setting the pace


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?

24 thoughts on “setting the pace

  1. Having just come in from my morning 5K — I’m running. For me.

    But I hear you. The balance is not easy, and it’s way too easy to get snowed under (this year has been a case in point).

    Glad you got out for a date! That’s something JoyDad & I need to do more.

  2. Oh Jess-you don’t know how much I NEED your posts–especially this week! My sweet little girl is five today and it has been a difficult week for her and us (your regression post yesterday was spot on-again, exactly what I needed to read!) Readig your post this morning, bleary eyed from our 5th night of 2:30am wake up calls, I realize that I’m NOT taking care of myself. I’ve stopped working out this past month in large part because as life for my baby has gotten increasingly difficult I’ve become more emotionally exhausted, scared, and sad. I MUST feed my body and mind with the exercise it so desperatley needs and deserves. I also must get out with my husband more–I must, I must, I must!! Thank you for your post!

  3. I wish I knew, babe. Right now, I feel like Luau’s frozen quads (OMG, that was a helluva race; so amazed he finished!) and I’m stuck. Trying to find my own pace isn’t easy, as you know.

  4. That’s my girl. Teach by example and they will learn life’s valuable lessons from you. Yes, they do need you but, whole and together…. You are the best daughter, mother, and it appears, wife as well.

  5. I still find it uncanny how you seem to mirror what is going on in my own life. All the way down here at the bottom of the world, I changed pace. The new school term started today, and I had planned to tackle a significant list of things. Only my back had other ideas (did you see my comment on Luau’s race time that included the ‘not supposed to run’ quote?) and I had to make the choice between pushing myself while hurt and ending up worse or staying still for most of the school day (gentle pottering about was allowed). I am proud to say I stayed still. So, a huge hurrah for you for going out and giving to yourself. I am glad to report my back has settled. It is so easy to push yourself down your list of priorities, and eventually, you end up worn out from all that giving out. You are so right to stop and say, ‘what is going in?’ Thanks for a very important message to all people who care for others – whatever form it takes.

  6. Nada, nuttin, zilch! That is what I am doing for myself these days. I plan on changing this over the summer, when we are done with early intervention and the babe starts preschool and my 2 big ones are going to camp I am going to do for ME! It has been a long almost 3 years but I cant wait to have some “me” time again.

  7. Once again, thank you. This post is all about that fuzzy, blurred edge thought that bounces around in the furthest corner of my mind. I KNOW that to really be there for my child with autism and my typical child, I have to put myself first sometimes. Most days the idea of that stays fuzzy, blurry, nameless and aimless. Today, you’ve brought it out. It is crystal clear and sparkling with promise. Today I make time for me.

  8. me? who is that speaking??? the voice of reason?! AAAAaaaagh!!!
    fetal position here…but you go on ahead. really. i’ll catch up.

  9. “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.”

    And don’t forget, you need you, too. Promise you won’t forget.

  10. And you didn’t even fall asleep in the movie??
    You ARE a good date!
    “Checking out” is a very good thing, congrats.

  11. It’s only now, 7.5 years into parenting my boy with extra needs, that I’m letting go of the need to be there for him and learning to be there for myself. And I’m enjoying it. And I’m not looking back when I go out in the evening. That wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago — even a year ago. But I’m glad I did what I needed to then AND now. It’s important but I’m glad I went at my own pace

  12. My therapist has been giving me the oxygen mask bit. You did the right thing – absolutely. But you already knew that. And I’m with M’ON on the unabashed jealousy of having Julie…

    love, love, love you. Even if you didn’t grab that shower or change out of your jeans.


  13. Good for you! I’m working on it, I swear. I’m doing stuff for me, but husband and I definitely need to do stuff for “us.” We haven’t found a babysitter we can trust wholeheartedly yet and family is many states away.

  14. “They need me 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.”

    It’s those exact sentiments that prompted me to tear myself off the internet, where I was googling autism incessantly (no blogger village to turn to back then!), to call a therapist in tears about 8 years ago. I wasn’t eating or sleeping but thank goodness I was able to realize how toxic it would be for my family if I kept that up.

    I haven’t seen the therapist in years but I have to run and exercise regularly to maintain my hard-fought sanity, have an amazing support group of other moms and I do try to get out once in a while with my husband, although still probably not nearly as much as I should.

    Good for you for recognizing the need to get out and recharge, as hard as it may be at times. You’re so right, your girls need to see you taking care of you.

  15. Loved this post. I was talking to my computer when you were wondering whether to stay or go. “Go! Go go go….gogo!” It’s always so easy to tell others to take a break (in fact I just told this to Niksmom!) but it’s so hard to do ourselves. I will remember this post…like so many others.
    XO R

  16. And what do I always say Jess? I want my girls (and yours and all of our girls) to know that sometimes you have to put yourself first in order to be the wife, mommy, friend I/you need and want to be. I say to myself what would I say to my daughter if she treated herself the way I sometimes treat myself? I’d kick her booty!

    Healthy Selfishness is a good and beautiful thing. And I bet Luau appreciated it too.


  17. My daughter doesn’t do enough for herself. Her life is passing her by. Work, home, work, home. Long story short, she is selling herself short. Wish you two could talk…bless you, Jess! Keep up the good work in keeping your marriage safe.

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