My Mini TriathlonJune 10, 2007By Helen ZubalyIt's 5 a.m. and I'm awake, 15 minutes ahead of the alarm clock. Good thing, too, since I notice I've set it for 5:15 PM, a time which will do me no good at all.From my bed I sense there's a slight chill outside -- a "paper route morning," I call it, remembering the early darkness when I'd accompany my brother to deliver papers, dragging our wagon full of Sunday Gazettes through a fresh and silent neighborhood.I move, mentally, to a later age -- and begin to panic. In the shower I concentrate on getting the job done, trying to block the thoughts that tumble on in. Drying my body, I see layers and layers of fat, a silent testimony to the ridiculousness of my thinking I could ever compete as an athlete. “Stop that,” I tell myself sternly. “Your body is beautiful. The fat will leave when it's done its job.”I eat Cheerios, reminding myself that I have to eat something -- and to go light so I don't have an upset stomach later.But my stomach feels queasy anyway. Tears roil up and threaten, pressing behind my eyes, spilling over.I'm in seventh grade. Of course I am. A friend of mine once said, very wisely, that seventh grade is where all our lives stop. And she's right. Seventh grade is indelibly imprinted on our souls, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, 'til death do us part'. Seventh grade sneaks up on us in the board room when our idea is met with flat silence; in the faculty lounge when we walk in and know, just KNOW, that everyone has been talking about us; in a dressing room, bathing suit in hand, when we’re hoping that this time, the mirror will show someone else's beautiful, perfect body.As I cry, I tell my inner 12-year-old, “It's not your fault. Of course you're scared. But it's okay. This isn't 7th grade anymore, and nobody is going to pick on you. Yes, I know I promised, way back then, that I would never force you to do anything like this once we were grown-up -- but that hasn't really worked out too well for us, has it? You're fine, and it's really all right for you to go and do this. You're allowed to play, too.”My husband, groggy with sleep, hugs me and makes sympathetic murmuring noises. "I'm sorry," he says. "But it's okay. We'll be there for you. You'll do great."My 10-year-old is awake, reading Harry Potter. I stop in his room and peer up over the edge of the bunk bed. "Bye," I say.
"Aren't we going, too?" he asks.
"Yes, but I have to get there early," I explain.
"Oh," he says, and returns to his book.
"I'm nervous," I confess. "I feel like I'm in seventh grade and I'm going to P.E. and everyone is going to make fun of me again."
He puts the book down and scrambles to the foot of the bunk bed, where I'm standing. He beams down at me, leans over, and hugs me. "Nope," he says cheerfully. "No one's going to make fun of you."And it really is as simple as that. © June 2007
Reading, writing, hiking, camping, biking, learning to "tri"!