I went for a mile jog on Tuesday. Back when I was a single gal, in my early 20s, I took it upon myself to start running. I was newly 21, weak and 'skinny-fat' and recovering from a few years of what might be defined as a 'risky lifestyle' (boyfriend with questionable business associates, depression, and self destruction -- maybe I'll share more about that some other time).
I was trying my best to keep myself together, working several jobs and living in a 1930's garage apartment behind a cat lady quilter. She made some seriously amazing artful quilts, that lady. Like a silhouette of that famous John Travolta Saturday Night Fever arm shooting into the air pose in brightly colored contrasting printed fabrics, or even better -- the one she called "Cleopatra Drinks Tea," which was a scene of cats having a tea party, one of them donning a Cleopatra head piece.
Man, she was weird. Good weird. A weird I adore. The kind of weird that knocks on your door one random afternoon to let you know that due to the way things in the world are going, she'd like to lower your rent by $85.
I tell myself all the time that I'm going to go knocking on her door with my two kids in tow, and I like to think she'll invite me in like she did every time I paid the rent and show us her latest work.
My kids will pull all her conspiracy theory books off the shelves, and she'll offer to loan me one of her arduous 600 pagers that I'll tell myself that I'll read and I'll take it and it'll stay in my van til I drop it in her mailbox one afternoon, hoping she doesn't see me and want to have another visit. Because after all these years of trying, I still have intimacy issues and that's probably why it's been almost seven years since last we spoke.
She really was a gem. A true unicorn in life, and it was living in the upstairs apartment behind her house that I was able to find a piece of myself and grow in ways that I didn't even understand were happening at the time. There were still some wild nights of risk and indulgence and a lot of trial and error in decoding my own beliefs and value systems, and it was scary and hard and so liberating and fun and I will forever be grateful for that episode of my young adulthood. Also, wielding around to the trailhead of this tangent path, it was during that time that I started jogging for my sanity.
While I am naturally somewhat athletic, I am not a great runner by any stretch of the imagination. I ran cross country one year in high school with my friend Christine, who is a great runner and convinced me to go out with her. After the first week, I had shin splints and the romance had worn off.
One Saturday, we woke up extra early and ran several miles on the bike path in Bakersfield, where I grew up. I'm pretty sure I complained a lot and thought I was going to die and was only really interested in the Bagels & Blenders we planned to eat afterward. When it came to racing, I was usually in the bottom- never very last to finish but pretty close. The last race I can recall running was a three mile in Hanford, California. When we arrived to the race, the coaches informed us that the junior varsity team (that I was on, just barely) would run a three-mile race instead of two. The course was on grass, and I remember feeling like my feet were bricks the whole race. Then at the last stretch, I kicked into a sprint to pass several girls to not finish so near the bottom. It was painful and my body was shaking after I crossed the finish line, and as I tried to walk off my racing heart that was pounding in my ears: I pissed my racing shorts.
Anyway, back to cat quilter lady apartment days: I started slow, only running up and down the street til I worked my way around the block and, after a few weeks, found my way all around the south end of town. Eventually, I worked my way up to trail running some, but mostly stuck to a little course that I created for myself that took me down a cut through road next to a beautiful open field on Morningside Drive, just minutes away from downtown.
Again, I never became an amazing runner: I have some knee issues and back then I smoked cigarettes, and was a moderate boozer for pete's sake, but I did it ... and often and loved the challenge and building strength and feeling like a badass. And it became a way for me to work through some of my (pardon my french) "shit."
As my knees began to hate me, the impact becoming too much, I started to bike a little more. And when I became pregnant with Loukas, my running stopped for good. I had suffered a miscarriage with my first pregnancy and was terrified of experiencing that same loss, and I've just have never gotten back to it.
On Monday night, I took a drive out to the late collection USPS post just south of town to send out my first two Instagram shop sales and found myself cutting through that old stomping ground, Morningside Drive. The field that it runs along remains undeveloped, the evening sky boasted a beautiful cloud plume beyond a stretch of green pasture which met with the horizon, which made the little scene seem rural.
I've been finding myself taking the long way when I drive lately, taking in the views of this area that I once used to regularly appreciate on foot or on bike or just taking my time in my car.
It seems in these past four years since becoming a mother, I've found myself in a bit of a bubble -- avoiding the scenic route for a more direct path -- but in retracing some of these roads of past, I'm connecting with a Me of before, one who loves to take the long way. And in viewing some of these parts of town, some that have change, some that remain the same, I'm recognizing changes that have occurred within myself, and I'm happy to take the time to wander and reflect on how recent four years ago feels and how different I feel I've become but wanting to celebrate the ways in which I am the same me that I was before becoming a Mother.
The fast pace of two kids under 4, one of them constantly teething and breast feeding, the other constantly wanting me to watch his every little move makes my head spin a little. There's so much information and so many philosophies about how to parent, at any given moment it seems like making decisions about how to field another "wook at me, wook at me" moment or demand for another sweet treat or coping with your baby not sleeping without your nipple in his mouth turns into this reel that repeats in my head, trying to assimilate all the information and sentiments that my hard drive has stored.
Not wanting to squash their little spirits and wanting to do right by all the mothers in the world who have lost a child or all the women out there who are desperately wanting to experience what it is like to be so viscerally annoyed by every peep your child makes, mixed with the guilt of feeling like just being a Mom at home all day everyday is not enough, can make a girl's brain and being feel at odds.
Motherhood is an unparalleled gift, and is so unique for each of us; to allow ourselves to be guided by fear of making the wrong move or by what we may regret if things turn to heartbreak, is a disservice to our innate ability to know what is right. In other words, don't fight your feelings.
Anxiety and depression have been creeping up on me, my mind is overloaded and overwhelmed a lot of the time, I am finding household chores to be mundane and am mentally and physically exhausted a lot of the time. I know that these cycles in our lives happen from time to time.
I don't expect that I should be bursting with Joy every single second of my life, and don't get me wrong -- we have some pretty damn joyful moments around here.
But, after a few weeks of finding myself under a cloud of edginess and fatigue, ups and downs, finding myself already "over" the day at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, not wanting to deal with another long hot day of kids whining and not listening and not eating after rapid fire demands for food (several times a day) I made a dash for what are the only shoes in my closet that even come close to a running shoe -- a pair of Merrell solo hikers -- and took to the streets.
Overall, I'd say that I am not concerned with providing my children a utopic rearing, they are not here to be my projects and they are not going to be my greatest accomplishments because they are people, this I am beginning to identify- and it is quite a relief actually to realize the I am not the center of their universe and they don't have to be mine. They have saved my life in so many ways and I am grateful to be their mother and Of Course I think they are wonderful miraculous people, but they are not my projects -- that would be too much pressure on them.
I can't have them feel that my happiness is dependent upon them or my role as their Mom. I am committed to following my instincts and not surrendering my values, but at the same time I find myself in a transitional phase as my roots as a mother are growing deeper where I am finding that sometimes, I need to strap on whatever might pass as suitable footwear and run, as fast as I can, in the other direction. Literally.
My jog on Tuesday was awesome. Okay, the awesomeness came in waves -- there were some 'this sucks' parts for sure, but overall I truly enjoyed myself. The July sun beating down on my body, the sky a clear, royal blue above -- I felt so strong and empowered in my stride that instead of turning North to head home as I freely legged it toward a steep hill, I kept going -- one foot in front of the other -- and as I ascended, I picked up my pace -- one foot in front of the other -- thinking that this body of mine is powerful, and pushed myself to pump it hard up the hill. At the top, things felt less awesome as my breath and heart raced to keep up with the work my body had just done. My ears pounded and I kept calm as I worked to catch my breath, slowing down to recover- thankfully, not pissing my running shorts.
I may eventually even work my way up to jogging on over to the Cat Quilter’s place, and get a glimpse at Cleopatra Drinking her Tea.
What do you do to find the "you" you were before kids?