Autism is not an easy place to live. Some days it is hard to breathe from all the anxiety and fear that live right beside it. It wears you out, tears you down and sometimes leaves you in a puddle on the dining room floor.
Running, like autism, is also not easy. It is actually hard, it takes time to develop and it hurts in the beginning. Some days, it hurts a LOT. The cool thing is (yes, I said the “cool” thing because there is the cool thing about running…wait for it) that running, when applied to an autism filled life, will temper the physical and emotional exhaustion that fills the parents who are immersed in it, 24/7.
I decided I have to start running again. It has been five years since I divorced and five years since I have been a runner ( I also use the term “runner” loosely). It has been five years since I was at what I consider to be a healthy weight for my body type. Let me tell you as well that “running”, to me, is considered many things. I whole heartedly believe in animated walking which is something that resides between walking and running and it is a pace I like a lot right now. A wee bit faster than walking, a little bouncy but not an actual run. It’s a good place to start.
And…so I started.
I did my animated walking for six houses . SIX houses. SIX in a ROW. You may not see the triumph in that but, after five years of taking care of kids and doing very little cardio, six was stellar. It’s a start.
It’s my beginning.
The truth is I was really just happy to conquer my front door. Some days, when I attempt to run, the door is my toughest opponent. It’s easier to roll back over, crawl back in, and stay snuggled in the warm spot. It’s very challenging to choose the cold air, the dark street, the failure that will come after so many years of not exercising..
My front door is a tough opponent.
But, as I stepped into my bathroom to locate the running clothes I’d set out the night before, I could easily see the fluff around my middle, the flags that have begun to wave from beneath my once tiny arms and the padding that has attached itself to my thighs. I won’t even go into how much I love slip-on shoes these days because I can avoid bending at my cushioned middle which is not such a comfortable feeling at all. In light of my body and its current state, I put on the tight black running pants, the jog bra and the sizable shirt to hide the overstated curves that I am not proud of.
I stepped out of my bathroom, found my shoes and straightened my backbone because I am tougher than the door. I have given birth to three children, survived a season on a wildland fire crew, I have cowboyed up and moved all over this country, starting over new each time, and I have taken on autism with all my being… and I can conquer the front door too!
So I opened that door despite the anxiety that was bubbling up and screaming out to me that a smart girl would just crawl back into bed and into a warmer and safer option. And, despite the gremlins in my head that were yelling that I would fail and I was not good enough anymore, I stepped through my front door. When I closed it back, there I was…I was standing on the fresh air side of night. I took a deep breath and I reminded myself that I am a grown woman, I am strong and a silly thing like a an animated walk/run is not going to stop me from getting my health and my body back because my children and their futures are worth every step. I repeated the mantra that was building up in the anxiety bubbles: I do not have to be perfect but I do have to be healthy.
And, I ran. I ran for six houses and then I gasped for air, admitted to myself it was not going to be a quick road back to finding my running legs and I set my ego down on the curb. I began to walk. My old attitude of “if you have to walk you are a quitter” is GONE. I admitted to myself the slow road back to health is my path, moderation is my friend, and I will not pretend this is going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, it going to hurt and it’s going to be worth every step….because being around until my children are old and gray is my goal. The only thing I have to do each day is conquer my front door.
Tomorrow I will shoot for ten houses and if I go twelve without falling over in exhaustion into the neighbor’s yard, I will consider it a great success. And, after my ten or twelve houses tomorrow, during my dark morning hours, I will appreciate the fresh air, the cats milling about and the frogs that frequently hop out from wet gutters. Because, the real hard truth here is, I am healthy enough to take a walk and I live in a place where I do not have to be frightened to go outside of my home. I am not in a war zone, my legs both work so, truly, there are no excuses. The next day after that I hope to be able to run eighteen houses and maybe I’ll even run for seven minutes straight. Who knows? And, even if I can’t, I’m going to walk the rest of the way and appreciate the fact that, even when I am out of shape, I can still walk and breathe and listen to the sounds of the early morning darkness.
I really hope you will take a chance and get out there too. If you can…you should….because life is too short not to:).