How to Do Monday Right

Today was a good day. A really good day. The kind of day I dreamed about when I was in my tiny little apartment, wishing for a house of my own.

I rolled out of bed and checked on the chickens. Replenished their water, gave them more feed. Checked on the ducks next–refilled their bowl of water, more feed. Threw a load of laundry in the washer. I watched the rain pour down, and decided a day spent working from home was more my style, so I called the appropriate people and told them how to reach me. Then I made the first of three cups of my favorite tea.

I sat in my favorite spot on the couch, working hard and actually getting quite a bit accomplished. I started some beets boiling, then at lunch I sliced them, popped them into the oven, and started making veggie stock with the leftover beet water. I decided the raw milk in the fridge really needed to be cheese, so I made mozzarella, being very careful to follow the directions exactly. Sometimes I try to wing it and it never turns out as good, so I’ve learned to just use my thermometer and egg timer and STICK TO THE RECIPE. Then I made ricotta from the leftover whey. I was having a “homesteader” moment.

I got back to work and did two enormous projects, TWO. I have the feeling if I were at the office, I wouldn’t have been nearly as productive. But I’m right in the middle of A.J. Jacobs’ “My Life As An Experiment”, and recently finished the essay on his attempt to “uni-task” or rather, NOT multi-task (checking email while catching up on news & eating breakfast, talking on the phone while browsing, etc.). His experiment inspired me, so today I wanted to make sure my work time was actually WORK time, and it…worked (no pun intended!). I felt accomplished and less contaminated with the icky film that covers my brain by the end of the day, since it hadn’t been running around in countless directions all day.

When I was done with my work day, I debated starting on the popcorn ceiling in the sewing room, as I want to get it off before putting the room back together for regular use. But I’m tired of always running from one project to the next, so I decided that the entire day was going to be as low-key as the first part. So I folded my laundry. I called my mother. I made a delicious dinner and ate it at the table, with no computer or smartphone or book or piece of mail or ANYTHING. I sat there and watched it rain. Then I took my favorite quilt to the back patio, curled into a chair, and watched it POUR. My lawn loves it. My foundation loves it. If the tomatoes are still alive, I’ve no doubt they love it too. The brother-cats sat in the other chair and watched it with me. The ducks went a little crazy. Then I came in, watched the chickens be absurd, finished a book, called a friend, drank peppermint tea, and read another book. I’ll probably end the day by putting my favorite sheets on the bed and taking a bath, shaving my legs. I’m looking forward to sliding into the fresh sheets with freshly-shorn legs, a delicious pleasure.

Today was a day dedicated to living in my little bungalow, seeing beauty in the small accomplishments, feeling the pleasure of mundane chores. I wasn’t trying to figure anything out, like where to put the coop, how large to build the run, what color to repaint the hallway, or how long the foyer needs to be for the board & batten. Nothing–I didn’t even turn on the radio or any music for most of the day (I confess a little Old Crow Medicine Show whilst cooking). I spent the day focused, well-fed, responsible, and simply. It was a beautiful day, and I want more like it.

Time.

It’s a funny thing, really. It’s never quite the same. For something that’s supposed to be a constant, that is measured so carefully and counted on so heavily, it really is elastic and ever-changing. The difference between the week and the weekend is one obvious example: 8 hours at work can drag, but two days will fly by in the blink of an eye. I hadn’t realized until lately how much my life revolves around it, how much I count on it.

I use it to measure effort: I’ve spent the last nine months training so hard, sweating and pushing myself further and further. I use it to gauge devotion: how many years am I willing to give to this? I use it to evaluate passion: I spent a year, month after disappointing month, searching for a home, until at last it all paid off. Time has been both a boost to the ego as well a blow to my pride.

It’s been weeks since I’ve written anything. I’ve started a few drafts, began to write out my feelings of disappointment, attempted to console my bruised ego with words. All to no avail. I tried to wax philosophical about heartache and disappointment, I made comparisons to literature. Nothing’s helped, nothing’s come out right. So many drafts, all to say: I have been sorely disappointed and my pride took a huge hit and this (to put it eloquently) sucks. Even to write this today, a few weeks later, is hard. I didn’t really want to write it, and I don’t think there are many people interested in reading it. But I feel like I can’t move on until I’ve done this. I can’t talk about all the fun and exciting things I’m doing around my house right now (chickens! ducks! removal of popcorn ceilings!) until I talk about how crushing this disappointment was. So here I sit, writing it in self-pity and sadness. It’ll be over soon. I just have to get it out there.

I didn’t make it into the derby league. I was one of five girls cut from a class of fifteen.

I know there are worse things in the world than this, bad things that happen every day to much better people, things that are truly heart-breaking and unfair no matter which way you look at it. And I recognize the very good fortune I have had in being born as a white middle-class American, that my blessings are numerous compared to a majority of the world’s population. I am not trying to undermine or trivialize their sufferings in any way.

But.

I was still disappointed to have come THISCLOSE, and to have been cut. There are many things that have been said that comforted me, but the truth of the matter is, I’m still sad about it. It’s difficult to see the updates from my friends that did make it. They absolutely deserve everything and I begrudge them nothing. I am only sad I cannot join in with them. I still feel the bruise on my heart, still feel a touch tender about skating. The thought of ever going back to the warehouse was terrifying and sad. In the weeks following the bad news, I carried it around like an anchor. It was not easy to brush off.

There’s a scene in the new Monsters, Inc movie (Monster University) where Mike Wazowski is sitting on a rock, staring across a moonlit lake. He’s having a heart-to-heart with Sully, talking about his new (painful) realization that he is NOT SCARY. He says “I thought if I worked hard enough and wanted it badly enough, it would happen.” An arrow to the heart–my breath caught and I’m pretty sure I teared up a bit. Jon reached for my hand because he knew exactly what I was thinking.

So much of this disappointment comes from the fact that I’ve always believed that if you work hard and do the right things, it will pay off. There are always consequences to your actions, whether good or bad; reactions to every action. I worked really hard and did everything I was told and it still didn’t yield the results I wanted. I pushed myself further than I thought was possible and I thought it would be rewarded. It was jarring to my understanding of how the world worked, it was upsetting to feel I couldn’t have done anything different. And yet, I am somewhat comforted by that–I could not have done anything more. I did my best. There is no shame in my effort.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like that big of deal to someone, maybe they think I’m making too much of this and just need to move on. But try to imagine it from my point of view: my whole life, I’ve never been an athlete, never been able to succeed in anything physical. I was the bookworm with an atheletic sister. Then finally, as an adult, I discover something that I not only enjoy doing, but I’m good at. I spend the next eight to nine MONTHS working out several days a week, eating a nutritious diet avoiding my favorite sweets, spending my spare cash on gear, and devoting my energy to this sport. I sacrificed time with my boyfriend & friends and tripled my gas just getting to practice three times (at least!) a week, all with the expectation that it would pay off. And it did in some ways, but not in the really big way I was hoping for.

I briefly toyed with the idea of not returning to the classes and closing this chapter in my life. So many others didn’t make it on their first try, but it really catches you by surprise at how much it hurts. The night I got the call, I just accepted that it was a horrible night and really felt how sad I was. I allowed myself that, but then I tried to recover. Re-reading my old blog posts reminded me how much I love derby, and skating. I would be doing myself a great disservice in quitting, because I’m unbelievably happy when I’m skating. I have made such incredible friends and it has done so much good for my health it would be the epitome of selfishness to only think of my pride. There is no shame in not succeeding my first time through, I am simply one of many who had to try try again. And try I will.

I’m looking at all this as an opportunity. An opportunity to heal, since my rib still isn’t 100% and my knee occasionally pains me. An opportunity to work on the things I didn’t feel comfortable doing, and the chance to absolutely master the skills I already have. Walking into the Thunderdome for class this Saturday was unbelievably difficult, and I kept second-guessing myself, but I know it was the right decision. There were so many familiar smiling faces that welcomed me back, and the track still felt like home. I have a choice: I can let this either break me or strengthen me. I choose to work harder as the next tryout approaches, work to be as intimidating as the other second-round New Girls were to me last time. I want to be as ready as possible so the next time, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind I belong.