The season is over. I've got four weeks to see the world and get restored before we start up again with track season. The kids need a break from me, and I from them. When we see each other in January we'll all be happy to see one another, and get back into the routine of daily workouts. If we don't take this break, things will grow a little stale. And while we will still respect one another, the sizzle that comes from starting something fresh just won't be there.
I've got to be honest: I don't know what to do with myself. I'm working out a little more, which is good because I looked like hell the last few weeks of the season. And I'm (amazingly!) far more prolific in my work on the new book. I strive for a thousand words a day, but I've been hitting almost double that this week. Amazing what can be accomplished if an individual doesn't take breaks to research cross country stats.
The lack of something to fill my afternoon has also made me more thoughtful. Events have precipitated this new mindfulness. The day before our last race my mom fell and broke her hip. She's 82. It happens. I went to visit her in the skilled facility where she's rehabbing and could see a change. She looked older, thinner, shorter. She gave me a big smile as I sat down next to the bed. My mom forgets a lot these days but she always remembers who I am.
As we talked, her fingers fussed with the hem of the bed sheet, straightening it again and again. It was the kind of tic that eventually called attention to itself. I looked down at those fingers, still strong and nimble, and realized I'd never paid much attention to my mother's hands before. This came as a shock, or at the very least an oversight. Those are the hands that held me the moment I came into the world; that bathed my infant self, swaddled me, hugged me, and more often than I care to remember, cuffed me. We had so many battles over the years, but as I looked down at her nervous hands, smoothing and spreading that sheet over and over, it was impossible to view those hands as anything more than our means of connection. Words never quite worked, but the power of touch — good and not so good — is our bond. I still flinch when someone moves too closely toward my face, anticipating the sting that is sure to come, but I also revel in the power of a strong hug.
A few days later, I went to see my own doctor. A good friend of mine who is both a great runner and coach suffered arterial blockage that almost killed him a few months ago. I scheduled a stress echo treadmill test just to make sure I didn't have heart issues of my own. You don't realize it until you're actually looking at the computer screen showing real-time images of the four beating chambers, just how fond you can be of your heart. As a lifelong runner, I've always taken pride in a slow heartbeat, and the "big engine" that comes with years of cardiovascular fitness. But until yesterday I'd never actually seen what it looked like. It was like meeting an old friend — one you've taken for granted for as long as you can remember. It boggles the mind that a heart beats every second of your life. Every second. Even while we're sleeping, and the brain is powering down to let the subconscious do its thing, the heart chugs along.
So this has been a week of perspective, as it was supposed to be. Regret and the desire to better underpin it all, just like the memories of the season itself. The next step is figuring out what to do with all this new information.