Sunday, July 20, 2014

That Magic Hour

There used to be this one chic I liked.  She wasn't a high-powered exec or a pampered celebrity.  She was an overall nice person who could hold her own in most situations.  She wasn't arrogant by any means, but she could recognize her strengths and weaknesses with healthy consideration.  She knew how to accentuate her best assets with confidence.  She kept a firm balance between work and play and never lost sight that they were equally important.  She was probably someone you would have enjoyed knowing.  I can say all this without hesitation because this chic was me.  I used to be someone that always put herself first and allowed everything else to fall into place behind me.  You think that is wrong?  You think that being this selfish is a bad thing?  I would argue against you.

Back when I was single, all my daily decisions revolved around my needs and desires.  I was mentally, physically and spiritually doing okay.  When I got married, my goals included learning to compromise with a new life partner.  When I became a mom, my very existence revolved around protecting and nurturing my two sons.  It has been years since these men first came into my life and along the way I stopped looking after myself and made them my biggest priority.  We are conditioned, not just as mothers but also as fathers, to put our families first in everything.  Of course your family should be your major focus, but in my opinion, they should be your second priority.  YOU should be your first.   When you make taking care of yourself the first priority, you are stronger for the people you love the most when they need you most.  How can you expect to support your kids and spouse if you are always broken down, tired and dragging yourself around?  How can you encourage them to work towards their goals if you put your's on hold?

I took so much of this for granted until my second son was born.  As overweight and tired as I was after the C-section of this nearly 10-pound bundle, I forced myself to get back to running.  My belly was jiggling and my boobs were swollen and sore in my too tight jog bra.  My hips felt totally out of alignment with the rest of my body.  I looked comical trying to do my shuffle-run-walk around the block in my neighborhood those first few weeks.  My motivation to get out the door had very little to do with regaining my pre-pregnancy figure.  Instead, it was my one and only time of the day when I could get back to being myself.  Whether the run took 50, 30, or even as little as 15 minutes, it was time I relished because there were no demands or expectations placed upon me.  I wasn't anyone's mommy or wife.  I could literally run away from all of that temporarily.  I could be alone with my thoughts and the quiet slip-slap of my soles hitting the pavement.  Whenever I returned home to my two little boys, my head was clear, my thoughts were cleansed and my spirit was refreshed.  I could be a good mother and partner that day.

After the mild postpartum depression I felt after the birth of my oldest son, I believe my husband recognized these daily runs as something far more therapeutic than he originally assumed.  The hour (or sometimes just minutes) I spent out running reintroduced me to that chic I used to be.  My daily run was a type of nourishment I didn't realize I needed until I missed it.  It was like a magic hour that pulled everything together for me, no matter how badly everything had fallen apart.  My running time reminded me of the "me" I used to be when my needs came first.  At first, I suffered a little because I thought the acceptable mommy model was to be a self-sacrificing martyr that we all imagined our own mothers once were.  Admittedly, I have been guilty of this same self-destructive behavior lately.

This time around, work demands and an overloaded schedule are to blame for my priorities being thrown off kilter.  It hasn't taken me long to see what changes I needed to make to regain some balance.  My boys are a little older now with their own social calendars and don't need me or my husband playing helicopter parents, hovering over them anymore.  From all outward signs, they seem to be doing okay thankfully and barely notice our absence when we return from a quickie workout.  I've noticed my daily schedule flows easier when I set aside that one magic hour of the day for myself.  That hour can be used for a run, a massage, reading a book or whatever brings me back down to earth when other pressures try to pull me away.  My own mother, well into her sixties now, is experiencing a similar rejuvenation.  She recently started a daily walking routine after quitting smoking and surprisingly found herself enjoying it.  She also joined a gym and who knows what will come next in her evolution.  I guess mothers of ages in various stages can find themselves in need of this same medicine.  I will take my medicine eagerly from now on.  Its healing power is more far reaching than I'll ever try to question again.