Luau talks a lot about pacing in running. That’s because he talks a LOT about running in general, but I digress. In his world, the art of energy conservation is vital in order to be able to, in runner’s parlance, ‘put the hammer down’ at the end of a race. In long runs, if you start too fast out of the gate, you may well be hitting a brick wall of frozen quads somewhere around mile 18. Just ask him about Manchester some time.
On Saturday night, I went out on a date with my husband. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous date, but it was a date nonetheless. It was time alone – off the clock, so to speak. We bought tickets online to a mindless, big budget, beautiful people, shoot-em up, see the twist coming from a mile away but couldn’t care less kind of movie. I wanted to go – at least in concept.
As soon as Julie arrived, I tagged out. I was spent. It had been a long day in a long week in an even longer month. I let my brain shut down. I followed my feet as they plodded heavily up the stairs. I knew exactly where they’d take me.
They weren’t headed toward the shower where I really needed to go to freshen up. They weren’t headed to the closet to pick out something to wear to go out. They weren’t headed toward anything even remotely productive. But they were headed where I needed to go.
I walked straight to my bed, laid down, nuzzled my cheek into my soft pillow and instinctively curled into the fetal position.
Luau came up the stairs just a few minutes behind me. I heard him check the bathroom first, then the dressing room, then finally make his way into the bedroom where I was all but hiding.
‘Hey, babe,” he said. “you want to get into the shower now so you’re not racing around when it’s time to go?’ A perfectly reasonable question.
I thought of the phrase that Brooke used for a while when she didn’t want to do something – “I’m doing what I’m doing.”
I shook my head as well as one can when it’s nuzzled into a pillow. “Nope. I want to do THIS. I know I should shower; but I need to do THIS. So if I can only pick one of those two options, THIS is what I’m picking.”
After some conversation about whether or not I still wanted to go out at all, Luau hopped into the shower in my stead. At least one of us would be fresh and smell good. Me? I needed – desperately needed – to lay there and do NOTHING, if only for twenty-five minutes. So I did.
As he got out of the shower, I got dressed. I didn’t manage to change my jeans, but I did unroll the cuffs and slip into a pair of decidedly grown-up heels. I added some dangly earrings to the mix, changed my shirt and sprayed a shot of perfume on my neck. I looked quickly in the mirror and willed myself to be satisfied with what I saw. If we left in five minutes we’d only be ten behind schedule. These days I call that a win.
I went downstairs to say goodbye to the girls.
Brooke looked up at me with big, dewy eyes. She was exhausted. As much as we had all had a rough week, it had come nowhere close to what she had been through. “I don’t WANT you to go,” she said, the sentence cresting on the WANT with an emphatic lilt.
I nearly lost my conviction. I looked at my girl – my brave, struggling girl – and all I could think was, “She needs me. What business do I have walking away when she needs me?”
I glanced at Julie. Julie, who knows my kids as well as anyone. Julie, who can handle anything we throw at her. Julie, who I knew damn well would take perfectly good care of them.
My baby girl was still looking up at me, her face and hands covered in pizza grease. I knew Julie would give her a shower after we left. And let her play in the water as long as she wanted. And that she’d be happy as a clam splashing around and lining up her Yo Gabba Gabba bath toys on the wall.
But still I struggled to move.
She needs me.
Something started to shift as I reached out with my hand and cupped her greasy little chin. Someone grabbed my internal microphone, tapped it for sound and began to speak.
BOTH of my girls need me. They need me to be rested. And calm. And happy. And patient. They need me to show them by my example that they should matter to themselves – that someday they can and SHOULD value time for themselves – as wives, as mothers, as women. They need me to find ways to recharge. To breathe. To nurture my marriage. To unwind the knots and tangles that threaten my sanity. They need me to be healthy. To be around to care for them for as long as I possibly can.
Yes, they NEED me.
I kissed and hugged both of my girls and walked out the door.
I spent the next couple of hours in a darkened movie theater holding the hand of the man that I love and letting myself breathe.
I’m setting the pace.
Because they need me.
How about you? What are you doing for YOU?