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There’s a women’s group bike ride tonight and I should go because I need the exercise and I enjoy the girlfriend time, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to justify spending free time on myself these days.

Maybe it’s because friends have been posting photos of their kids, who I swear were just in 9th grade, in their new dorm rooms. Maybe it’s because Kelly has an appointment to take her driving test. Maybe it’s because my niece just moved to D.C. for graduate school.

Maybe it’s all of this stuff swirling in my head, but lately when I’m at the gym or out for a walk or swimming laps in the precious few hours I have every evening, I think: What the hell am I doing here? This is stupid.

I should be home. With my kids.

I know. I can’t believe these thoughts are in my feminist mind either. For years, I championed the idea that women NEEDED time for themselves to be good mothers. And, I still believe that. I do.

But.

I’ve got two years.

Two years before Kelly goes to college. And, yes, I know she’ll come back (probably with lots of laundry), but it will never be the same again once she leaves.

It feels wrong to squander these last years on myself, especially when I spend the majority of that time trying to maintain a body that is going to get soft, age, and sag no matter how many miles I run or laps I swim or squats I do. It’s a war that can’t be won. And it’s a waste of this precious time I have left.

So what the hell am I doing?

Tonight, I skipped the bike ride. Instead, I took Kelly to voice lessons and then to a presentation at the library about a “pop up” crepe stand because she loves to bake and I want her to see that she can take small steps to follow her dreams.

When we get home the new neighbors’ kid is over. He’s in 6th grade and he’s as personable and talkative as Lauren, who is showing him around the house and telling him about her school, which is soon to be his school. He stays over most of the evening. They jump on the trampoline. They go swimming. They make plans to go down to the creek tomorrow.

I kinda fall in love with this little guy. He reminds me of our neighbor boy, a kid much like this one, who moved away. I miss him. I wish he were here now because he would finally have a boy in the neighborhood to play with.

I’m grateful my girls are kind and welcoming and don’t mind swimming and playing and entertaining a kid five years their junior.  And, I’m thankful that I was here….to meet him, to enjoy this, to experience this beginning.

It was an “unproductive” evening for me. I didn’t bike 18 miles or sweep the kitchen or write a story or go for a walk or even read a chapter of my book, but right now, it doesn’t feel like those things are as important as just being here.

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.