By the end of John’s night shift–my single mom shift–I feel like half a person.
This past week was especially crazy, with work projects needing to get done over the weekend, John gone, having to hire help so I could try to meet a deadline, late nights trying to switch gears and wrap my head around complicated technical processes, being a mom to an active toddler, cooking dinner, making meal plans, doing three loads of laundry so we have clothes for the week. I’ll stop.
When life gets like this, and it often does, my mind takes me back to my mid 20’s, before I met my husband, before I became a mom, before I had to be an adult full time.
I was a Spatial Analyst for the local utility company in San Diego, fresh out of college in a department supporting the line crews, the electricians that climb the lattice towers to fix the broken cables or scale the wooden poles to keep the power running through the veins of Southern California. I created maps and ran the spatial analytics behind the scenes. While the rest of the company’s analysts wore suits in high-fi corporate offices, my day started at 6 am in a substation and often called for boots and field days driving the truck trails in the backcountry.
When your workday ends at 3, and your commute is less than 20 minutes, every afternoon feels like a weekend. Thursday was a fast-paced 6 mile tempo on the Mission Beach Boardwalk and dinner with some of the best people I’ve ever known (running friends always are). Wednesday’s were for Core Power yoga, gossip and Jamba Juice with one of my favorite college friends. Monday, Tuesday and Friday, I alternated running the steep and scenic hills of Point Loma, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, with yoga at my favorite off-brand studio, or dinner and drinks with friends at the trendy restaurants in gentrified Northpark. But there were lots of times, more than it seems, where I would just zone out and relax with a glass of wine, take-out from People’s Co-op and Netflix in my tiny, dated room, in an old beach bungalow I shared with a teacher I met on Craigslist.
Life seemed busy, but it was only because I filled my time, when I wanted to. I’ve always valued time spent alone–it seems more and more people talk to just to hear their own voice, and sometimes I need to check out and not engage. It’s the same reason I run without music. I need the clarity of silence to recharge. I don’t think this is unusual. We live in a culture that’s so busy, stresses doing so much and being so many things, that we’ve simultaneously created a culture that crashes and binge watches three seasons of a show on a Saturday because they’re so burned that there’s no motivation to get off the couch.
That’s what I’m missing. The crash. The zone out, recharge, not think, not be responsible reset button that comes with hours of watching Friday Night Lights. My options to recharge come during my hour lunch break or after 9-ish pm when my daughter falls asleep, and those openings are usually filled with a workout, cleaning up the tornado that touched down inside our house or eating a meal in one sitting. Or all the above.
Running has become my main recharge button, as the default time when I can multitask to both stay physically and mentally healthy. But even then, it’s a multitask, and I’m still trying to accomplish something, not accomplish nothing, a real thing I think we overlook the importance of.
I’ve always wanted a family, a big one (hopefully bigger one!), the stability of our own home, a good job, and a husband. And I love and cherish these things, especially my daughter and being a mom, more than I could have ever imagined. But I don’t think I really understood how much life would change. Part of that is being a Navy wife, part of it is being a working mom, but most of it is having to quell the selfish parts of life that happen when your only responsible for yourself.
You don’t realize how much freedom you had until it’s a Monday night after working through the weekend, your husband is on night shift and the baby, who is finally fed, bathed and clothed and up way past her bedtime is hanging on your leg while you try not to drip your now cold soup on her freshly washed hair.