Lessons learned: 2018

The holidays have never been my favorite time of the year. I could go on and on about the decorations, the expectations, the obligations, the assholes at the mall…but I won’t.

Oddly, I don’t feel quite so scrooge-like this year. Maybe it’s all the wine. I’ve consumed more than my fair share over the past week. Pretty sure my liver is completely pickled at this point. I have switched to lemon water in an effort to flush the system and reset. I even hefted my ass to the gym on Christmas Day. Never hurts to get a jump start on those pesky new year’s resolutions.

I won’t go so far as to say that I am feeling festive. That’s a stretch even in the most optimistic of times, but as I sit here in my pjs staring at the rapidly disintegrating evergreen wreath over my mantel, I am reflective.

While 2017 was a year straight out of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 wasn’t too bad. Here are a few things I learned this year:

Doctors inevitably insist that it takes six weeks to recovery from surgery. Any surgery. Big or small. Doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I had a bout with a little cancer. Breast cancer. Lost a boob. Had a little radiation. Got a new boob. Five surgeries in all. Every time – six weeks. No more. No less. Of course, I am who I am, and therefore the proverbial thorn in my doctor’s side. I do believe my medical chart comes with a black box warning indicating my penchant for noncompliance. I’m not programmed to sit around doing nothing when I could be doing something. During the last visit with my doctor, two weeks after my final surgery, I asked when I could return to the tennis court. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair and gave his nurse a bit of side eye. He knew what was coming.

“Four more weeks,” he said.

“No,” I said giving him my best resting bitch face. “Too long.”

My doctor is a kind man; intelligent; a respected leader in his specialty field. I’ve been his patient for two years. In that moment, he looked resigned, beaten down. He let out a long breath.

“When are you thinking?”

“Today.”

“Today?”

“Yes. This afternoon.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and began to go through a long list of reasons why I should limit my activity for the remaining four weeks of my six week recovery. It’s a list I can recite from memory.

“Are you telling me no?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. I can be blunt to the point of rudeness. It’s part of my charm.

“No, I would never tell you no, but…”

“Good. When’s my next follow up?”

“Three months.”

“Very good.”

By sundown, I was on the tennis court drilling with my team and I haven’t looked back. Fuck your six week rule.

“One does not get in shape playing tennis; one must get in shape to play tennis.” These words of wisdom were bestowed upon me just last week by my tennis coach. I love my coach. He’s an older gentleman, north of seventy with the patience of a saint and a brutal honesty that never lets me get too full of myself. As I’ve said, I have had five surgeries over the last 2 years and it goes without saying that it has taken a toll on my overall fitness. For every week off the court, I feel that I take two steps backwards in my progress towards becoming a better player.

I’ve never been a marathon runner….or a 5k runner…or a runner at all. In fact, I really hate running. Seriously. Hate it. A glaring contradiction for a tennis player who is looking to improve and win matches. My coach knows and understands this about me. He’s also not afraid to tell me I need to get my shit together. Last week, as he sat next to me on a bench while I tried to catch my breath, he gave me an assignment. He told me to run. Not just run. Run fast. Sprint. As fast as I can for a quarter length of track. Then rest. Then run as fast as I can again – repeating this pattern over and over and over.

I started on Christmas Day. I hated it and thought bad things about my coach the whole time. But he’s right. He’s always right. I want to win matches. I want to win and so I must run. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

It’s okay to be selfish with my time. I think this is a plight shared by mothers and wives alike. We give so much of ourselves to those in our charge that we forget to save time for ourselves. And should we be blessed with a bit of alone time, we are plagued by guilt. Always – the guilt.  My daughter graduated six months ago and my life as a band mom came to an abrupt end.  I suddenly found myself in possession of a rare commodity – time.  Precious time.  Me time.  Time to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whomever I wanted.  

At first, it’s a little overwhelming.  You aren’t quite sure what do with it, this golden egg that has dropped into your lap, seemingly out of thin air.  You look around to see if anyone sees what you see; to see if anyone steps into reclaim it.  When no one comes, you take it in your hand, wrap your fingers around it and hold it close to your breast.  

“Mine.”

The word lingers on your lips, a mere whisper at first, as soft and sweet as a baby’s breath.  

“Mine,” you say again.  

The word comes louder this time, with gusto.  Your confidence builds.  You scramble to your feet, still clutching the golden egg tight against your chest.  With the sound of your heart pounding in your ears, you take one last look around, just to be sure no one is watching.   Then slither off into the shadows, to the place where your secrets are kept. With a gentle hand, born out of the fear that the egg will dissolve into dust right before your very eyes, you tuck it away.  Nestling it safely among all the things you treasure most in life.  All the while, repeating a single word. 

“Mine…mine…mine…”     


On lessons learned: an epiphany

They say to have a successful blog, you need to have a theme, continuity, some sort of consistent content.  My rebellious-self thinks such a rule is complete bullshit.   Who says I have to follow a formula?  It’s my blog.  Not yours.  Mine.  My realistic-self knows and understands there is some merit to this.  If only to give clarity and the illusion, however fleeting, of forward momentum.  In an effort to keep things moving, I’m going to fall back on a founding principle.  I started this site as a means of discovery.  Every experience in life, be it profound or trivial, is an opportunity to learn.   To learn is to grow; to grow is to live.  

And with that, here we go:

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter recently graduated high school.  In this day and age, most kids are involved in extracurricular activities that dominate not only their own time, but also that of their parents.  Her activity of choice – marching band. 

I never used to be a joiner.  Even now, I have to really want to do something to get involved.  I’m not sure how it happened, or exactly when it happened, but somehow I found myself sucked down what I like to call the “booster club rabbit hole.”  In the blink of an eye, I went from casual volunteer to all in – up to my eyeballs in booster business.   I lived and breathed band for four years.  It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

It was also one of the most exhausting – both physically and mentally.  In the run up to graduation and the end of my tenure, I was conflicted.  I was tired and more than ready to turn over the keys to the castle to the next generation of band moms; but at my core, I am a control freak.   Change is hard.  Letting go is harder.   In the final days, I cried.  A lot.  I just couldn’t imagine my life without band.   I also couldn’t fathom how band would survive without me.  

Yes.  I know.  The arrogance of that statement is not lost on me.  It’s just that at some point, I let the role I played as “band mom” solely identify my existence.  I was a band mom.  Nothing more; nothing less.  I wouldn’t allow myself to accept the idea of life after band.   For them or me.

I’m not much for spontaneity.  I don’t make quick, unfettered decisions.  I mull things over, weigh my options, consider the repercussions of every action I take, and plan accordingly.  As such, I had an exit plan in place for leaving my booster position.  I knew exactly what needed to be done, how it should be done and when.  The only problem – everyone else.  I fought it for a while, agonized over it, wrote a few blistering emails, cried a lot of tears.  Then one bright sunny Saturday morning in June, I had an epiphany.  I’d had enough.  I was done.  Totally over the whole fucking thing.  By the afternoon, the handover to my successor was complete.  The baton officially passed.

I was free.

One week later, I was sitting on a sandy beach in the Caribbean with my family and my old friend Bacardi, doing absolutely nothing.  It was wonderful.  In the six months since, I’ve read a lot of books, binged a lot of television, and played a lot of tennis.   I have moved on from band; and band has moved on from me.  

Life goes on.