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Mileposts in the Distance – Another Skill to Relearn

Note from Stacey: Every Thursday we’re thrilled to offer Laura’s Mileposts in the Distance column.

“I’m in a gray mood, “ I wrote to my pal Miss K this week. “Not good, not bad.  Just gray.”

She suggested a trip to the makeup counter as a pick me up.

I thought about it.

“Not what I need,” I replied.  (Sidebar to every single person who knows me and has been dragged to Sephora by me: pick yourself up off the floor and get over it.  I can withstand the lure of new color when the mood is not right.)

She asked what I was reading. “Not much.”  Clarification: there’s a pile to be read, but not one thing is singing my name right now.

I’d already worked out.  I’d eaten healthy meals and had some nice time with the Lovely Daughter and MDR.  We’d talked with the Handsome Son and the Jolie Blonde.  Everyone was accounted for nicely.

But still, it was a gray kind of mood.  Now, don’t get me wrong — I like gray.  I own a lot of it and happily mix it with pops of color in scarves and accessories. (I have also forbidden a certain dear friend from purchasing any more gray items for her wardrobe, but that’s a story for another day.)  Gray is a wonderful background in the photos I like to take: allowing color to be front and center while lending texture to the background.

When we lived in Arizona, a cloudy, gray day was an anomaly, a delightful change of pace from constant brilliant sunshine.  We celebrated gray on those days!

Digging deep, I realized two things.  First, we’d vacationed in a place known for its cloudy, rainy skies and nearly every day we had gorgeous, dry sunshine.  Then we came home to a place that’s had more rain this summer than it’s had for nearly all the five years we’ve lived here.

So the days are consistently gray right now.  But the mood I am in demands cold as well as gray.  I want it to be sweater/soup/stew weather, not be fooled into thinking it’s cooler because it’s cloudy.

Beyond all that weather angst was the startling realization that I hadn’t spent more than five weekends at home since May 1.  That’s 11 out of 16 weekends in places not my own.  And while I had a wonderful time with a variety of lovely people, the method by which I adapted to being in Not My Place was to fill the time with busy-ness: working, chatting, laughing, driving, walking, running.  Those were all the action verbs put into play.

This weekend, other than driving to get the Lovely Daughter from the airport, was an exercise in quieter verbs like reading.  Thinking.  Sipping (tea after putting the AC up a notch to pretend I was cold).

I was at a loss.  I could feel the tension build just when it was supposed to decrease.  I’d actually learned to defer to the busy and not revel in the quiet, not press the pause button.  The tension of actually having all my things about me; having a choice of which yarn to knit or which magazine to leaf through quietly put me in a bit of a panic.

I wasn’t supposed to take the time to recharge.  That’s supposed to be for other people.

There it was – the hubris behind the gray: I was supposed to always be on and to actually turn the activity down a notch, to maybe hit the two parallel lines of pause would be a sign of weakness.

I know that to go without stopping invites every germ under the sun to take root in my system.  I know that running on empty results in just more empty.  But, this time – I was certain of it — would be different.

Not really, no more different than any other time I have done a face plant into reality.  At least this time I feel relatively healthy.

This is not all to say the realization lifted the gray mood.  I’m still dealing with my annoyance that summer will linger for weeks, especially in the south.  I’m still not sure what I want to read next.

And I really don’t want to buy makeup.  (OK, maybe that’s a tiny bit disconcerting right now.)

Instead, I’ll do my best to appreciate the end of summer in my own way (though is rooting for a cold front all that bad?) and at a slower pace.

 Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.