Last night Micah asked me if I wanted to go running together in the morning. I probably would have laughed if I hadn’t been crying so hard. I’d been with the boys all day. They’d been good, and I’d had a good day. But I’d wound myself so tight trying to maintain that “good day” vibe that I could hardly breathe. And the thought of taking them running in the morning, and then having to get them ready to catch the bus at 9:30 was uninviting, to say the least. So although it was 1:00 before we went to sleep, I hopped out of bed at 6:30 this morning and was on the road 25 minutes later. I left Micah cuddling the boys on the couch and I left my iPod at home. There was no one else I needed to be in tune with — just my overloaded mind and tired heart.

I took the normal route, the one I take nearly every time I run. My feet and legs knew exactly where to go and what to do, so I let them do it while I channeled my energy into untangling my thoughts and emotions. I held onto the strings of goodness, let the bad ones fall to the wayside, and  straightened out the snarls of confusion and fatigue. Each mile the knots loosened and my thoughts were free to focus on the happy moments from the previous day and file them in their proper place. The boys and I had walked home from school. It’s a long walk, but doesn’t take much more time than catching the bus. The beautiful fall leaves were beckoning, and there was no reason to rush home. Manchild laughed at the “stripey” tree with green and yellow leaves and the trees that had no leaves at all. Squish reached his hands up in the air and babbled his joyful jabber. I soaked it in and tried not to think of the things that I still needed to do before I went to sleep. It would be a good day. I would enjoy it, enjoy the boys, be a good mom, live in the moment.

Then, when 10:00 rolled around and the boys were still awake and Micah was still not home and my tasks were still undone, the tables turned abruptly. My hands were tied; I couldn’t turn them back. The walk home had been a waste of time. The boys, whose laughter and prattle had been music to my ears, were suddenly noisy and annoying. My resolve to rock Squish to sleep evaporated. I put him in his crib and closed the door without remorse (he cried for a minute, then fell asleep). And, with those boundaries broken, my tired eyes let down their burden, too.

This morning as I ran, I tried to figure out what went wrong. At least I did at first. I replayed the day in slow motion, wondered where I might have messed up, followed the strings to the knot. I hoped to untangle it slowly and methodically. But the exhilaration of running, the blue sky getting bluer overhead, the golden leaves and shining rain puddles under my feet unwound the stresses and undid the damage for me. By mile 4 the strings were loosened. By mile 5 I was completely untethered. By mile 6 the knots were just a bad dream.

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