March 3, 2016
It’s Saturday morning. 9 am. We’re sitting on the floor. I’m washing down a piece of cold pizza, still on the table from last night, with the end of my coffee. I scored the last of the cream. Alida’s nose is a slippery waterfall but it’s been the best night we’ve had in a week or so, with only 3 wake-ups, thanks to that blessed, blasted Nose Frida (which in my midnight stupor, I’d decided was much like reverse egg-blowing). Inexplicably, Jonah slept until 8:30am, and he’s in a great mood. The apartment is mess, but not deeply so. I had the forethought to pick up vacuum bags yesterday (win!). The sky is a bright, beautiful, cloudless blue. All things considered, it’s a good morning. And I have a thought. An unusual thought… one I haven’t had in well over a year. “You know what…” I say to Achim, before trailing off as I immediately change my mind. But then, it’s too late. I’ve let it out.
“I might go for a run this morning.”
I’m mentally back-pedaling hard, but he is quick to encourage me. And after a week with two runny-nosed, feverish, volatile little appendages, the allure of a few fully childless minutes is strong. And the sky is so blue, it looks so quiet out there…
I’ll have to make this happen fast. Like pulling off a bandaid. I get dressed. Wrestle into my oversized Zellers sports bra, the one that I bought after Jonah was born, For Nursing Boobs Only. An old grey York University hoodie from undergrad. My 15 year old Nova Scotia youth triathlon tracksuit, a hand-me-up from my little sister. You know, so I can represent. That’s right, Germany. This is what the older sister of a former teenage track star from a small province in Canada looks like. Huzzah. I even have my running headband. That shit could honestly be 20 years old. Slap a little duct tape on the back of my heels, because I have literally not worn my running shoes in, like, 14 months. Lace up those bitches. I’m starting to feel good. Aw yeah. Eye of a Tiger is playing in my head now.
I make eye contact with a nerd in a headband in the hall mirror on the way out and take it as a welcome reminder to keep my eyes off the passing windows. I’m still happily entertaining a self concept as old as my tracksuit. I used to run quite a bit. I was even kind of fast, in a big fish in a small pond kinda way. There is something a little deflating about bounding along, 80s jamz pumpin’ in your head, reading MLF Tech on the side of a box truck and thinking, MLF… MILF yeah, that’s right, World, this mama is hella fit and flyyy and then catching a glimpse of the slow, stiff figure in the window, shuffling along in her early 2000s tracksuit. I’ll take my deluded mental image, thanks.
But I’m feeling good. The sunshine, the stillness. It’s not that early, but in our sleepy corner there aren’t even many cars out and about… It’s a quiet refuge for my mind, no poor attempts at multitasking tripping me up, just the cool air catching my face, that familiar warmth starting up the middle of my back as I plod rhythmically along. It is relief, concentrated. I want to do this again, I think. I want to do this regularly. I need to, I think. It feels like I am satisfying a desperate craving… like stuffing my face with gas station potato chips after a particularly long and unnerving car trip of tag-team meltdowns. Except a little healthier.
I realize it sounds like I love running. Like I’d be the kinda #fitmama to fill your feed with foot selfies of my dope neon running shoes. Like I would have at least of shred of self motivation to exercise. But I’m not, and I just don’t.
The problem is, I only like running while I am doing it. I mean, exclusively. When I am not literally in the act of running, I despise it. Like, ugh. Barf. I can think of 70 things I’d rather do, at any time. Back in the days of cute 400m boys, track scholarship delusions and generally fragile teenage body image, motivation came cheap. Those days are long gone, and frankly, I don’t miss them. But I do miss the running.
I run to the Rhine. The water level has come down a lot in the past week and the shore is lain with silver ribbons of driftwood. I love that. I make a mental note to take Jonah beach combing. I keep pace with a long blue container ship, neatly stacked with brightly coloured containers, like lego blocks. I relish the skyline across the sparkling water, the long, swooping arches of the bridge, the opera house, those distinctly European twin church steeples rising above all the rest. With the exception of some stealthy, ahem, business, in the thicket (good Girl Guide that I am), this is too nice.
Typically, it’s at this point in my endorphin love fest that I decide, absolutely, that I am going to keep this up. Yep. That’s it. I’m going to start running again. And I start planning. Let’s see, I’ll go on the weekends once, and then one morning I could drive to the Rhine and drop Alida off with my sister in law for 30 minutes while I run, or apparently the new stroller isn’t bad as a running stroller, so there’s that, and Achim can come home earlier once a week so that I could run before dinner… blah blah blah. I chase these starry eyed schemes with brilliant motivational strategies. Accountability systems, self-rewards, activity tracking apps… Surely, I tell myself, this time I will do it. I am manically full of hope.
I’m so tempted to go there again now, on this beautiful blue day. But this time, I grit my teeth and call my own bullshit. Know thyself, Elena.
Systems schmystems. There’s a place for them, of course. But I’ve done it all before. No dice. Fact is, I don’t run, because I don’t feel like running. And nothing contrived is going to make me feel like it. It’s like this. If I want to run, in the deeper, future-oriented, setting a good example, long term health and wellness, internal way that I actually do, I’ve got to just run, already. I’m not going to feel like it. It’s gonna take the big D, folks.
I may have spent half of OT school researching how to circumvent self discipline. But trying to teach a kid to be an effective human being has a curious way of highlighting one’s own crap. My self discipline is a little spotty. Like, polkadot spotty. I want to teach my children to take care of their space, to lead active, healthy lives, but the sad fact is, most of my cleaning happens under pain, before guests visit. Not that I particularly like the mess, but left to my own devices… yeah. And exercise? It’s just not happening.
Usually, if such hardline #noexcuses #fitmama thoughts were to creep into my mind, I would shut that shit down fast and hard. No, no. I would think. If I just had a running buddy/some new running clothes/a race to work towards, then, surely I would WANT to run. But this time, I don’t. This time, to my surprise, I feel a little less scared of the big bad D. As I think about it, I make a connection. I’ve been working on it, in my subtle, gentle way. Self discipline, I mean. The 100 Day Project, the love story, my new drawing-a-day 365 Project… I am seeing the slowly blossoming benefit of just doing it, already. I know, it’s different. I am pretty motivated to draw, making things is kind of my bliss. But still, at least a third of the time, I just don’t feel like doing it. But I do, in the imperfect way that I can. And then I think, you know what… that wasn’t so bad.
So this time, as I round the last bend and briefly consider running right past that wrought iron door, behind which lies my dearly beloved chaos, I don’t make any plans. I don’t promise myself to recall how much I’ve enjoyed this, how relaxed I feel. I don’t make any promises at all. I eschew my inner OT. There will be no motivational schemes or strategies. I won’t even walk in the door and announce to Achim that I am going to start running again (he wouldn’t believe me anyway). No fanfare, I trudge up the stairs quietly.
Later, I look up this meme that Achim stumbled on a few weeks back. Mind the language, but the author makes a point. Motivation is ephemeral, it’s a feeling; a fickle, fleeting beast. Discipline – doing it without the feeling – is hard, but it is reliable.
And actually, it’s not that bad.
Hey Guys. I haven’t written a personal essay like this in a while — hope you like it! So far, I’ve managed to go running again once. I even took the baby. It was inconvenient and I didn’t feel like it at all, but I did it anyway. And it was alright, actually.
Hope you are all well and good. xo