The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same


Coach Luti stands to the left of Barb standing in a track field.
Coach Luti spent a great deal of time reminding me to organize and prioritize. It seems I have spent a lifetime trying to prove to everyone I can do it all. In this 1980 picture he has just finished letting me know my poor race performance was because I was tired. I do not look convinced but I do look tired!

The circle of life for me is too often coming back, again and again to things I want to change. What are you going to do about it Barbara?

As I begin this missive, I am sitting on my sofa with my foot resting on my crutches and a breast pump secured in my bra. I am un-showered but have brushed my teeth so I am already winning. I have a to-do list a mile long. I rush from one thing to the next. I double book commitments and I have terrible follow through.
In a recent “in the car” meltdown, (you know the kind where you bite your tongue and it pisses you off so much that you scream words that I won’t type here), I had a strong wave of déjà vu, enough so that I pulled over and sat for a bit. The familiarity of my angst was palpable. My heart sank and a waterfall of much more quiet tears poured down my cheeks. For all I have gone through, I have learned nothing. I am as “stay too busy to feel” as ever.  What do I do with this?

The first time I was called out for my whirlwind lifestyle in any sort of critical way was in the early 1990’s. I was married to Eric at the time and we lived in a small 5th floor walk up apartment. Newly married and still getting used to one another he wondered why I could not slow down enough to have dinner on the table for him at the end of the day. My initial response was “why do I have to cook dinner”. We both arrived home at the same time equally tired from our busy days. He felt that he should be able to shower and relax while I cooked dinner. I felt that I should be able to transcribe any necessary notes from Cross-Country practice that day, correct my handful of elementary writing assignments while HE cooked dinner. He countered that since I was now married perhaps, I should quit coaching, he looked at it as a hobby more than a career choice. I countered that since I was getting work done while he cooked then I was technically still working and once dinner was ready my work day would be done and we could enjoy the evening. 

This was just one of the many reasons that the first marriage did not work but his observations were not lost on me. He was right, I crammed too many things into my already busy day. I lived alone before and after my marriage to Eric. My apartment was clean, but very messy. I truly used it as a place to sleep and store my stuff. After Eric and before Kenny my behaviors were largely unchanged. In my years of therapy this particular habit did not get too much attention. Hindsight tells me this could have been a mistake. 

Once married to Kenny and raising Molly and Gracie I remained as busy as ever, but the frenetic energy formerly attached to it had lessened. I wasn’t actively avoiding anything; I liked my life. I was happy and so while I was indeed busy, it all worked somehow. My 2011 job loss would change that. In order to maintain financial safety for Molly and Gracie, and unable to get hired in another district due to the press coverage of my loss, I took on several part time jobs. I spent hours securing Medicaid for Gracie and Molly, I worked seven days a week for several years. In the year prior to Molly’s death, I had actually become financially stable. The frenetic aspect of my busy life wasn’t lost however. There was Roy and all that went into dealing with the uncertainty of our relationship and there was the job at 33 Pleasant Street. I lived a stormy life.

As a child I filled my after-school hours with as many activities as possible. Choir rehearsal Monday, Girl Scouts Tuesday, Piano Wednesday, Youth Group Thursday and playdates Friday. Evenings were Swim Team, then later replaced by gymnastics and dance lessons. Home was not a safe or enjoyable option. Even after my homelife improved my high school days were scheduled from dawn to dusk. I distinctly remember Coach Luti reminding me that I had to focus more on living a lifestyle that would support my running in my hours off the track. I should be resting, having a manageable schedule, not over committing myself. What Coach Luti (and so many others in my life) didn’t not know is that stillness is impossible for me. While I am paralyzed within the trauma as it happens and have often used physical stillness to survive, once that fog lifts life becomes “busy is as busy does”. 

I am completing this blog three days after starting it. Interrupted often by the demands of life. More often acquiescing to the demands of others. A tossed aside victim of my frenetic schedule. In the process of attempting to put myself first, I was recently asked to ponder a bit on what I give up in the process of being there for others. I have been in pain and on crutches for the past three weeks. I have three more in front of me. This forced stillness has mostly made me angry. I cleaned the downstairs today because I could no longer stand the sight of the clutter. I did this primarily on my hands and knees or balancing on one foot. The more I cleaned the angrier I became. Today is supposed to be “my day”. When the people charged with making this possible treat “my day” like a day off it becomes frustrating and I begin to sound like a chronic complainer. 

What are you going to do about it Barbara? I ask myself, none of this is new! So for this one minute, this painful moment in time, I will celebrate the completion of this missive, this piece of writing I have completed in the midst of caring for others. Started on the couch pumping milk, continued in the car on the way home from Amesbury and completed here on my office floor, surrounded by the items that reflect the outward condition of my internal chaotic mind. Another of what I am sure will be a thousand tiny steps.

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