. Mine felt so bleak and awful that I well and truly, for the first time ever, felt hatred for myself and what I’ve let myself become. They say everyone has a rock bottom. I hit mine.
With this opening up of long mistreated wounds, I started takin a deeper look at things. One of the biggest reasons I’m so off the charts miserable all the time is my job. I looked into going back to school. I looked at what the local area colleges have to offer and what I might be interested in pursuing. As I realized that I’d be going back into serious debt and wouldn’t emerge with a new degree for many years, it occurred to me that at this point in our financial lives, we cannot afford for me to return to school. I know there are programs, grants, aid that we could get, but frankly, admitting I want to change careers is hard enough, and I don’t want to rush into a new career without truly wanting to study and love it. I have more soul searching to do to find what I wanna be when I grow up.
The next big thing making me miserable is my health. If I can improve my health, perhaps my job and career choice won’t seem like such a death sentence to me. Perhaps if other aspects of my life are improved, I will be able to appreciate the stability of my job and not let the drudgery bog me down. After all, I bet insurance agents, or house painters, or assembly line workers aren’t all passionate about what they do 100% of the time. And yet there is pride to be had there too.
So that’s what’s on my plate. I’ve already written about eating in a more environmentally sustainable manner. What I’ve only briefly touched on is that I’ve started running. On a treadmill. No one’s chasing me. No one’s holding’ a gun to my head and saying if I don’t run this mile and a half they’ll filet my dog. I’m voluntarily getting off my ass and getting some exercise. It’s slow going. I think I might have the start of shin splints. Maybe I have the wrong shoes. I’ve found some kickass running music (but hey, I’ll take any suggestions anyone might have)! I’m learning. I’m actually thinking of running a 5K. I wanted to last year but slacked off after a couple weeks on the treadmill. I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight. In the past, I’ve become a slave to the scale and so this time, I’m not letting anythin deter me. Weirdly, I’m liking running enough that the point of it (to lose weight) has changed some, so that I can get fit, and accomplish something. Tell my brain to stfu when it scoffs and says I can’t run that much. Well, 2010 is coming. And instead of resolutions which I’ve failed at many many times, I’m just making choices. What would I have done before? Is that going to help me change my health? Is that going to help me change my job? Is that going to help me change my outlook?
This time, I’m choosing to be better. Here’s to a new year.