Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. I woke with those words in my head, but immediately thought about how it’s today that pulls me. Today that I wake to. All those tomorrows aren’t promises. They’re overwhelming if I consider the repetition of their demands, and even more overwhelming if I consider the speed of their passage. No matter how much I do, time will turn these words to dust.
Yet how much I wanted to run downstairs and write down my thoughts. And so I have. Today pulls me.
It was my second waking of the morning. The first was much earlier, when AppleApple and I woke for her swimming. Being up already, I went for a run. It was very dark when I set out, but as I made my rounds, the sky shifted, pale light between ominous clouds, and at last a pink and blue sky that looked right out of a fluorescent painting. Shadowy crowds of crows called from the treetops, then took off flying in a seemingly endless stream. I liked this somewhat less when they flew directly overhead.
I came home to warm up, shower, and scarf a plate of scrambled eggs and bagel, then returned to fetch my swimming daughter. Tonight my siblings are coming over and we’re making paella. That’s to celebrate the sale to Spain. I haven’t properly celebrated France (the coffee and croissant were lovely, but the kids want in on it, too), nor Italy (which I kind of want to splash out on, if someone can recommend a good Italian restaurant), nor Holland, though a friend, who is Dutch, recommends kale and potatoes with sausages, or “tiny meatball soup,” both of which sound delicious (I will need the recipes).There may be yet one more country to announce shortly (!!), but I’ll leave you waiting for now. It is quite astonishing to consider the variety of languages spoken on this Earth.
We’ve named our new truck “Aggie,” which is short for Aganetha Smart, fictional girl runner. Yesterday, I christened Aggie with a billion (more or less) errands around town to prep for paella night, and Halloween, and winter, and to replace items my swim child has lost or broken recently. Last week, for example, she lost her asthma puffer and aero-chamber. These things do not grow on trees. Recognizing her own ability to shed personal items at an alarming rate, she opted for dollar store gloves rather than those from Adventure Guide, which are, quite frankly, a shocking investment.
Elsewhere, Fooey found a dress fit for a vampire, with a hoop skirt to boot, but AppleApple rejected my suggestions and insisted on searching for something I fear exists only in her imagination: an old-fashioned formal dress (also with a hoop skirt) that would be both appropriate for trick-or-treating AND she could wear on social occasions. Yeah. Tips? She wants to go as Anne of Green Gables, and I’m not sure Anne wore hoop skirts, and that we may be confusing her with Laura Ingalls in her courting days, as we are reading These Happy Golden Years right now. In other costume news, CJ will be a clown in a suit we found in the dress-up box, and Albus is still debating. I will miss seeing them in full costumed flight, as I teach that evening. I bought some extra treats to take for the students, and I’m hunting for spooky-themed stories to read (suggestions??). Who knows, I may even throw on a costume. Would my students take me seriously as a rhinstone cowgirl? With braids? That’s all I’ve got (and it’s borrowed). I wore it to a party on Friday night, and looked cute and appropriately clad, but felt like I had dragged with me the equivalent of a wilted personality. I’m tired, it seems. Too tired to stay up late, too tired to carouse, though not too tired to spend the evening within arm’s reach of the cheese platter.
It does seem like a happy life makes room for a wide variety of activities, solo and in company, professionally and personally. Leave aside work and play, which are linked, in my mind. The bulk of my efforts goes into relationships, which are like gardens and need tending: there’s marriage and children, wider family, friends and neighbours, colleagues and students and coaches and other parents and acquaintances. When I’m down, I castigate myself for a lack of diplomacy, or a willingness to enter into conflict, and sometimes for exhaustion itself, for feeling spent. This may indicate that I’m an introvert, and yet it’s the relationships that interest me most, that feed me and that I live for. What’s left out of the equation, what gets squashed to the margins? Housework and chores, and often cooking and food. I try to leave room for meditation and stretching. Ultimately, I find, it’s dancing that falls by the wayside.
I’ll end where I began this rambling post. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. But really, today.
goodbye old truck
On my list of most-wanted things, you’ll observe that I did not include a new vehicle. But our old vehicle has been dying a protracted and increasingly expensive death, and as much as I would love to be a no-car family, for that to happen our children would have to forego their many activities, and that I would not love. Which is why, with my brand-new financial stability, I’ve bought a new vehicle. Yes, apparently I have more in common than one might expect with young sports stars who’ve just signed their first big contract. I rushed right out and bought a truck. Well, more precisely, I secured a loan to buy a truck, but that doesn’t sound quite as flashy.
I’ve been trying to talk myself into appreciating the value of this purchase, which pretty much cancels out my claim to “green dreams.” Really, of all the things to buy: a seven-seater SUV (there seemed little point in purchasing a smaller car in which our whole family wouldn’t fit). But it comes down to the choice we’ve already made to live the lifestyle we’re already living, so perhaps this is just me coming to terms with reality: I drive a lot. It’s almost always to take kids to the locations of their far-flung activities. I’ve often thought about the luxury of having a vehicle, especially a reliable vehicle, and how not having one would impact participation in any competitive sport, and even in most recreational activities.
I’ve been thinking a lot about luxuries lately.
The luxury of not worrying about money. The luxury of being able to invest long-term rather than grabbing every short-term opportunity that appears. The luxury of time. The luxury of your mind freed to think about other things. And it’s fundamentally not fair, because all of these luxuries, of time and mental space and not constantly weighing necessities, give you additional advantages, privileges that aren’t so obvious, and that are easily taken for granted.
I don’t think these are subjects I’m very comfortable talking about.
here’s what I bought
I’m not entirely comfortable being a car-owner, either, but that doesn’t change the facts. Kevin just went and picked it up. It’s basically a newer, shinier version of our other vehicle. Our first big trip in it is going to be just the two of us: next week he’s chauffering me to Toronto where I’m meeting with my agent, and having lunch with my Canadian publisher, who has invited my Canadian editor, my Dutch publisher, and my US editor, the latter two in town for IFOA. That’ll be a tableful of smart interesting women. And maybe by then I’ll have stopped navel-gazing and returned to appreciating: I drive so my kids can swim and play soccer. They’re fortunate and so am I, in this equation.
And now, a pot of lentil soup simmering on the stove, wet snow falling (it’s only October 24th!), and class prep nearly done. No complaints.
4 pm – Kids home from school. Carrie starts supper. Children snacking.
5 pm – Kev home from work. Supper just barely ready. Complaints about the just barely ready supper. Albus and Kev putting on soccer gear, gobbling food.
5:15 – Kev and Albus leave in truck for soccer practice.
5:30 – Carrie and other children eat supper. Leave on table.
5:45 – Daughters put on soccer gear, Carrie packs picnic supper and snack and water bottles, puts on running gear.
6 pm – Carrie runs with dogs to pick up carshare car, approximately 1km away. Seven-year-old volunteers to take clothes off the line.
6:20 – Carrie home with dogs and car, other children ready to go.
6:30 – Carrie and other children drive, park, and walk to eldest daughter’s school to see the science fair.
6:45 – Carrie and other children return to car, drive to eldest daughter’s soccer practice.
6:55 – Carrie realizes that she has driven to the wrong soccer field.
[Apparently, to the child behind the camera, this evening’s outing is being overseen by a deranged nun. This photo is too unflatteringly amusing not to include.]
6:57 – “Why are you always so stressed out, Mommy?”
6:58 – Consult phone, sift emails, find actual field location. More driving.
7:01 – “That looks like your team! Go! Run! You’re not that late!”
7:13 – Arrive at field for younger daughter’s soccer game. Meet Kevin, also just arriving, hand over a large bag of soccer balls. Everyone heads to the bathroom.
7:20 – Kev and younger daughter on soccer field. Eldest son eating picnic supper nearby. Youngest child playing ball with a friend.
7:25 – Carrie: “I’m going for a run. I’ll be back in half an hour.” Eldest son, and professional babysitter: “No problem.”
8:10 – Carrie: “I’m back! I went 7km in 35 minutes flat! In the woods!” Son: “Hey.”
8:11 – Younger daughter scores. Carrie looks up from texting a fraction of a second too late. Debates with eldest son the ethics of saying, “Great goal!” to younger daughter after game, when actual goal not actually witnessed.
8:14 – “Did you see my goal, Mommy?” “Er …” Glances at eldest son who is ready to pounce on any obvious “lie.” “It was an awesome goal!” Carrie hugs daughter, shoots daggers at son.
8:15 – Carrie leaves three children in care of Kevin, drives carshare car to other soccer field.
8:32 – Two minutes late! And the field is empty. What on earth? What if daughter got dropped at the wrong field an hour and a half ago??? Moderately frantic running.
8:33 – “Hey, there’s my mom!” “What happened? What time does practice end? I’m not that late, am I?” Kind other mother: “Don’t worry, I stayed with the girls. And really, everyone just left a minute ago.”
8:40 – Drop off teammate with whom we do a lot of carpooling.
8:47 – Cell phone rings. Cell phone appears broken. Cannot answer cell phone. Driving anyway, and so should not.
8:49 – Pull into driveway, get cell phone working, daughter dials home phone number. “But it was Dad who was calling! From his cell phone! He’s not at home! We are!”
8:50 – Cell phone ceases responding to button pushing. Home phone receives endless message of Carrie unlocking door, racing into house, dumping bags from carshare car, using home phone to call Kev. Kev: “We don’t have keys. We’re waiting for you at the carshare car parking spot.”
8:55 – Drop carshare car off with minutes to spare. Catch ride home with keyless husband and children.
9 pm – “What’s for bedtime snack?” “Does anyone want any more supper?” “Brush your teeth!” “Stop playing the piano!” “It’s bedtime!” “Oh, for bleep’s sake, there’s still the dishes.” “At least Fooey took the clothes off the line!” “Has anyone walked these dogs?” “Just go to bed! Everyone! Just go to bed!”
all of these photos look even better viewed in full: click on them to see
I ran on Tuesday evening: 10 kilometres. I ran again on Wednesday morning with a friend: 8.8 kilometres. I ran again on Thursday evening, in a light rain: 10.5 kilometres. I ran again on Friday evening, in a wind that took the breath away, cursing with fury the weather: 7 kilometres. On that run, fist at sky, a grin broke across my face somewhere in the second kilometre. Running makes me happy, no matter how irritable my mood, no matter the weather. That’s when it came to me. I had run every day since the explosions at the Boston marathon. I hadn’t chosen to do it consciously.
I have six more kilometres to run, and then I will have completed the marathon distance, spread over six days rather than an afternoon.
It is Sunday afternoon. I have one more indoor soccer game today. I’d like to shut the computer down and run those last six kilometres, but I also want to take time to process photos and to write. I am trying to train myself to be disciplined with my time. On Friday, for example, I had an hour alone in my office, the kids being home on a PD day. I forced myself to turn the hour toward my new manuscript, a children’s novel.
Kevin is playing top forty dance music while he does the dishes.
I took my camera with me this morning when I drove to pick up AppleApple from her swim practice. It was my third trip out already this morning, and I thought, let’s document where I spend so much of my time: inside a vehicle, driving these familiar roads. Seen through the lens, the landscape looks bleak, somehow, empty, under construction. I like the resulting photos. Processing them, with Kevin’s music in the background, has given me a curiously crushing happiness this noon, a demolished happiness, like the happiness I associate with being young, with being alive to a potential and possibility not quite defined but present, a streak of light, a flare of anticipation, excitement mingled with melancholy, premature nostalgia. Nostalgia for a moment already happening.
This is the mood I’m in when I want to play the piano and sing.
This is the mood I’m in when I want to write a new story.
Or create photographs. It’s a happy mood. It’s a split-the-world-open mood. It doesn’t happen every day. I am thankful.
P.S. Just ran those last six kilometres. With love to all the long distance runners out there.
This photo illustrates my feelings about our weekend. Life’s a whirl. The weekend was extended by the fake ice storm on Thursday (deemed a snow day, kids home), followed by the real ice storm on Friday (no electricity til bedtime, camping out our friends’ house). By that point, the laundry was already crawling up the basement stairs.
See, I took a picture.
The ice storm made the trees quite beautiful, but dangerous. A limb crashed down in our yard, and narrowly missed crushing the trampoline.
Despite an odd and dislocated day on Friday, I tried to stay focused on Saturday morning’s task. When I arrived home, around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was drained. The laundry was still crawling up the stairs. Kevin was working in Toronto. The sense of dislocation and uncertainty remained. I went out with friends after the kids were in bed, feeling like a shadow of myself. Also, I was wearing dog-hair-infested yoga pants and a hoodie because it took every ounce of energy just to get out the door, and I couldn’t work myself up into changing first. I knew I had before me another early morning, and long day.
But it would be a day spent with these people, so, really, I have no complaints. I took this photo on Thursday evening, pretty much convinced I was living my dream. Book-reading children on the couch snuggling with dogs, while the piano is being practiced. Plus the house looks really clean here. Oh, that’s right — I spent Thursday cleaning. Let’s just say it doesn’t look that clean anymore.
Kevin was working in Toronto again on Sunday. CJ had a swim lesson, bright and early. I felt comfortable leaving the older children on their own for the hour we were gone. I put on my running gear, and dashed around the park for 21 minutes, exactly, arriving back at the pool one minute late to pick up CJ. Almost perfect timing. Back home, had time to shower and gather up supplies, and we were off again. AppleApple had an afternoon swim meet in Etobicoke. The “little ones” were dropped at Grandma’s house, while the “big ones” came with me.
It was her first long-course meet. This is the warm-up session. Points for locating the blur in a green suit on the left-hand side of the photo. By the time she swam her first race, I’d been waiting in the stands for three hours. Along with this guy.
Oh boy, he’s really feeling that smile. He was briefly happy when I gave him some change and sent him off to find a vending machine. Kevin finished work early, and drove over to join us: the first meet he’s been able to attend. But neither of my companions showed great stamina for the proceedings, and left after watching her second race. Two more to go! It was sauna-sweaty in there. I tried to read my poetry book club’s next choice: Seal up the thunder, by Erin Noteboom. I tried to be patient, and to sit up straight on the backless benches. I tried to be supportive and encouraging when the races, with the exception of one, did not go as she’d hoped.
It was nearly 7:30 by the time we made it home. Kevin had supper waiting for us on the table: fresh take-out Middle Eastern fare.
The laundry was still crawling up the basement stairs. I set my alarm for my early Monday morning exercise class. And this morning, when the alarm went off, and I figured out what that terrible noise was and why it just wouldn’t stop, I got up and got on with the brand-new week.
I’ll admit that I’m feeling off-balance, a bit overwhelmed, out of sorts. In between. Waiting. Struggling to be patient on a variety of fronts. I hope to have news to share, by early May, perhaps, and I hope it will be good. (And here’s an update I should have done ages ago: the bad news always less pleasing to pass along than the good. For those still wondering, no, my friend Tricia and I will not be contestants on The Amazing Race Canada. We did, however, go out for a drink to celebrate our effort. Efforts should always be marked, no matter the outcome!)
Meantime, there is no way to plan toward a particular direction without knowing what that direction will be. Betwixt and between. Betwixt and between.
So much on my mind today. I couldn’t shut it down, not even in yoga class this morning. The word I used to meditate as I held poses was “strength.” I want to be strong. I think I am strong. But sometimes I wonder, at what point does “strength” become “unwillingness to appear weak”? Is it better to grit through a difficult pose, or to give in to the desire to rest? Maybe sometimes it’s one, sometimes the other. I heavily favour the former, of course.
I do believe, however, that our greatest strengths are also our points of greatest frailty. So I have to be careful.
Let me tell you about yesterday. It was a pretty crappy day, if I may be frank. Writing time vanished as I had to take one daughter to a doctor’s appointment. Vanished some more due to errands and piano lessons. And then the truck slowly but surely started breaking down. Right in the middle of the fairly complicated back-and-forthing between school, piano lessons, school, birthday party. Three kids were directly counting on me to be in specific locations at specific times.
The truck refused to shift into reverse.
I was lucky. I realized what was happening. I’d parked on an incline and was able to roll out of the parking lot. I was able to call Kevin right away. He was able to book a carshare car right away. I was able to park at the next location in such a way that would prevent me from needing to reverse. And the next. And the next. And we were able to make it to the repair shop before the entire transmission shut down.
I never realized how frequently I use reverse, when driving. Maybe this is a life metaphor. We’re not meant to be stuck going forward at all times. We need to be able to back up, too.
The situation was stressful. I was worried the whole time and couldn’t find my “happy place,” shall we say. But I recognized, too, that the day was not nearly so crappy as it could have been. Kevin and I worked together as a team. We were only about ten minutes late for the second piano lesson. The truck did not need to be towed. The children adapted to the changing plans. We belong to a carshare!
Home at last, I felt so tired — not physically, but mentally. Fooey wanted to play an imagination game while I was hanging laundry. It was all I could do to manage the most banal responses.
It also happened that I was due to Skype in to a book club in Toronto at 9pm. Well. I made a pot of peppermint tea, brushed my hair, and sat down in my office. We made contact. But we couldn’t work the video. In the end, we decided just to chat. I looked at my own video smiling back at me (not sure whether they did the same), and we spoke for about forty-five minutes. My tiredness evaporated. Their questions were thoughtful, respectful, insightful. We talked about how daughters view their mothers. We talked about being mothers. We wondered, will mothers ever get cut some slack?
I hung up feeling so much better.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the truck. The two eldest kids wonder: would this be a good time to become a car-free family? “I’ve been thinking about it, Mom, and it would make us be more eco-friendly and more organized….” I’m proud of the values we’ve instilled in them, but, oh, I like having that truck waiting for me on freezing dark mornings when I’m headed for a spin class.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the book. The editing is so slow. One foot in front of the other. One small step and another and another. Many, if not most, of my writing days are shortened by other necessities that take priority.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with my applications for writing grants and midwifery and The Amazing Race (thanks for watching the video: we’ve had tons of excellent feedback already!).
I feel as if so much of my life is up in the air right now. Strength. I’m calling on strength as I hold this pose.
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