I spent weeks preparing for Madeleine’s fourth birthday party this Sunday. But Saturday morning came and Madeleine awoke firing a string of big, bubbly-snot sneezes in quick succession. I had hoped that it was just dust allergies. But after a visit to the YMCA pool with her sister, Pauline, who had come in from Texas to celebrate, she was still snorty and congested. Between people with kids and older folks, I knew that this was going to knock out a bunch of guests once I gave them the heads up, but we still went forward with the party. Madeleine had a great time despite the smaller numbers but I have to say that I felt a little deflated.

This isn’t the first time that big plans have gone under because one (or all) of us become sick at the eleventh hour. This isn’t even the first birthday party of Madeleine’s to be compromised (the last time was due to a storm). It still smarts, though, after all the planning and as this is my fourth go round, I feel like I’m paying for my inability to think more flexibly around celebrating her birthday when a) there’s no chance of snowstorms and b) we are not constantly falling prey to germs. I thought about this as I practiced yoga yesterday and, as it is with all good practices, a realization came to me. Actually, a person came to mind.

Many years ago, I used to rollerblade on the Minuteman Trail in Arlington with my best college bud, Melissa. The Minuteman Trail runs from Cambridge to Bedford but we usually enjoyed the stretch between Arlington Center and Lexington Center together. Our rollerblading styles pretty much fit our personalities. I would pretend to be Gold Medal Olympic Speed Skater, Eric Heiden, pumping my limbs from side-to-side in what I perceived to be powerful strokes (at least as powerful as you can be when you’re embalmed in a helmet, wristguards, and knee pads). I was a lightning bolt, a goddess, and a hazard to passing cyclists and chipmunks alike. Basically, I was kind of a spaz.

Melissa was more leisurely and elegant. Her movements were measured and controlled, supported by the steady clack of her blades. I used to trash talk about how she didn’t move particularly fast. But, once she got started, her pace was consistent. She rarely stopped and probably earned the forever lasting gratitude of all the cyclists and chipmunks I had recently endangered. She would also reach Lexington Center first…every time. Because, while I would engage in my delusional sprints, I would also tire out quickly, requiring the need to roll to the nearest rock/bridge/railing to stop and drop (this was my braking technique). By the time I was ready to start thrashing again, she was always way ahead of me.

Back on my mat, I realize that I need to practice this slow burn that my friend had already perfected. I put a lot of weight on certain occasions, forgetting that I don’t do too badly on all those other days that fall in between. Does my mind yearn to create the kind of birthday magic that I’ve witnessed at other wonderful gatherings? Sure do. But, I also have to remember that, right now, Madeleine has zero expectations beyond chocolate cake and presents and she received both of those things in spades this weekend (the Marble Run from her sister was a big winner). If I’m going to mentally survive motherhood, I’ve gotta keep my mind from sprinting and flailing. It was always harder to brake when my legs were shaking with fatigue.

One thing I forgot to mention is that even though Melissa would beat me to Lexington Center, she still had enough energy to keep going. It was always me who was too pooped to keep scrabbling along. I always think of this when I’m struggling and remind myself that while I may have perceived myself as getting more of a workout, back then, she had always managed to find health and healing in the sunshine as she steadily rolled along.