a new normal

Changes are inevitable. As the routines fall back into place and the rhythms start flowing again, the new “normal” begins to appear. I am a record on repeat when I say that I don’t do change. I physically prepare by tightening my armor. Locking my muscles, clenching my core and hunkering down. It is an auto pilot reaction.

Then I remember to breathe. And, stretch. Move. Dance. Anything to loosen up the knots and tightness. The change is inevitable, but how I handle it is not. It is choice.

Thor and I reached a point in our lives four years ago when we crossed into having spent more of our lives together than apart. This was by the numbers. A simple count of the calendar years. But, if you count the formation and growth that happened during some of these formative years, their accumulated value is much greater than their numerical score.

Children have been part of our lives for less time than we have had without them. A lot less. And, maybe that is where my hiccup is with defining and settling into this normal.

Sometimes I ache for the pre-kid days, where we slept long through the weekend mornings. Dates were plentiful and generously distributed between days, afternoons, evenings, weekends and weeks. Conversations were uninterrupted. Sadness overwhelms the longing for bygone days when I realize that these times will only return when my children have grown. The pudgy fingers, wild imaginations, sweet snuggles and dreamy days we are immersed in will be faded memories.

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Baseball season has started again. This classic tradition has been a part of Thor’s life from the time he could first toddle up to a ball-T and huck a ball to his dad. It is annual. It is the fire that fuels his flame. It grounds him as much as it gives him the release that allows for suredness and solidity.

It is his thing.   Always has been.

When I walked into his life, baseball inevitably became a part of mine. I was a constant fixture at every single game. At the beginning I did it for him. My presence gave him support. A familiar face in the crowd. I was a fan who sat through the endless double headers, rode shotgun for long weekend drives to one field after another and altered schedules, dinners and weekly plans around the game.

As the years have gone by, baseball has become a true love. My skills at keeping book evolved and I grew to enjoy the skill, strategy and team work that made for a good game. I became the diehard fan who truly appreciated a pitching duel and a game of extra innings that stretched into the night. I learned to love the slow pace and the intensity.

I was well practiced in decorating cupcakes like baseballs featuring each players’ numbers. I did not know teammates by their god-given name and referred to them by cockamamie nicknames that made no sense at all.

I was a part of the team, as close as I could be without stepping foot on the field.

A week after Pepper was born, my first outing was to a late night baseball game. Summer was winding down and it was the tail end of the season. Our sleepless nights were strung together with endless nursing sessions, so being huddled into the corner of the stadium, snuggled beneath a comforter with a suckling infant felt both strangely out of place and very normal at the same time.

I was reaching, aching, longing for a sense of familiarity in a very unsettling place of completely new territory.

But, it was not there. The comfort and stability had shifted dramatically. My focus was changed. I was no longer the fan in the stands whose eyes were honed in on the game.

With each game, my attentiveness grew more distant. My distractions accumulated. The book was no longer an accurate score of the game. Bit by bit, the distance extended. Both physically and metaphorically. As Pepper became more mobile, I started to watch from afar. The long jump sand pit was an enticing distraction. The sloping green hills were perfect for rolling, romping and sliding down. My only two eyes could not be on both the child and the game. The laws of nature were inevitably stacking up against me.

As Pepper grew, we were not fully aware of what the issues she had were called or what label they had and therefore didn’t have all the resources and help we do now. We were in the thick of being observant but not focused and practiced but not refined. So, we coped as best as we could. Rigid schedules with strict predictability and systematic approaches were key. Dialog that was rehearsed and repeated was necessary. Bedtimes that happened at the same time, same place and with the same structure was key. Sleep was her only respite (and ours) from manic energy and amped up emotions.

The baseball schedule did not jive with that of Pepper. There is no loaded energy in that sentence or emotions radiating from those words. It is a simple statement – a fact.

Spring brings the much needed “therapy” that keeps Thor grounded. It gives him the release and time he needs to reset his energy and parent with the best of his abilities. It is his thing, fully and completely his much needed passion.

Missing my role at each baseball game and the normal that was a part of our lives, as a couple, for so long fills me with a deep ache that is tinged with a nasty and embarrassing shade of green envy.

I want to be there.

I want that thing – that role, that place, that time back.

And, it is not coming back. There is grief. There is sadness.

This week I looked past my view and into that of the one I love, my partner. I sidestepped my fear of feeling like an outsider.

We went to the game. The absolute pleasure at having us there was visible. It was physical and tangible. It was audible as he pulled me close, held my cheek and said “You came.” His pleasure softened the harsh reality of a new normal.

I was interrupted every two minutes and the distant proximity of the scorebook made me feel at a loss for what was happening. I spent more time walking and watching the goings on off the field than the happenings inside the fence.

But, we came. The girls’ endless questions produced more knowledge about the game and a budding interest in what was happening with the uniforms, the cheers and the plays.

With practice, the etiquette will come. The questions will lessen.

Baseball and the role I play within the triangle of Thor, me and the sport he adores will never be as it was. But, the new normal will begin to shift and gradually appear.

The cast in life is set. We have to show up to figure out our new roles in the performance.

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