I do almost all of my exercise in the dark these days.
Spin and weights on Mondays, now, and spin again on Tuesdays, both with the same friend. We catch up on the drives to and from class.
On Wednesdays, I run with another friend. This has been our ritual for several years now, and we go no matter the weather, though we did consider heading for the track yesterday. It was -27C on her outdoor thermometer, so we layered up, and ran a loop around the ‘hood rather than running out to the “country” to see the sunrise. We felt like heroes. But I was so cold by the end that I honestly thought I might perish on my own front porch while my stiff fingers failed to operate the house key — brain apparently had frozen too.
This morning I went to yoga. It was light by the time I got home.
On Friday evenings I run while the kids are at soccer. It’s dark, dark, dark. The photo above was taken on one of those runs. I wear a headlamp and go no matter the weather. I tell myself: if I can do this now, I can do this forever.
On Sundays I play soccer; it’s not dark, but it’s also indoors.
I love watching the light return. But there is something exhilerating about being awake while the world is still sleeping. In my early twenties, I loved being awake and writing at 3 o’clock in the morning. In my late thirties, I love being awake and moving just a few hours later.
Yesterday, my friend Tricia and I taped an interview for our Amazing Race audition video. We are getting help from a friend who is a professional videographer. He brought stuff, including a cameraman and lights. We were in Tricia’s living-room but it felt like being on a set. (She blogged about it too.)
It was nerve-wracking because one’s strengths and weaknesses felt instantly apparent. I have too much nervous energy! I can’t sit still! It also challenges me to get out of my head, where I’m living rather intensely these days, working on this historical feminist sports romance I seem to be writing.
But it was also really fun. Really fun. I won’t post any photos from yesterday’s shoot (they’re not really mine to post), but here’s one I took last week while our kids were playing. Tricia is trying to teach me how to “frown-smile.” Apparently, I can’t frown-smile. This is more like sad-clown-smile.
Day two of swim meet. Day two of early rising, despite it being the weekend. Day two of coffee cup, snow melting off boots in over-heated environment, crammed-together hard bench seating, trying to read for poetry book club (The Book of Marvels, by Lorna Crozier).
Day two of trying to get her attention, and waiting for her races.
Last race of day two. 50m freestyle. Lane 6.
She doesn’t love the sprints. She thinks she’s more a natural endurance swimmer. She’s behind at the turn.
But she powers home to win the heat in her best time yet: personal bests in every race this weekend. Swimming is all about personal bests. It’s set up like a race, yet according to my girl you can’t really see the other swimmers around you, and have little sense of where you are positioned. It’s not like running on a track where tactics come into play, along with strength and speed. You’re basically just going as hard as you can in your own lane. It’s a very individual sport.
I can’t say I’m a convert, exactly, after these past two days. It’s a lot of waiting for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. I can’t appreciate the technical abilities of the swimmers, having none of those abilities myself, and being unfamiliar with the sport. And I don’t really enjoy the rush of adrenalin that I get when I’m watching her race — it’s very intense, almost embarrassing. I care too much! I am seriously shaking immediately after her races. Do other parents respond like that?
cinnamon raisin bread
I came home and baked four loaves of regular bread, and four loaves of cinnamon raisin bread. We ate a loaf of fresh bread for supper last night with split pea soup. I baked the cinnamon raisin bread after supper — heavenly smells in the house, and everyone was excited to wake up and eat it for breakfast this morning.
I also played an indoor soccer game yesterday. But I did not go for a long run. I’m realizing that my weekends are very squeezed as it is … and maybe I’m just too tired by the weekend to add in that extra element. I try to make room for so many different activities, but there are limits, and I’d rather go with the flow and enjoy and appreciate all of the things I’m getting to do, rather than getting down on myself for those additional wish-list activities I just can’t seem to shoehorn in.
pretending to sleep
This Monday morning is not brought to you by an efficient or clear-headed start. It begins with a sore throat, an unwillingness to rise early, and a sense of being behind on each and every task of the day. Honestly, I could happily go back to bed right now, and it’s not even noon. I have only my own work to do, and must locate some inner will power and just do it. While washing the dishes last night, I thought, if it were only me, I would be leaving these dishes on the counter and collapsing on the couch in front of bad tv. So many of the things that I do every day, I do only because I have to. I have to lest the larger collective project of family fall apart. I can’t veg on the couch when there’s laundry, dishes, kids need baths and grooming, piano practice and homework wrangling, and the week ahead is waiting to be discussed with Kevin and scheduled out on the chalkboard.
So I just do it, though not with the enthusiasm or fervor of a slogan. Nope. I just do it. Trudge.
Maybe that’s why I get a lot done. I’ve got these dependents, expecting and needing structure. If it were just me, what would I be doing? Maybe every day would look a lot like this morning has: sleepy, dull-eyed, slow-moving, and oddly unconcerned. I would read the paper and drink coffee.
Or would I?
After all, I do have a big sense of adventure to satisfy, and, often, an inner whirlwind of energy. Today just doesn’t happen to be whirling with energy. I’m a bit sick. I’m tired. I spent a multi-faceted weekend in happy activity, bouncing from place to place. I ran 14km through the fog on Friday night; coffee date with my elder son on Saturday morning; baked bread; met with Tricia and our friend Steve to discuss filming for our Amazing Race audition video; library with elder daughter; dinner date with Kev; up at 6am Sunday morning to drive soccer girl to a game in Mississauga (through blinding rain and dark); home in time to grab a banana, change, and head out to film scenes for audition video in a nearby park (splashing through cold puddles and weeds, trying to get muddy, and look tough / photogenic / captivating / ourselves); home to change for a really fun soccer game; and, well, that just about catches us up to those supper dishes. It was kind of non-stop.
Until about 10pm last night, when I just stopped and haven’t really started up again in full indomitable Carrie mode. Feeling a touch domitable. (Domitable? Nope, just checked: not a word.)
I know how to be when I’m rolling and up and moving and full of enthusiasm. It’s when I’m tired and sick(ish) and worn out that I don’t know how to be — I don’t know what to do with myself, or how to rest. Know what I mean? (Stretch, Carrie, stretch.)
Nothing very exciting is happening here. It’s the last day of freedom before school starts (that is my 11-year-old’s take, anyway). Swim practice was cancelled. Soccer is on (one game in Mississaugua, hers; another in Cambridge, mine). Soft wet snow is falling in quantities voluminous enough for the building of snow forts.
I went for my first long run of the year yesterday — 15km, which is pretty short by long run standards. It felt easy, and I went slow, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I spent a few kilometres sorting out structural details for the new book, and I spent the rest of the kilometres kind of thinking about absolutely nothing, except for running itself. The discipline and routine of an athletic pursuit seems to keep me happy, grounded.
I’ve been reading Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, utterly fascinated at the glimpse into how a young person can be shaped by the rigour and routine and discipline of participating in competitive sport. This was not part of my growing up experience, although I suspect my personality would have been well-suited to it. It might have made my teenage years easier too — a safe place into which to pour those wild energies and the longing for devotion, purpose, “specialness,” which Shapton writes about. But what happens to the athlete who, despite great discipline and effort, does not achieve her original goals? By the age of nineteen, Shapton knew she would never make Canada’s Olympic team, despite intense devotion to her sport. There are limits that we all have to confront. If you’ve devoted five to six hours a day, six days a week, for most of your teenage years, training for a race you’ll never get to race — what then?
Well, I suppose there could be a sense of aimlessness. Or perhaps, instead, you find ways to transfer your disciplined routine to other aspects of your life. Shapton is a very successful writer, artist, and designer. This is not something that just happened, I am sure of it.
I have more to say on the subject, but will have to leave it here for now. I’m off to a soccer game with a child, aged ten, who seems inclined to pursue competitive sport one way or another, who thrives on disciplined routine, and who can’t wait for school to start tomorrow. I wonder, as I read this book, whether I am reading a story that might in some way be hers, in the years to come. I wonder, as I read this book, how my child will be shaped by her participation in competitve sport, with the demands on her time and energies, and the pressure to perform.
Christmas eve elves
AppleApple discovers something else she’d like to do: learn how to play the cello!
Settlers of Catan and butter beer
Santa, with pillow-enchanced profile
er, too much butter beer?
Tomorrow is my birthday. I usually get all philosophical right about now. But today I don’t feel philosophical. I feel busy. Tired. Happy. Surprised, though I shouldn’t be, by the ongoingness of laundry and dishes. And these people I live with keep needing to eat.
We enjoyed four consecutive days of Christmas celebrations with various parts of our extended family, and some friends, too, although my camera didn’t make it to every event.
For the record, that’s four consecutive Christmas dinners: ham, ham, paella, and turkey.
I embraced the excess, then wondered why I felt so sluggish on yesterday morning’s run. Especially because I took Boxing Day morning and did not get out of bed til noon, reading and finishing Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, in one big gulp.
So many late nights. So many second glasses of wine. So much wheat and butter. Why so sluggish?
Yes, really, Carrie, why.
This morning Kevin rented a full indoor soccer field (huge!) so his U12 boys team could practice. AppleApple and I got kitted out in soccer gear and came along. It was 90 minutes of blissful scrimmaging, the boys’ team against everyone else — adults, friends, siblings. AppleApple was the only girl, and I was the only woman, and I’ll admit I felt a little intimidated going in. I’m thankful to have joined that team last spring, because all I can say is: soccer … so fun! It would totally be bragging to mention that I scored the sweetest replay-worthy goal (yes, against 11-year-old boys), but I can’t help myself. If only I could score goals like that for my current team. Sadly, we don’t play against 11-year-old boys, which is not to malign the skills of the boys, who are actually very good, and made us play hard.
Now Kevin is trying to snag more field time. And I think it would be fun to play on a co-ed team together — taking our marriage to new places, whilst our knees and hamstrings are still in working order. See, this isn’t a dream that can really wait for retirement.
“I wish we could play every day,” Kev said, and I had to agree. So that’s what we’ll do if we ever strike it rich.
My hair looks good this morning. So far, the only people aside from family to have seen it have been the school bus driver (who wears a knitted toque himself) and a man walking a dog (which sniffed me; dog, not man).
The school bus was late this morning.
I didn’t eat breakfast until after doing the dishes I should have done last night.
I was too tired to do dishes last night, or even to function as a responsible parent, and instead fell into a deep sleep on the couch while my children entertained themselves in the new Lego play area. Bits of their play drifted into my dreams. I swear they’ve got a game going on right now that involves taxation for the benefit of the greater good. CJ wasn’t keen to pay his taxes. This caused problems. (Meanwhile, Kevin took the dogs on a car-ride to pick up a child who’d been at a birthday party playing laser tag, much to the envy of her military-minded brothers, who bring me to grief regularly with their battle play. War is not a game! I feel this deeply! And yet my boys — yes, boys only — take great pleasure in imagining themselves blasting imaginary opponents with imaginary weaponry. Is this play harmless? Inexcusable? Inevitable? A necessary fantasy? Related to their genitalia? This aside is getting way too long, but I want to add an aside to my aside, and ask: Are humans hard-wired to desire conflict? Is conflict itself a kind of fantasy that helps us escape from the boredom of our adult responsibilities?)
Um. Where was I?
I did get hit on the head with a soccer ball yesterday. I meant to head the ball, which is not my favourite thing to do as I am a bit protective of my brain, and in my fraction-of-a-second hesitation was instead hit upon the head with the ball, which is not the same thing at all.
Also, we lost.
But my teammates have found out that I’m a writer, and one of them had actually heard of The Juliet Stories!!! Because someone at her book club had recommended it!! Which is really quite thrilling because it means the book is making noise enough to get through to new readers! And that is all an obscure CanLit writer can really hope for. (Maybe it helps that The Juliet Stories has been noted on end-of-year-best-of lists in The Globe & Mail, the National Post, and K-W’s own The Record? Do people shop off these lists? Do you? Do I?)
Driving home after my soccer game, I wondered, am I more fuzzy-headed than usual? But it was hard to tell whether it was ball-on-head-induced fuzziness or up-before-dawn-driving-all-day fuzziness. My big girl had a swim meet on the east side of Toronto, which required us to be poolside at 8 in the morning. She is not a morning person. She also gets carsick.
It was raining. The trip was by turns exciting (when we picked up coffee and bagels for breakfast from the sweet-smelling City Cafe Bakery on our way out of town), uneventful (safe driving), and tedious (nothing on the radio; aforementioned carsickness).
She won both of her heats.
I missed seeing the second one because I was chatting with a dad sitting next to me, whose daughter happened to be in the same heat, so we shared the parent-guilt equally. (Random fact: I enjoy chatting with people I will never see again.)
Anyway, AppleApple and I decided to skip her last race of the morning because it meant we could just make it to her soccer game in nearby Mississaugua. Her team won. I observed several girls heading the ball properly. We were then home in time for me to change and get back into the car to drive to my soccer game.
All of this activity involved way too much driving. I found myself making up the lyrics to a sunny little song: “I’m driving all day in my car / it’s really not that hard.” Sitting in the driveway, back home again, I felt this strange attachment to the car, as if it had become a cocoon world of slightly stale bagels and cold coffee and radio talk, temperature controlled, seat-adjustable. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. But I didn’t really want to get out.
Eventually I did. And then, it must be said, I really really didn’t want to get back in again.
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