I volunteered to help coach a Girls on the Run (GOTR) team for the first time almost three years ago. The Tortoise wanted to try the program, plus I thought it would be a good way for her to make friends in a community we had only lived in for a few months. Running has never been my thing, but being a part of a program that focuses hugely on building the self-esteem of young girls and teaching leadership skills was definitely something that was my thing. Two of the volunteer coaches were faculty at our school, and the third was a fellow parent. All three are women of substance, and all three were welcoming. One, in particular, really opened her heart and home to me. Our friendship didn’t really have a chance to blossom fully because soon after the season was over, she moved to another state. But the time I did spend with her was full of encouragement, talks of faith and family, and a desire to continue serving girls in our community. Cindy inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and be more physically active, to set a better example for my girls and believe in my own physical abilities.
Facebook has allowed us to remain in contact and continue a friendship that miles would have squelched. I was flattered to find out Cindy reads my blog, and over-joyed that she submitted an essay entry. Unfortunately, she does not currently blog, so I am afraid this may be the last nugget of insight of hers you get to read. Her essay couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been struggling this week to make a decision. Today The Tortoise is performing in her school’s talent show. She is singing Firework by Katy Perry. Her performance coincides with Meg Waite Clayton speaking at the University of Michigan on her book tour. The book tour has been marked on my calendar for weeks and weeks, eagerly anticipating her arrival like a small child waiting for Santa Claus. She is a celebrity in my world, an author I admire and enjoy reading. DW said he would video tape The Tortoise, and she seemed okay with that decision. I even had the support of friends stating, “there will always be a next time.”
When I picked The Tortoise up from dress rehearsal Tuesday, words streamed from her mouth about how much fun she had, and how good she felt about her performance. Her eyes were full of excitement, pulling at my heart-strings.
As I was preparing this guest post, I re-read Cindy’s words and saw myself. Of course there will be another opportunity to hear my daughter sing, but this particular moment will have passed. If it is perfection, I will have missed her gleaming smile on the stage, looking at me proudly. If she fails, I miss an opportunity to hold her close to me, comforting tears of disappointment. Meg Waite Clayton will no doubt be amazing, but my presence will not add or take away from her excellence. I will continue to be a follower of Meg’s from afar, but right now it is the season to be a follower of my daughter up close and personal.
YOU CALL THAT BALANCE? by Cindy
I strive for balance in my life. Every day I try to take care of my family, take care of myself, do a good job at work, get some “me” time, nurture friendships, etc. It’s unrealistic to think that I can do all of that every day. If you look at the snapshot of just one day, my life has never been “in balance”, but if you look at my life as a moving picture it is.
I remember a day, when my first-born was about 6 months old, that I had to pack my cycling things away. Jerseys and padded shorts would taunt me from the closet: “You haven’t put us on in months, remember when we used to get out every day?” Tears welled up and spilled over as I packed the box, labeled carefully “Cindy’s Cycling Things, Please Save” and put it in the attic. Years later I unpacked that box and celebrated each time I wore my cycling things again for the first time. If you looked at any one of those days during that time, my life would have looked and sounded like a washing machine out of balance, but now looking back, I see that expecting each day to be in balance is unrealistic. By having such an expectation, I set myself up to be miserable. I could have been so much happier along the way if I had realized that “no time” meant “no time right now”, not “no time for forever”.
I want balance in my life and I believe that over time my life is balanced. Before I was married and had kids I spent a lot of time “bettering” myself through exercise and training, spiritual work, reading and study, etc. During that time, my life was not in balance, I spent far more time on myself than caring for anyone else. After the kids were born, my time and effort were spent caring for and feeding babies and taking care of the house and my husband. During that time, my life was not in balance either; I spent far more time taking care of others than I did providing for my own needs and wants. As my kids got older and needed less of me, I was able to add triathlon training and study back into the mix. But, my life still wasn’t balanced because I spent very little time or effort on my spiritual life. Now, my kids are older still and I focus more of my time on spiritual things and study, but my life still isn’t balanced because I spend less time on my physical exercise and nurturing friendships.
I spent so much time fighting against the present, comparing it, unfavorably, to my expectations, instead of enjoying it, relaxing into it, and realizing each season wasn’t going to last forever. So many resentments could have been avoided or quickly resolved if I had seen then what I know now.
My hope is that at the end of my life I’ll look back and see that the important people, and endeavors, received all the attention they deserved, that I didn’t waste too much time on unimportant or useless things, and that the people around me, those who mean the most to me, would say that too. Not that every day was balanced, but that the scales that measure my life will be in balance once the final tallies have been made.