Wish me luck at the gym this weekend

We are in August. Finally. July can officially bite me.

I keep feeling like this past month, with all its Death with a capital D, should make me feel inspired and grateful and unicorn-flowery and instead I'm feeling unsettled and apathetic and why-should-I-bother-y. This would be useful if I was heavy metal lyricist or an angsty teenage poet but as a mother who needs to make sure there's food to put on the table three times a day and clean underwear to put on clean bottoms, it's been a bit debilitating.

Last weekend, I ran off to the gym for my first workout in weeks and I tried to do the normal thing, to push myself on the elliptical while flipping through the latest US magazine. I tried SO HARD to care about Snooki et al and my ellipses per minute stats but it took all my strength not to run around the gym grabbing people by their shoulders and yelling into their sweaty faces: WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! AEROBIC FITNESS AND SHAPELY PECTORALS WILL NOT EXEMPT US!

(Oh, but E is almost totally weaned so actually shapely pectorals would be most helpful to me at the moment as muscles are the ONLY things that will fill my bra now, even if they won't prevent my eventual demise.)

We're back to "normal" life now. The memorials are over, "life goes on". But having touched mortality, being ripped open by its unforgiving teeth, I find myself searching for more meaning in everything. What if this was my last day? Or this? Have I done anything that matters? Would anyone have anything to say at my memorial?

"She always separated her lights and darks."

I feel a renewed internal pressure to make something of myself, whatever that means. But the fact is that there is still laundry to be done and board books to be read and tantrums to unravel and none of these things feel like they are getting me closer to the mythical self-actualized version of myself who Makes A Difference. It's hard to feel like laundry MATTERS, with all caps. It's hard to feel like I'm getting anywhere but Frustratedville when dealing day in and day out with young children who cannot manage to get through a day without throwing themselves into a screaming tangled heap on the floor, at least once. (Memo to 14 month old: you're too young for this crap!) (Memo to 4 year old: you're too old for this crap!)

Except this one: I'm raising my girls the best way I know how. It is just one thing on my Life Master To Do list and yet it is the biggest, most important, and definitely the most time consuming thing I hope to accomplish in my life.

And it is the one that is right in front of me at the moment.

So I hold our recent losses in my heart at the same time that I hold my girls in my lap. The hardest part of handling this past month is that the mama bear part of me is just crushed by all the pain and suffering in the world. I want to stop it from ever touching my babies and I know I can't. This sadness and the reality of death are so hard to share with my children. And impossible to hide from them. Neither sharing nor hiding it from them feels right, so I do a little of both. I tell vague, glossy truths and a few white lies. I let them see me cry from time to time but I try to shield them from what I can, from what they'll learn about on their own soon enough.

And when I get good news, like I did when my mom called to say that my dad's latest PET scan shows NO signs of cancer, I rejoice in what is good, in who is still here, and I let my girls see me do a little jig. Then I tell them that Grampa is cancer-free and this is something to celebrate.


Marie Green said...

Your "Death with a capitol D" made me snicker, since minutes before I published a related-ish post. Not about death, about wording.

That aside, I understand what you mean when you say that it's both hard to share and hard to hide death from your children. I've been both very open (taking them to visitations and funerals) and very closed (lying to them that our cat found "a new home" instead of saying we put her to sleep). It's a hard topic, and probably mostly so because we (our culture) is so uncomfortable with death and grieving.

Your dad's news is fantastic though. I'm so so happy for you and your family! Something to celebrate, indeed.

Hang in there. [And I'm totally going to bug you about going to Blogher next year. ;) ]

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Wow. So glad to hear about your dad. That is the best news EVER. I'm seriously moved by this post. What's it all about, indeed. I wonder this all the time, and I would have been right behind you in the gym telling people to beware...it's inevitable. By the way, I admire your parenting and don't be surprised when I contact you for how to raise daughters. You're a tremendously positive role model.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

I am going to skip all the serious, deep questions about death and skip to "(Memo to 14 month old: you're too young for this crap!) (Memo to 4 year old: you're too old for this crap!)" OMG! I am right there with you. 14m??? Are you kidding me? and why did my mellow 4 year old start with the mega tantrums??? And so glad to hear about your dad. That is the BEST. Hang in there. You are doing great even if it doesn't feel like it.

Swistle said...

I love the image of you telling everyone that shapely pecs would not exempt them from death.

Also, I've noticed that at funerals, ALL the accomplishment give me that feeling. "So what he served on the library committee?? He's DEAD now!!" or "So what he wrote poems? HE IS STILL DEAD." Kind of the shapely pecs thing. What touches me is the people who are crying, who don't give one fig about the library committee, they just want their person back.

Sarah said...

I am so glad your dad is cancer free! I had been thinking about him the last month, when every other rotten thing was happening around you guys.
I agree that our culture is awkward about mortality. I am trying very hard not to be uncomfortable with the death topic around kids, but dang Addy's questions get difficult sometimes. She is always asking about cemeteries, and is still unclear about the fact that burying people isn't what MAKES them gone, it's death that does that. I feel like we have a cemetery-death-burial-no-not-burying-them-ALIVE conversation every time we're in the car. And it's a hard one to segue with something lighter. I have to just be all the sudden like, "Hey! An ice cream store!"

asloboda@hotmail.com said...

This post really touched me. You really expressed what I feel in my heart so often about raising my daughter and knowing part of that is going through the bad times too.

And your dad's news is awesome!

Miyoko said...

Hooray for your dad! And accomplishments?? How about giving birth to and raising two amazing children?? How about being an amazing mom, wife and woman!? That is plenty accomplishment. Give yourself lots of credit and praise. And sheesh I think the last time I went to a gym was (gulp) 1996 and the last yoga class 2006? So I'll give you that accomplishment as well. ;)

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