I am sitting on my couch in front of a coffee table that’s usually filled with my son’s latest treasures. This week, it’s wind-up teeth that chatter ferociously, a game of pick-up sticks, a fidget spinner, some tape, a yard sale dinosaur, etc. After turning in my semester grades and completing a rather annoying school-wide assessment on each of my students, I am now officially free until the new semester begins at the end of January.
I am wanting to write something brilliant here, but I can’t predict what will happen. Stick with me, and we’ll find out, won’t we?
We’re getting to the point where a reflection on the past year is due, but it feels too early for that. My shoulders are too tight. My Christmas shopping still unfinished.
My mantra for this past semester was “you can do hard things.” This isn’t mine actually; it’s borrowed from a colleague who was interviewed in our school newspaper last year. She is a full-timer with two kids, a single mom, and still managing to get her doctorate degree. Talk about hard things.
I am not actually talking about that kind of hard. That kind of hard is beyond my reach, at this point. Let’s be fair, too, if one is to pull off that level of difficulty, one needs help. Like other solid, committed folks helping to make your life work. Many of us don’t have those resources, but hell, if you do, then go the distance.
As I was starting to say, endurance has never been my strong suit. I am more of a sprinter, as they say. I get the job done in short bursts of energy, and then I’d like to pour a cup of coffee and read a book, thank you very much. Put my feet up and listen to the air flowing from the vents. I am very much a taking-in-the-moment kind of girl. Which somehow seems like the opposite of “hard work.” Or, is it?
Staying present requires an entirely different type of endurance, doesn’t it? Paying attention to the way you are sitting, the settling of energy into your legs and feet, and the air flowing in and out of your lungs take endurance.
But this past semester, I felt a magical synergy beginning to happen. I was starting to feel that sweet spot of maintaining a calm in-the-moment presence while doing something hard. For me, this meant teaching three classes, having weekend getaways, being the central parent at home (running errands, cooking dinner, doing bedtime), and falling into a confident stride where I realized I could do it all. That it might be hard, but that didn’t mean impossible – or even that I’d be miserable.
In fact, by mid-semester, I was feeling pretty badass, if you want to know the truth. (In a humble, I know people are running Boston marathons, and that’s not me, sort of way.)
I am building endurance for a different kind of hard. The parenting stuff on its own is hard. The working while parenting on its own is even harder. The keeping your marriage exciting while parenting and working also takes effort. All of it takes time, attention, nurturing. But we can learn to balance ourselves, to prioritize, to relax into our frenetic day-to-day. We can practice intensity until it gives a little. Until it gives more and more.
We can learn how to do hard things.