I am not a runner. Don’t like it, never have. Unless you count fifth grade during which I ran an actual 5-mile race, or that one time, Sophmore year in college, that I was so angry at some guy, I actually ran. Probably a whole half mile before I slumped back to my dorm room, defeated and physically drained, and wrote a ranty essay for my English Class. It was called “Why I Hate Men or The Time Liz Ran.”
(Yes I know. How very 19 year-old of me.)
In case you’re wondering, the essay got an A. My running got an F.
Last week, Cool Mom Pick ran a post for mothers who run in the new Cool Mom Fit series, which is obviously inspired by my partner Kristen, and not me. The comments on the post answer the question, “why do you run or why do you want to?” and I read each one with a combination of awe, guilt, a little resentment, and quite a bit of enlightenment.
Besides the obvious answers about health, I was struck by the following:
To deal with the everyday chaos. It’s time to myself.
I exercise so that my daughters know it’s okay to make your health a priority.
To spend a bit of time completely alone
Running provides me with energy, motivation to be a better person.
I run for me! Running gives me balance and provides a very necessary outlet for stress reduction.
…because it makes my spirit stronger.
To preserve that little bit of sanity my family has left me.
That’s just…wow. Amazing to me, if obvious to some of you.
And then I realized through the wisdom of these women, that ugh, here is something at which I am failing miserably once again.
I know so many working mothers whose husbands feel like “they come last.” They’re wrong. I think that often we do.
In some ways it’s the trap of women who do so much: we just do not make ourselves, our health, a priority. I’m pretty good with getting pedicures or squeezing in an hour after 11PM to make my way through the Hatfields and McCoys (ZOMG – must watch!). But when it comes to the commitment of physical health–and its ensuing effects on mental health– I stumble.
Which is why, if I’m to be honest, when I read about the joys and utter fabulosity of taking time for yourself, I feel that resentment. I justify. I wonder what’s going to give? Because it’s definitely something.
I can seek out a yoga class at 5 AM before everyone is up, which means, well, starting at 5AM. I can try to squeeze in a Jillian Michaels video after work, while the kids run around making messes and beg for dinner.
Truly I’ve at a loss. And suffering from a major case of inertia, which doesn’t help matters.
So I was really inspired by this beautiful, honest essay about self-care for mothers, written this week by one of my favorite, most thoughtful, amazing friends in the world, Asha Dornfest. If you don’t know her, you will feel copious levels of joy in your life for having discovered her common sense thinking about parenting and life in general. (Also why her site Parenthacks is so successful.)
I loved reading from Asha there is more complexity to taking care of our bodies and minds than a simple, “well, just get up an do it!” I don’t do well with commands from perky authority figures with tight abs. I also don’t respond well to advice like, Don’t worry! That important project can wait! – because no, that important project can’t always wait. Maybe in your life, but not in mine.
Then I think, wow, I sure feel defensive about people trying to help me.
But never with Asha’s Accidental Expert column. Instead of reading about all the women who are already doing great things for their bodies and minds (i.e. more guilt on my part), it was about the tiny steps to get you started back on a path to balance.
Tip one from her post:
Choose a single, small thing that, if you did it consistently, would make you feel better. You get to define “feel better.” For me, it was taking a shower (like I said, small). If I could get up 15 minutes earlier each morning, and then spend it cleaning myself up (instead of cleaning the house or mindlessly Web surfing), I would hold my head a little higher all day.
My inclination has always been more toward intellectual stimulation and brain games. If I have a free hour I automatically grab a crossword puzzle or a copy of Vanity Fair, not even thinking that those dusty running shoes in my closet are viable alternatives. Even if it does mean a few more minutes trying to find a ponytail holder in the mess somewhere.
It’s made me realize that if I can figure out how to move my ass (and thighs and pathetic excuse for triceps) maybe I’m not giving something up–maybe I’m gaining something. That’s a big mindshift for me.
So I’m trying to establish the physical thing I can do consistently. Because something is telling me that I desperately need it–the physical benefits, the spiritual benefits, and the essential clearing of my head. I can only convince myself for so long that playing Word Welder on my commute for 20 minutes each morning counts as “me time.”
I’m thinking those Shred tapes will be a good place to start. And this time, maybe I’ll stick with it for more than a month.
But as Asha reminded me–one day at a time. Because sometimes I will fail.
And then, as she counseled, “you will restart.”
I can only hope.
Is there something you would do with your time if you had just 15 minutes? Something purely for you? What small addition to your schedule would make you happy? Or if you already do it, what is it? And how do you fit it in?
Help a mama out.