By Laura Moore
I make excuses to delay it.
I feel self-indulgent when I finally tie my shoes and close the door behind me.
And even when I get past my self-imposed obstacles, even when I hit my stride, insecurity invariably invades my frontal lobe, edging out reason, suggesting instead, that I'm a bad______(fill in the blank).
You have a baby to think about.
You can't run that far any more.
You have a thousand other things to do.
Shouldn't you be working?
The banter persistently bangs against my conscience and it often stifles any effort to relax, recharge, or refill.
Yesterday, however, I decided to run anyway, and something magical happened part way through.
Instead of thinking about my guilt, instead of inventing fictional conversations, instead of focusing on the bobbing brains in the cars speeding past, I let my mind wander: up and down the bending asphalt bike path, up and over the curved edges of leaves. I looked at the empty swings undulating in the breeze, and I listened to the birds squawking above me. I caught flowers peeking from cracks, and I took note of individual trails of sweat skating across smooth surfaces of skin, lodging in small creases where my body was moving against itself.
I felt powerful, productive and alive.
My pace rose and fell with my thoughts. Characters joined me for stretches of road, questions taunted me as I leaned into turns. Thankfulness filled me as I thought about the loves in my life. And the masochistic joy of being human delighted me as I took note of my stubbed big toe pushing against the toe cap and streams of lactic acid lacing through my legs. My brain pounded with my feet, whirling wildly within the freedom it was given: jutting out in inspired tangents, studying the present moment like a movie reel set to slow motion, like a flip book of pictures bustling beneath a thumb.
When I returned to home base, I freed my fingers to blurt inside blank pages, bending and arching, darting and diving. I worked diligently. Beads of sweat dotted my nose, peeked out from the edge of my hairline and rolled down the blades of my back. I captured waves of ideas that arrived like water gushing from a storm cloud. In less time than usual, I fulfilled my writing goal, cracked open a book of research, tended to a few chores, and then made my way over to pick up my little boy.
I cuddled him in my arms, I giggled with him on the floor, I comforted and fed him, loved him and made him smile as we sang songs, rocking back and forth. I didn't spend the entire day with him, but I was present during the time we did spend together, and consequently we both laughed a little bit harder. As we played, I didn't lecture myself about how I should work out. Or why I didn't pick him up sooner. I wasn't thinking about work and I didn't worry about the pile of laundry I needed to take down to the basement. Instead, I let myself be content, aware and engaged, and I felt thankful for what I had and what I was able to do.
I realize I won't be able to go for that run every day. Here and there, insecurities or health challenges might get the best of me. Some days, the weather might not cooperate. And still other days, I might not be fortunate enough to have a flexible mound of responsibilities or a team of people ready to help me. But when I can make it happen--when we all can make it happen--we need to let ourselves go. And we need to abandon our guilt when we do. We need to support one another in our endeavors and we need to celebrate small victories each day.
As counter-productive as it might sometimes seem to turn our eyes from duty and focus instead on our physical, emotional or spiritual wellbeing, if we want to keep all parts of ourselves alive, it is vital for us to carve out space where we can break free and run. For us to embrace whatever it is that makes us feel whole. For us to pause, reach up, pull down the oxygen mask, and breathe so we can be strong enough to take care of everything--and everyone--else.