Listen for a moment. If it is a Thursday or a Friday (my two days off of working at the school and parenting during the day), you can just hear the faint strains of the song from the movie "Rocky." Sylvester Stallone is wearing his old baggy sweats, jogging down the street as his trainer trails him closely
Given a stretch of time to myself, my thoughts always turn to self-improvement. How can I shampoo the stained carpets? What can I do to straighten up the bookshelves? Today's the day to shave my legs and experiment with a new way to do my hair so that it doesn't always look like I just got out of the shower and finger-combed it before rushing out the door. Flip on the TV and find a DIY channel so I can learn to replace the wax ring under my own toilet without calling a plumber or a handyman. Surf the web to get a jump on my holiday shopping. By the time Bubba and the kids get home, the house will be sparkling clean and I'll look like a million bucks. This time, I will have discovered a new way to organize my closet and use my existing makeup to enhance my appearance without adding 30 minutes to my morning routine.
By noon, I've spent bursts of energy vacuuming, rearranging, sorting, and sweating. I've created a mental inventory of things that I can do to make myself better. And all I've really succeeded in doing is convincing myself that I need to be better. Look better. Stand straighter. Exercise more. Keep a tidier house. Cook healthier meals. I'm exhausted and a little disappointed in myself.
I head up the stairs to shower no longer feeling like Rocky, but determined to get there. Under the warm spray, my brain is in my bathroom drawers, cataloging my makeup and hair gels, wondering how I can use them in a better way this time.
As I finish rinsing the conditioner out of my hair, my gut breaks in. How many days will I waste doing this? How much money will I spend trying to imPROVE myself? How much do I really want to spend the next half hour wrestling with cords and gels and powders?
The breath wins out. Squeeze the water out of my hair, dry off, shimmy into my most comfortably-worn jeans, smear some pit-stick on, pull a shirt on over my head and make my way down the stairs to write. The thing that makes me feel good about myself. The place where my words and thoughts are my own - no apologies.
The soundtrack slows down. Muscles release their hold on each other. The warmth of my laptop soothes my hurt feelings. Ahhh.