Monday, October 13, 2014

Knowing My Limits

My buddy and helper at Oktoberfest.  We were tattoo artists-in-training, manning the temporary tattoo booth.

Saturday night we soaked in Fall at my Aunt Kathryn's farm.  Uncle Gary fired up the tractor and carted us around the fields.  One relative found it hysterical to hide behind tree branches and leap out at our unsuspecting crew.  I may or may not have unleashed a blood-curdling scream.  

We roasted S'mores, guzzled cider, and raced four wheelers.  We all left with smiles.

We finished up our fall weekend at Stuckey's Orchard.  After traveling through the endless labyrinth of the corn maze, the next time I want to see a corn stalk is never.

In three weeks, I will be running a marathon.  This is my third marathon in the course of a year.  As such, my body has become accustomed to the training.  What used to be considered a long run, has now melted into my normal routine and become a bit commonplace.

This sets the stage for what transpired on Friday.

On Friday, I ran my longest run of this training period: 22 miles.  Afterwards, I felt tired; it wasn't the debilitating sort, but the curl-up-on-the-couch kind.  I pushed through the fatigue and picked up the boys from school.  That's when the day headed south.

I forgot two things:

1)  Even if I can function after 22 miles, I may not be functioning well.

2)  Four boys are a lot of work.

Did I mention four boys are a lot of work?

I decided that after school (post 22 miles) was the perfect time to take four boys clothes shopping.  (I can almost hear the gasps!)  

Marshalls was our first stop.  The boys gleefully perused the racks of athletic wear.  We selected a few finds.  Everyone walked out peacefully and happy.  Success!  I was feeling good.

Kohls was our next destination.  That's when things started to unravel.  One son expressed extreme displeasure over the shopping experience.  Another son became fixated on an over-budget sports jersey.  Two boys chased each other around the racks.  I could feel myself begin to fade.

That's when I saw another family meandering through the boys' department.  The mother wore a smile and seemed to have an angelic presence.  She pushed a stroller while doting on her other sons.  Yes, she was the mom of four boys too!  Her sons seemed to savor the shopping experience.  They were practically holding hands and belting out Kumbaya by the sweatshirts.

The contrast between the two groups of boys added insult to injury.  My internal dialogue went something like this: Why aren't my boys joyfully picking out socks and answering every question with "yes, mom," "you're right mom," and "This is the best thing I've ever done."

I could feel myself edging towards the boiling point.

But I'm not a quitter (or a slow learner).  We pushed forward.

We left Kohls and went to Costco.  By the end of the trip, one son was officially on my bad side.  I had stopped talking for fear of the words I would unleash.  My fingers gripped the steering wheel so tightly that I feared they'd leave permanent indentations.

At home, I plopped myself down on the couch in pure exhaustion.  A few minutes later, my youngest son snuggled next to me.  He uncurled his fingers and handed me a $5 bill.

"I'm sorry mom," he whispered.  "Here's some money."

(Later, when I told my friend this story, she said I should have responded that I don't forgive for under a $20!)

I pulled him into an embrace and we burrowed into the cushions.  I reflected on the afternoon.  Perhaps the boys weren't solely to blame for the afternoon's failures.  Maybe my fatigue fueled a short-fuse and low coping skills that set the excursion up for a disaster.

Lesson learned: Know my limits.

This applies to days when I'm running long or running on empty.  Those are the times when we should skip the unpopular shopping excursions or abhorred errand choices.  Those are the moments I should set us (all) up for success by engaging in simpler, less taxing alternatives.

Lesson learned.

I hope.

Did I mention I'm a slow learner?

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