I was out for a run the other day, and as my phone alerted me that I had hit one mile, my feet slammed to a halt. I’ve been making this same loop for a few weeks now, and I’m not finding it any easier.
One morning, as I was running through my neighborhood and around the junior high school, I laughed. There were a bunch of students outside on the lawn, at what I assume was their designated gym hour, and it made me think. What if my kids were out there (they’re four and 19 months, so I’m still a ways out), but I could picture it now.
I imagined one of the kids saying to my son, “Is that your mom?” They would point to the sidewalk as I ran, crawled, lunged myself forward one step at a time, panting as my feet dragged down behind me.
“Don’t know her!” my son would say, laughing.
I know this is extreme, and I hope to the running gods that be that by the time my kids hit junior high I’m not on this same god-forsaken 1-mile loop…but it did make me think a lot. As moms, we put ourselves through so much: our bodies, our minds, our souls. We’re always taking one for the team.
I’d even argue, we don’t so much dislike that role, but it’s one we get very little credit for across the board.
We start over a lot.
And those start-overs can often be lonely.
Before I had kids, I was an avid runner. I loved running. I had spent my entire life running to clear my mind, or on the soccer field, or to burn some energy. For so many years, it felt effortless.
Had a hard day? I’d lace up my shoes and hit the road.
Had a long night out with friends? I’d sweat it out down the trail.
It was effortless because I had put in the time for decades. It was part of my daily routine. And here I am now, in my late 30s, starting over. Time plays these funny tricks on you – making you feel like it was just yesterday, but in reality, five years have gone by since I had my son, and it’s been a struggle ever since.
Starting over is hard.
It’s hard to reconcile what was with what is.
It’s hard to admit I just haven’t come as far as I was hoping by now.
It’s hard to look at your body, two kids later, and realize that it just functions a little differently these days.
It’s hard to feel my knees grind beneath me and not feel slightly damaged.
It’s hard to hit the 1-mile mark for the fourth day in a row and wonder why is this so difficult still?
On my latest run, post-1-mile, I stopped and started walking the rest of the way home. I felt anxious still, a feeling usually squashed by exercise in years prior, and I began asking myself: what could I be doing differently?
I need to drink more water.
I’ve had a lot of pizza lately.
Should I lift weights more?
All of these different options raced through my mind as I rounded out my 2-mile loop. When I walked in the door, feeling defeated, my husband asked, “How’d it go?”
“It was brutal,” I said. “But at least I did it.”
At least I did it. I said it at that moment to diminish my feelings of failure. You know how it goes. That self-deprecating stance of – hey, I did it, it wasn’t great, but I’m calling it out here first.
But, I did do it. I followed through. I put in the time.
I’ve been doing it. I’ve been starting over each day, and even when I don’t see the results I want, I stick with it.
As moms, we’re so hard on ourselves. Society is hard on us. But each day, we get up, and we keep going. We push through long nights when our kids are not feeling well. We hop online after everyone is asleep to finish work. We wrestle between the old and new aspects of our lives, usually silently.
We keep our families moving forward.
So what if I can only run a mile today. I still ran one mile. And if I can teach my kids anything, it’s that you will inevitably have many new starts, and it will come with some discomfort, and that’s okay, so long as you always get up and keep going, even when it’s hard.
Especially when it’s hard.
I’m starting to slowly let go of what I used to be able to do and focus more on what I can do at this moment. If the thief of joy is comparison, it’s best to start with not comparing myself to the former me.
So here I am starting over again. One more mile today. A new goal that meets me where I am, not where I was. A change in mindset to stop the heartache.
And if you’re driving by and you see a mom inching her way around the junior high school – honk your horn and let me know where the next happy hour is – I’ll need it.