Build | Paper Doll Tales

If you could see us, a group of women battling the pernicious “baby weight” war of life, you’d also see a flock of children swirling around us, perhaps on us, like a firefly convention.  We are lifting weights.  Stretching in lunges.  Hunkering in squats.  Sprinting the sidewalk.  Pushing up planks.  This scene is our weekly mama exercise club.  We are trying to lose.  Lose weight.  Lose pounds.  Lose flab.  Build muscle.

When we meet once a  week, I’m not sure how successful we are in arriving at that build muscle goal. I know my muscles ache for days after, but still.  This word “build” is a tricky verb.  It’s active.  And present tense.  And it should be noted that it is not, certainly not, synonymous with “complete.”

Build leaves all sorts of room for doubt.  In the present tense, building always building, build looks forward to a finished product.  Which also means “build” can flip the coin and leave all sorts of room for hope.  Building takes time, commitment, and a belief that what comes next is “complete.”

If I don’t believe that I might leave this summer exercise club commitment maybe a smidgen lighter and pounds-lifting stronger, why am I squatting in the middle of my friend’s living room twelve times over, barely missing squishing a dog’s head or a toddler’s bum as they swirl around me?  Why build if I don’t believe?

Miss I rented her first 1/8 size violin yesterday.  After spending 23 minutes fiddling with rosin, opening and shutting the case, drawing the horse hair bow across strings, and holding the neck in her white-tipped finger grip, she announced she had already learned her first song.  “Long, Long Ago.”  If only, I think, remembering the many hours of my life I’ve spent in front of folding metal skeletons of music stands.  If only.

Building doesn’t make 23-minute virtuosos.  It takes a lot more time.  A lot more doubt that anything noteworthy will be achieved.  A lot more protestations of quitting and despair and sticktoitiveness.   Building takes hard, hard work cemented on a foundation of hard-won faith.  Should her 23 minutes stretch into 23 hours or 23 months or, dare I hope, 23 years, then she may, in fact, learn a new song.

I hope (but don’t know) that my muscle building attempts will result in something I could call “complete.”  And yet that stubborn little word “build” and the actions that it compels earns my grudging respect: Build.  I’m in building stages of some of the big things in life–building a sister-friendship between my girls.  Building a novel that’s not ashamed to show its fledgling head to a cadre of agents.  Building a career out of motherhood that honors my family and still allows me to thrive as an individual.  All of these endeavors are build on hard work and hope.  All of these endeavors leave me in moments of despair of ever crossing a finish line.  That’s just the way it is with “build.”

So I look around the circle of mamas sending up sweat signals of hope as we attempt to build some muscle.  We may succeed.  We hope we will, and that’s why we do another 10 groaning reps.  We know we might not succeed.  But through our hard work, dedication, and willingness to just show up and hope, I do know we’re building something complete.  A new aspect of a friendship that sees a shared goal and says, yes, let’s build together toward that.  And so we sprint, old running shoes, sweat in our eyes, and toddlers on a piggy back ride, up a hill toward a finish line that’s only going to tell us to turn around and do the run two more times.  Because that’s building, isn’t it?

This post is inspired by and shared with the writers of Five Minute Fridays.


  1. Nancy said:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and wisdom.

    July 8, 2016
  2. Annie Rim said:

    This is beautiful. I love the image of moms together, building healthy habits. But I love more the image of working on something bigger – something I don’t always see but know that it’s important work. Thanks for these thoughts to start my day! (Visiting from FMF)

    July 8, 2016
  3. Thanks for sharing on different facets of building – it’s so true that it takes t.i.m.e to truly build and the waiting is challenging. Blessings! FMF #41

    July 8, 2016
  4. Beth, that sounds like crossfit x 100! You are gonna be one. strong. mama. I love reading your stories. :)

    July 9, 2016
  5. Jo Schoeneck said:

    It’s funny–building requires strength and in turn, building gives strength.

    July 11, 2016

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