When I used to coach nordic skiing in Maine, I would spend a lot of time with the kids working on transitions: from a flat to an uphill, from the crest of the hill to a downhill, from a tight tuck position on a downhill onto a flat plain. No matter how fast you were going up to the transition point in a race, a poor transition could be costly.
It's been a couple years since I've coached nordic skiing, but the concept of transitions has been on my mind ever since my return to work after my maternity leave. It seems as though I am constantly in a state of transition. The two greatest transitions in my day are in the morning and afternoon, going from mom to working woman, and the reverse. Then there are the other smaller transitions throughout the day, and as a French teacher at a all girls' Catholic school, they are numerous: switching from English to French, engaging in the daily Mass and then back to the hustle and bustle of the school day, going from firm and demanding instructor to the compassionate advisor. And just like many sports, no matter how hard you are working up to the transition point, you could lose all your steam in the transition.
But unlike sports, which often allow time for breaks and recovery, it seems as though being a working mom is all transition with no water break. Not even Gatorade.
A baby's whine at 5:00 is the gun shot that starts my race everyday. Get the babies dressed, give them a bottle, quick shower, grab some breakfast. A poop-through, a big spit-up, and now I need a new shirt. Of course, finding a shirt takes twice as long as it used to, with my oddly shaped post-partum belly. Driving the short way to the day care provider's house gives me a moment to take a deep breath, and dropping off the babies at her house sometimes feels like halftime: it's a snuggle, a kiss, and a minute to watch them get comfortable in their surroundings. Another deep breath. OK. Babies are OK. I'm OK. We're doing OK. And....gotta get to work! Halftime's over, and I jump back in the car to make it to class on time. And since I have a class right at 8:00 almost every day of the week, I run up to my classroom in order to beat the students and try my best to look calm and collected. When first period is over, I find my way back to the office and finally feel (somewhat) sane again. That was just a four hour sprint. And no Gatorade.
Nevertheless, a transition can also be the moment when an athlete passes the competition. Likewise there are transitions in my morning routine that give me a quick refuel. The first transition is probably my favorite part of the day: the few moments when I can cuddle and snuggle with the babies right after I take them out of the crib at 5:00. Another great transition moment is right after I have dropped the babies off, and I can pray a rosary while dodging yellow traffic lights. And finally, I cherish the transition into teacher mode for my 8:00 class, as we always start with a prayer. All of these moments are not only a chance to pause and breathe, but they also remind me why I run this crazy race every day. We are called to love God and to serve others. Period. In the short prayers and quick baby hugs, I also have chance to ask God for more of His grace so that I can continue to carry out my vocations. And on days when I didn't have a chance to put on two darling outfits that match, or days when my explanation of French grammar is less-than-exciting, I am reminded in the transitions that we are not called to be perfect, nor are our imperfections any reason to wallow in self-pity. St. Paul writes to the Hebrews: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart."
The way to make a smooth transition in a ski race is to constantly focus on the next step, to know where and when exactly the skier will change his tempo and body position on the skis to maximize momentum and minimize exertion of energy. Similarly, every transition of my day requires my intent focus on Jesus and the very simple purpose He has for me. "For the sake of joy..."
Thank heavens for God's grace given during all those transitional moments everyday.