Struggling through with joy...
Struggling through with joy...
If I’m lucky, I get one hour. One hour every week just for me. If I’m disciplined and quick enough to leave school without getting caught in the net of emails and straightening up my classroom and jotting just one more thing, I get one hour.
Usually, I don’t get an hour.
Today, I had to stop at the store. Usually I have to stop at the store because I can’t stand the idea of going without bananas or milk until the weekend. Today, it was cold medicine. My mom texted to let me know one, maybe both kids have a cold. I longed to drive straight home, to skip the cold medicine in hopes we had some still lurking in the cupboard somewhere, but we don’t. Colds come often enough around her there usually isn’t much left behind.
By the time I got home I had maybe twenty minutes. Twenty minutes left to myself. Desperation set in. Would it be yoga? Running? Just sitting on the couch with a glass of wine or tea, reading in the quiet by myself?
As I unpacked my lunch dishes I glanced out the window and noted how calm it was. There was the slightest blush just beginning to appear on the clouds. It was the magic hour before the sun set, and I wanted to be out in it.
I tore off my work clothes and pulled on my running tights and a stained Yellowstone sweatshirt. I tied my shoes just right the first time, an unusual occurrence, probably borne of my desperation to get outside.
Cold wind blasted my face as I trotted down the street. I hate running in the wind. I considered turning back and just doing a little yoga until my husband and kids got home. Instead, I kept going, hoping the heaviness in my legs would retreat, surprised by how out of shape I’d gotten in these past weeks of little exercise.
Around the time I got to the park my legs started to loosen. A lone father and son played on the playground. A man stood in the picnic shelter, talking on his cell phone. I jogged past, picking up speed.
At the light I rested for a moment, not even stretching my legs, just staring at the sky, the nightly show that I love so much. Grey and pink and blue streaked across the sky.
I started my sprints then, wanting to maximize the little time I had with intervals of speed.
I don’t know what I look like when I do this. I don’t care. I’ve had the privilege of standing on the side of the road as elite runners race past, and in my mind, I look like that. In reality, I realize I probably still possess the ‘classic lurching gait’ described by a previous physical therapist. It’s probably worse now, twelve years on. That’s ok. I’ll lurch all around the world if it makes me feel like this.
Running intervals is tough but it makes me feel amazing. Strong.
I always feel selfish when I head out for a run or lock myself in the office to do some yoga. There is so much to be done. I should be starting dinner, or folding laundry, or emptying the dishwasher. I should be…
Yet I am so much kinder, so much more patient when I exercise. I struggle with anxiety daily, and exercise keeps it at bay. It’s nice to keep my body in shape, to feel attractive, but it’s even nicer to feel like I’ve got even a little bit of a handle on my mind. It keeps me from screaming at my kids in panic when they’re doing normal kid things, like plunging their hands in mud and then sucking on their fingers a few minutes later.
So I squeeze in a run, which would probably be more accurately described as a slow lurching jog. As I head home the Mesa that guards the eastern edge our valley is darkening against the sky, patches of snow brilliant in the waning light. The endorphins are rolling and I smile. I feel invincible, blessed, grateful for my strong legs and beating heart and this little bit of time to call my own.
When I get home I hear my son and husband in the backyard. I open the back gate and there they are, my son deep in a story of his own making, pacing around the yard and stopping to dig, build, create. My daughter is splayed out on the concrete of our patio, drawing carefully with chalk and describing it in toddler language. My husband stands watching them, still in his work clothes. We kiss hello and he heads into the house.
I squeeze into the playhouse where my daughter has joined my son in his digging project. In between stretches I join them too. I’ve had my time and now it’s time to play, to make dinner, to cuddle and read books together before bed. The peace I feel after a run, even a short one, settles in. It may be selfish, but I need my hour.