finding my stride

each night that i ready myself to run, i engage in a certain set of behaviours, developed in response to my three year old son’s comfort needs.

my biggest boy is an interesting blend of personality and rigidity. this child, who on a good day is bright, curious, engaged, thoughtful, caring, intuitive, perceptive, creative, and independent, can be particular, anxious, hyper monitoring, sensitive, touchy, rigid, demanding, and unreasonable on a bad day. on everyday, it would seem, he is vulnerable to intense experiences of emotional distress if there are changes in routine without notice or preparation.

generally speaking, we are on to him and his ways and we do our best to protect him from unnecessary discomfort, whilst also trying to expose him to spontaneous living so to encourage confidence in the face of the unexpected, as life, of course, can not all be premeditated to suit his preference. he has skills in his favour and uses language to process, he is fortunate to have an affinity for this, which helps. he also has many rituals. rituals that appear, sometimes, without me having realized that they were being designed.

it was sometime a few weeks ago that i recognized the words he was using were familiar, and realized that he had said them to me the last two runs prior. it was then apparent that he had also established a routine of doing certain things prior to and as i left the house.

over all, he has adapted well to me leaving for evening runs. i’ve been quite impressed, in fact, considering i depart prior to his bed time, so he is very much aware of my leaving and the tradition of my putting him to bed disrupted. though his father is involved in all aspects of his care and has put him to bed regularly, i still am often the one to bathe him, read to him, sing to him, and cuddle him before he puts himself to sleep. a love habit, i guess, that carried on past the year where i breastfed him before sleepy time and, for that reason, was the only parent who could do the bed time routine.

this said, the ceremony has revealed itself and, if rushed, he unravels. it looks the same each time: his father bathes him as i put his baby brother down. i dress for the exercise and the cool night air in the room adjacent to his tub. whilst doing so, i explain that i am getting ready to go for a run, as it is important for me to take care of my body.

“okay, momma” he grants from the other room, unconvincingly.

he pauses usually, stuck in his head a bit, and then begins again, seemingly having processed and reconciled that this is the plan.

“you’ll come back” he says for his own benefit, as i have no doubt that i will. “of course, son”, i affirm. “mom always comes back to you”.

“hug and a kiss?” he asks, as if he would ever let me get out the door without this. i happily oblige and good night and sweet dream wishes are said.

“i want to wave good-bye to you from the window” he states, becoming fearful that i will leave without him being able to track it. he explains to his father that he is all done in the tub, panic in his voice as he jumps up and out, covered in bubbles.

i explain that i will wait for him and that by the time i have my shoes on and am at the car, he will be ready at his window, as well. i do as i said i would and gather my running watch, coat, hat, and reflective gear, put on my shoes, make my way to the back of the house, and stand, beside the car, looking up to him in the third floor window.

there he is, alternating between waving frantically, making heart shapes with his hands, and blowing kisses. i do the same. i then get in my car, turn to face the road, roll down the window, and wave theatrically up at him. he relaxes- his shoulders and chest show me as much as they find a more natural posture.

i’m okay with the system. his behaviour, although inconvenient at times doesn’t faze me much. you see, i also have some peculiar habits and it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to claim that some of them are rather bizarre or even compulsive in nature.

the point is, we all have ceremony. and, as small and as insignificant as the behaviour may manifest, the ways in which we occupy our time have meaning beyond what the unknowing, and uninformed public, may be able to see.

this is what running has become for me in the last nine weeks that i’ve been taking my legs out to dance. it sounds neutral an activity enough, but it is far from the simple and basic act of exercise that a passerby may interpret.

as i have found my stride whilst running, i’ve also been finding my way as a mother of two. i have made friends with who i am now, as well as how i am living at present. joy is increasing. perhaps, it could be said, because of running. running has helped me make sense of it all, shake out the crazy, regulate the anxiety, and it has given me purpose, structure and form to my evenings, which otherwise might be vacant and hollow for the social isolation and fatigue. running has become my standby, my go to, the feedback that i need, alone often with only my children for company. running helps me get my feet on the ground, literally and figuratively, and has become what helps assure me that i have influence, that i can contribute to the outcome, and that the world can be predictable. i need this just as my son requires being reminded of the same.

it is an activity that has become increasingly sacred to me. not just because of the religious way in which i repeat the act, but also the priority i’ve given it in time, space, head and heart. as my son’s physique relaxes when he has his neurosis validated and accommodated, my form also feels freed and at peace once a run has been completed: i feel respected, i feel heard.

with gratitude, hh.

* originally posted @ rerunmom.com.

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