I started running again a couple of weeks ago. I let go of the Shoulds and the Rules I’d constructed around my life and let myself have 20 minutes, three nights a week. Because I need exercise to feel good and I have been denying myself that because there are other, more important things to do. Because I need oxygen to feel good, but I have denied myself that, too, because there are other, more important things to do. I know I need to follow the rhythms of my body, after a day of following the rhythms (often conflicting) of two little people, to feel good, but I don’t let myself because there are things—an endless list of things—to do. I was being self destructive and eating to relax because I can eat while I do at least half of the other things I need to do.

Need. To do.

So I started running. And the first night I went, I relaxed and let go and tried to feel the night and the lights and the air and the PAIN of running after almost a year wash over me. My body has not been my own since I grew Peanut six years ago. And I took one step in getting it back.

At the midpoint of my teeny tiny run I saw a woman laughing near the window of her living room, the walls of which were decorated with exotic percussion instruments. She had her arms over her head, and she was dancing and playing some bell/drum thing. [Let’s pretend I was going so fast I couldn’t quite place the instrument; more likely I was trying to be in the moment and not stare at the neighbors.] And I thought, “That’s what I want in my life.” She looked happy. And comfortable in her body. And she was having fun with music in her home in a cozy neighborhood that I’ve loved for years.

As I ran by she saw me. And stared. Really saw me and stopped to think about it. It was probably only four seconds, but in my head it was forty. And she was thinking, according to my self-doubting Critic brain, “What is that woman doing? Is she really out running and ruining your knees on asphalt, alone, when there is life to be lived? Wow. I can’t imagine.” In my brain she is much more gentle with me than I am, because she probably should have thought “pathetic,” “delusional,” and “clearly unbalanced.”

I kept running, but seeing how this woman spent her 20 minutes this evening had me thinking about how my rejection of my rules, of my shoulds, needed to go even further. I needed to be drumming and dancing and singing. I needed to be happy. I needed to reorganize my priorities and balance my life and don only what’s most important…well, it simply wasn’t enough to work all day, without a break, then run and then write or edit and then clean and then prepare and then start all over again. It was just not enough. I am not Enough. And she’s the one who told me that with her look.

[jump forward one week]

Today after school Peanut and Butter and I went to a playground with two other families. We liked each other, we wanted to see if our kids could be friends, and we wanted some adult company while our kids burned through their after-school energy. So we talked as I chased Butterbean through a creek and across rocks and up hills and after dogs. And when I mentioned where we lived, one of the other moms told me where she lived. I told her that her house was on my new running route.

She looked at me and said, “I knew that was you I saw running. I was in my living room acting like an idiot and I recognized you.”

And there it was. She stared because she knew me. And from that recognition I read judgement and pity and superiority. I told her I thought she was looking because I was pathetic. And now that she knew I had seen her, she quickly tried to couch her reckless abandon as silliness and lunacy when all I had seen was joy and humanity.

The rules and the shoulds and the inferiority and the judgement are there, waiting to sabotage. Waiting to say it’s not enough, whatever it is.

Maybe, every once in a while, we can remember whose rules they are. Because if we’re not Enough we can change, and when we are Enough, we need to see it.

Maybe we could see into our own living spaces with the eyes of a gentle, tired, flawed human and see who we really are.

I’m pretty sure it’s Enough.


(This post is being simulcast over at Dump Your Frump, where they believe whatever you do is more than enough.)

Another to-do list

To Do. (NB: This week. Seriously, hurry up already.)

1. Reconfigure novel. Move scenes to where they should go. Trim or add to make perfect.

2. Teach toddler to sleep better. Teething is no excuse for waking eight or nine times a night. He’s clearly doing this on purpose.

3. Polish journal article #3; Submit journal article #3.

4. Make pasta from scratch. Freeze.

5. Submit novel.

6. Practice Alexander Technique while awake at 11pm. 1am. And 2am. And 4am. And 5am. You don’t have to fix yourself, though.

7. Speak with sleepless toddler about his bad attitude.

8. Start college fund for kids. See if 529s accept dryer lint as deposit.

9. Write journal article #4. While writing, judge self for not doing this sooner.

10. Update LinkedIn profile and start self promotion blitz.

11. Get lots of contract editing work.

12. Learn to quilt. And cross-stitch.

13. Start etsy for sarcastic handmade stuff.

14. Complete lots of contract editing work.

15. Choose languages to learn for PhD program.

16. Practice bass. (NB: not the fish. Try sleeping, maybe, after perfecting bass. No…as I said, not the fish. Get some caffeine, maybe, while practicing bass. Seriously, what is it with you? Not. the. fish. Why would I list “practice a fish” on a list of things to do? Come on.)

17. Speak with self about bad attitude.

18. Learn two languages. as jump start on PhD requirements.

19. Design and print photo albums for grandparents’ holiday presents.

20. Arrange for sitter next month for Date Morning. Date Night means paying sitter to ignore sleeping kids, which Spouse and I do really well.

21. Write second novel.

22. Sell baby stuff on craigslist.

23. Make microloans.

24. Get part time job with great benefits.

25. Apply for PhD program.

26. Get grad school loan. Sell soul or children to ensure retirement out of debt.

27. Quit job with a year of 401k savings. That should be enough for retirement.

28. Complete PhD program.

29. Write third novel.

30. Floss more often.
Using Alexander Technique.
While composing music.
And doing gluteal exercises.