I’m Doing the Best I Can

I'm Doing the Best I Can

One step after another, I trudged up the steep hill.

I counted—one, two, three—all the way up through twenty, and then I changed the position of my foot strike from mid-food to tip-toes. One through twenty, and repeat. It’s my trick for getting up the big steep hills. I’m forced to train on these mini-mountains at the tippy top of the Appalachain Mountains.

Mid-foot, toes, mid-foot, toes, mid-foot, toes. Always counting.

Eventually, my perseverance gave way. I finished the current count to twenty and dropped back into my heel walk. I checked my heart rate. I walked slowly until it dropped back out of peak range. Then I power-walked.

And then I ran again.

This happened three separate times on that particular training run, the dropping into a walk. Up the giant, monstrous hill, back up a steep incline just after my turnaround point, and near the end on another steep incline that felt much easier to run down near the beginning of the run.

During the walking portion after turning around, I felt defeated. Running in July is no easy feat, especially up these non-stop hills. Over and over. Between the heat and the uphill both ways, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting nowhere. Slowly.

I quickly started repeating my running mantra over and over.

“I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing the best I can.”

— __ — __ —

A series of events resulted in our oldest son sitting on the ground in our reading nook, shooting me dirty looks from across the room. His repeated mistreatment of his iPhone case resulted in the complete disintegration of a Lifeproof case. Apparently they’re Lifeproof but not BigBrother proof. When I informed him that I wasn’t running out to replace the case and that he couldn’t use the phone without a case, and as such, he couldn’t have a phone for a month… well… the tween emotions ran high.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

“Mommy, do you want to play Mario with me?”

I need to finish up this work.

“Mommy, do you want to play Animal Crossing with me?”

I’d love to, but I need to start dinner.

“Mommy, all you do is work.”

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

My daughter sent me a series of texts during a difficult day recently. I don’t quite have Tween Boy issues down yet, so sometimes Teen Girl things escape me. I offered some ideas, gave my support. I don’t know if it helped; I only hope it didn’t make things worse.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

My husband’s grandmother fell recently. I have tried to be a supportive wife and granddaughter-in-law. I hate seeing my husband worry, seeing him hurt. I hate knowing the reality that, with my grandparents gone (save for my possibly immortal great-grandmother), my husband’s grandparents will not be with us forever. It hurts almost as much as losing my grandparents.

I’ve been trying to keep the house together and care for the boys and work and help clean his grandparents’ house. But I keep letting balls drop; laundry, clutter, my energy level. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

I still haven’t quite figured out why my best never feels quite good enough. I always feel like I’m falling short in approximately nine thousand ways. I need to run faster, longer. I should be a better mom, a better birth mom. A better wife. The house should be cleaner. I shouldn’t make mistakes at work. I should have written the freaking book by this point. Never. Ever. Enough.

But maybe.

— __ — __ —

I finished the run that day. Somehow, between running, walking, 20-20 stride combos, I logged my fastest 4.5 mile run this training cycle. It’s still not fast, but it shows improvement.

I’m doing this.

I’m doing the best I can.

Of An Age

Of An Age

My great-grandfather died of cancer when I was four. I remember running around the funeral home with my first cousin once removed; I only know that’s his full title because we come from a family with overlapping generations due to surprise-40 babies. He was only a year older than me at the time. Neither of us knew much about death. We knew we liked to run in circles and laugh.

As a freshman in high school, a classmate’s mom died. It rocked our small community. On the day of her funeral, there was also a bomb threat at the school. I don’t know if that was so we could all go to the funeral or because someone didn’t want to finish their midterms. It snowed.

I sang at the graveside service for a boy who passed away in his eighth grade year when I was a sophomore. We sang the Alma Mater. I don’t remember the words now.

My first cat died during the week of finals my junior year of high school.

During my senior year of high school, my maternal-paternal great-grandparents passed away within three months of each other. A severe stroke in August, pancreatic cancer on Halloween. I remember answering the phone hanging on the wall, my fingers twisting in the cord, standing in my best friend’s kitchen after spending the night. I was wearing my cheerleading uniform; we had a competition later that day.

My great-great grandmother didn’t pass away until the summer after my freshman year of college. She already had knitted Christmas gifts, still six months away. At the funeral home, I learned that my first cousin once removed was friends with the brother of my high school into college boyfriend. The world felt small, safe.

While pregnant with my daughter, my sorority grandma’s dad died. Despite being on bed rest, I went to the funeral. Always go to the funeral. While pregnant with my oldest son, a sorority sister died in a horrific car crash. My husband accompanied me to the funeral home. I wish the casket hadn’t been open; I can still see the marks from the fire, the bruising, the way her pink suit didn’t cover the marks of what took her away from us at such a young age.

Rose.

And then the deaths speed up and blur together. Prior to adulthood, they were separate entities, easily recalled because of their rare occurrence. A gentleman from church. An acquaintance’s mom. The father of one of my husband’s Army battalion members. My childhood dog. Friends’ mothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law.

My step-grandfather who I didn’t call a step-grandfather; he was just grandpa. A note about that one: Our sewer backed up into our first owned home on the same day. That’s not hard to forget, the two awful things smashing into one.

Maddie.

And then the deaths got worse, more personal.

My beloved grandfather, suddenly. My husband’s aunt, after a prolonged battle with ALS. His uncle, lung cancer. Three in three months. It felt like a cruel joke but no one was laughing. Death, death, death. Funeral, funeral, funeral.

That same summer, a friend. Too young. The anger began to build.

A reprieve.

My second cat.

And then my most cherished grandmother. And my other grandmother. And then, nearly myself. Waves crashing atop one another; it’s hard to breathe through prolonged, sustained, never-ending loss.

It’s been almost a year since Biz left us. A picture of the six of us, impossibly young, still sits on my desk. This, the one that surprised me more than my grandfather’s heart attack; the only one for whom I did not attend a funeral, a memorial, anything. Sometimes it feels like she’s still walking among us, still here now.

Today a friend from the old guard, the early days of blogging. She beat the odds once, so knowing now that she’s gone-gone feels like an untruth, like maybe we’re waiting for a punchline. But she’s gone. And we’re still here.

It’s the friends dying that feels unsettling. Don’t misunderstand me. I spent five days last week hoping and praying my husband’s grandmother wouldn’t leave this Earth just yet. I’m not “okay” with losing my elders, the two generations responsible for my existence, my moral compass, my memories, parts of my future.

But losing those in my generation—my acquaintances, my friends, my kindreds, my loves—I don’t suppose that gets easier.

I remember watching my dad put on his suit. I don’t remember who died, just someone he knew as a child or a teen or a young adult or an older adult. I remember the lines on his face. I knew they weren’t best friends, but I knew it still pulled at him in ways that I didn’t understand. Not at that age.

I do now.

We are of an age now. We speak their names and bow our heads. They remain parts of us. Forever.