The past two weeks have been quite stressful. I believe I’ve mentioned the unexpected move that will be happening next week. It has been a real ride for me. My mood — and my energy level — has been swinging wildly. I’ve been excited then disappointed then hopeful then frustrated. And once it appeared that everything was going to work out, the exhaustion set in. There’s the joke about if you don’t like the weather in [Utah, Hawaii, Ohio, Your-State-Here], wait fifteen minutes and it’ll change. The same could have been said for my state of mind. One of the things I love so much about running is that it generally helps me maintain an even keel when it seems like this entire “young motherhood” thing is pretty much one surprising stressful situation after another.
Last Monday, when the stress level reached its apex, I needed to go running. The painting had just begun, the new lease was not yet signed, and I really, really needed to stretch my legs and burn off some of the negative energy. So I packed up the menchildren, left my siblings with the paint rollers, and started down the street. I’d been out five minutes when I ran into an old friend from school. We chatted for a few minutes before I ran off, thinking how much better I felt already and how this run was awesome and everything was going to be just fine. When we got to the park, I decided to take it easy and not push myself too hard. This might be the only run I get this week, I thought, I better enjoy it. We weren’t too far in when I noticed a lady walking the other way. She saw us, stopped and was looking at the boys. I expected her to say something about how comfortable they looked, how cute they were, or how it looked like I was getting a good work-out. Those are the standard comments that I get when I go out. But as I passed her she said, “Oh, no. You’ll fall and then you know what happens!” Her disapproval was evident. And all of the stress and frustration bubbled right back up to the top. I still had 4 miles left in my run, but it suddenly didn’t seem like enough time to burn off all the negative energy that I needed to if I was going to beat the beast and be a mom for the rest of the week. I kicked it up a notch and ran as fast as I could the rest of the way around the park, replaying the ladies words in my head even as I told myself to forget them. She didn’t know what she was talking about, she has no idea about the safety features of this stroller or anything about running at all, probably.
By the end of the run I did feel more emotionally stable. I felt hope more than fear and the tasks at hand seemed manageable. But I was reminded that it takes more than running and eating well and getting enough sleep and taking the time to sit on the floor and play for me to be a good mom. It takes learning to deal with criticism at a visceral level, facing my own insecurities realistically, taking responsibility for things that I had no idea I could handle, and realizing that some things are just hard and the only way to deal with it is to plow through it, even if what I really want to do is run the other way, as fast as I can.