I ran a 5k yesterday morning. This summer my sister Jill and my husband somehow talked me into the couch to 5k app and our training that started Labor Day weekend culminated in the Run Like Hell 5k to benefit Oakland Cemetery. We even started an “I hate running” club and encouraged each other on Facebook. A surprising number of people jumped on the “this is terrible, let’s all do it” train.
I struggle with even typing “I ran” because while I did spend the vast majority of the race running, there was a section that I walked. Most of the time was spent running, and I finished only three minutes behind my sister, who ran the whole time, but I keep beating myself up over the walking part.
I know the important part is that I finished, that I did the best I could, that I even signed up for it in the first place. My friend from work has been calling it my marathon, and it is sort of what it feels like. We are, after all, talking about the girl who failed high school gym class. The fact that I trained for a few months to run anything is a serious victory.
But when I finished I couldn’t help but feel like I could have done better. If I had just trained a little harder, if I just pushed myself a little farther, if I only slept and ate and drank better then I could have done it.
We are reading Animal Farm in my ninth grade classes and I can’t help but identify with Boxer the Horse, whose personal mantra when met with any undone task is simply “I will work harder.” If you got out of High School having never read this classic, allow me to enlighten you: Boxer dies. He works so hard he becomes useless and the pigs send him to be made into glue.
I know that this attitude will likely kill me. It has for sure sucked some serious joy out of my life the past week or so. Today I may have run out of church howling because I plugged my crock-pot into an outlet that wasn’t working and the cheesy potatoes I promised to bring to the potluck were still frozen when the service ended. (This may also have had something to do with being out of St. John’s Wort for a week. Turns out medicine is at least partly the reason I was feeling better and it was pretty dumb to stop taking it.)
Right now in my house (if you count the dog) things that need fed out number feeders. Every single moment Christian or I take for ourselves is a moment the other one picks up the slack. Anything at all that is “extra” simply goes undone. (There are kids clothes EVERYWHERE because I am simply too busy to sort them all.)
Right now at school the work keeps pouring in. On top of the daily grading, and teaching, and copying, and planning, there are new meetings to go to and initiatives to keep track of. There are kids that are going under served and no one knows quite what to do about it. But everyone can agree that a kid failing 4 out of his 6 classes is a problem. Even that kid.
In a time when in all feels so out of control, it is likely me clinging for a sense of stability. If I can work harder and it can be fixed then it feels doable. If “I just work harder” is true than “I” am in control. But you don’t have to look that hard to see that I am in fact NOT in control of the situation.