Monday, May 3, 2010

On balance and breakdowns

Wow almost an entire month without a post! That's really. . . awful. There's no other word to describe it.

So when I started school in January one of the instructors told us "there will come a day when you want to quit. When you get so frustrated that you'll want to throw up your hands, throw down your apron and walk away. Maybe it's just for that second, or that day. But I promise you're going to want to quit at some point. Work past it and you will be fine. Allow it to consume you and you won't." Naturally I dismissed this entire thing. I figured I'd get pissy with a few things that might be difficult for me to do at first, but I'd plug along and figure them out and move on. I didn't consider how balance between school and home would play until they were slapping me in the face.

My school schedule is a full time job. We're a 9-6, Tuesday-Saturday program with a mandatory hour lunch. I live about five minutes from my school so the first couple months of school I went home on lunch most days just to relax and decompress before going back to finish up my day. I'm very social, but also introverted. Meaning I like my "me" time. In March my mom had to have her foot operated on and that became a bigger deal than any of us realized with a long recovery. My lunches became a time to run errands, check on my mom, grab her something to eat or whatever she needed. None of which I begrudge her, she did the same for me when I was recovering from my spinal surgery in 1994 (I had tethered spinal cord syndrome, long story). And luckily my mom and I are really close.

But (you knew it was coming, right?) having a 45 hour week at school and then running a four person household is not something I've ever had to do before. I lived by myself for a year but that was taking care of me and a couple of cats. If I wanted to eat Honey Nut Cheerios for dinner at 10:00PM that was fine. If I didn't want to clean up after myself until Sunday morning that was fine (the litter box always got changed though!) because it was a one person mess and a one person apartment. All I had to do was make sure I got to work and/or school on time and looking like a human being. I mostly managed. Having to grocery shop, pick up prescriptions, cook dinner, clean up from dinner, do laundry, make note of the household supplies we were low on, do all the internet bill paying, make sure my dad had everything he needed to go to work and try to breathe on top of school and taking care of my mom was SO overwhelming. I lost my balance.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I wanted to get into running to get back into shape. I had no time to run after my mom's surgery. I was also on a mandatory hiatus from running while my feet recovered a bit from not having shoes that actually supported my abnormally high arch. The timing was unfortunate because I was at the point where I was just starting to not hate running. I didn't realize that in the five or six weeks I'd been running I'd started to rely on it to clear my head and keep me centered. It was different from the hundreds of miles I'd spent walking to train for the 3-Day. Walking allowed my mind to wander, and usually to the growing to-do list at home. Running forced me to focus on my breathing and my gait and nothing else. Having a singular focus cleared out all the garbage that flooded my thoughts and when I finished a run I was out of breath, tired, completely red in the face but SO relaxed. My last run was about two weeks before my mom's operation. I was unaware that I was giving up the balance and the endorphins all at once.

I kept it together for about a month. I discovered that I liked some parts of being the faux mom. I love cooking, and I like grocery shopping. But passing out dead tired every night at midnight or 1:00 wasn't working out. I was trying to stay on top of my school work, the house and school without taking ANY time to do something I just enjoyed. I was probably not a dream come true to be around. I had a hard time with it because I didn't want to complain to my mom about it and didn't want to sound like a brat complaining to anyone else. One of my closest friends and the gent in my life basically got the brunt of it and I'm guessing they were over it pretty soon. After about five weeks of trying to keep all the balls in the air it started becoming apparent that something was gonna give.

The curriculum our class started with was brand new with our class. According to the new curriculum, students are not "on the floor" (working with clients) full time until they hit 30 weeks. The students that had started before us were on the floor after 10. There was a miscommunication among the instructors, so we were lead to believe that we'd be on the floor after 10 weeks as well. When I found out that was NOT the case, I was remarkably upset. I was also projecting all the stress I was under at home onto this one thing that in the long run is not a big deal, but seemed SO HUGE. When I found that out we were going to be 90% classroom bound for another 20 weeks it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wound up going home at lunch and not coming back that day. I went home and sulked and cried and was basically a brat. Lo and behold, I'd had my day where I wanted to quit. And for the rest of that day I DID quit.

Lesson learned: start running again ASAP otherwise I'm going to be forced to develop a prescription drug habit. Okay, maybe not. But what I've taken from the last seven weeks is that no matter what you're doing, if you're not taking care of yourself (and yes, sometimes that means being a little selfish and putting your needs before everyone else's -- even if that's just a 30 minute run every day) you really can't take care of anyone else. The last two weeks I've focused on relaxing more, made sure to get more sleep and drink more water and it's helping. I haven't gotten to start running again just yet, but I know once I get back into it I'll be set. Actually I'll hate it for two weeks and then start to feel better again. But I'll get there.

Losing balance is part of life. It's necessary to remind us that we do things that keep us balanced for a reason. Yeah, I might be running to get in better shape, or lose weight, or train for an event. Sure. But I'm mostly looking forward to getting back to it to keep my balance.