The Self-Care of a RunStreak

runstreak 17

This morning, I ran 2.10 miles in softly falling snow. I layered up, put on my YakTrax, and headed out into the blissful quiet and cold. I don’t run with music when it’s snowing. The silence is music enough to my ears.

I’ve been waiting for a day like this for 38 days now.

#rwrunstreak Day 38

I signed up for the Runner’s World RunStreak despite my life imploding in all sorts of areas. Committing to at least one mile every single day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day felt a little risky. With the schedule I’m keeping, showering every day can feel like too much some days. I figured that if I was running, I’d shower more. Two birds, one stone, all that jazz.

I’m running much slower than during my last winter runstreak in 2014. I’ve been struggling to run in general since I couldn’t run the Columbus Marathon due to a family event that took place the same day. The whole “I’m much slower than I used to be” is getting to me. I’m getting to myself. I’m trying to practice self-grace and patience, but my Type-A steps in sometimes.

Frequently, really.

So each and every day since Thanksgiving, I have laced up my shoes and hit the pavement. I believe I ran two treadmill runs, but I greatly prefer running outdoors. So I did.

#rwrunstreak 2017

Today’s run was not faster than yesterday’s run. Two inches of new snow and the anti-slippies on my feet meant picking them up and putting them down felt harder than normal. Still, I ran. I ran out the country road, knowing I’d have to come back up the hill. With conditions being what they were, I gave myself permission to walk up the hill—but I ran an extra tenth of a mile so I could have a fully run two-mile distance. A little bit of grace, a little bit of kicking my own ass.

Two days remain in this streak. I plan on running the minimum tomorrow as training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon starts on Monday, January 1 and I’ll have to put in three miles no matter the temperatures, weather, or likely present hangovers. I’ll finish the streak. I’ll rest on Tuesday, though rest is relative as the 2nd also starts a 30-day yoga program I decided to throw into the mix. I like challenges, what can I say?

After my run, I sat in the hot tub with a mimosa, the snow still falling. With everything going on, these quiet moments keep me grounded—both the running in the snow and the hot tubbing in the snow. I need these moments to breathe, to think, to meditate.

I have not yet started sharing the experience of caregiving for my husband’s grandmother, this slow process of losing her while maneuvering a system we struggle to understand with very little help. You know, while parenting two tweens, managing a marriage and household, and generally trying to function as a human being. I’ve been a horrible friend since all of this began as I’m torn in every which direction.

I’ll be ending 2017 engaging in self-care followed by some time with friends. I’ll begin 2018 by continuing the never-ending process of self-care surrounded by my family. I can’t control anything else in my life right now; it’s a series of unknowns that affect every aspect of our lives. I can, however, move my body, run and train, and sit in a hot tub with my head back, catching snowflakes on my tongue.

His Heart Carried Our Hearts

His Heart Became Our Hearts

At 2:37 in the morning on Christmas Day, the youngest busted into my bedroom and scared me awake.

“What are you doing?”
“I woke up!”
“What time is it?”
“It’s 2:37!”
“But what are you doing?”
“I need to use the bathroom and you told us we have to use your bathroom instead of the hallway bathroom so we don’t look in the living room!”
“Oh. Okay. Go on.”

I put my head back down on my pillow. I had only been asleep for about an hour. I stayed up late to pull off the normal Christmas magic, wanting to make sure not-so-little boys were really asleep before taking to the task at hand. I rolled into bed sometime after one o’clock and was still awake after 1:30.

Let’s face it: I get excited on Christmas Eve, too. I get excited for their excitement. It’s one of my greatest joys.

I waited in the dark and drifted slightly before LittleBrother came back to my side of the bed.

“Can I trust you to go back to your room?”
“Yes. I love you.”

He bent down and kissed my forehead.

And then that child whispered, “Santa opened the door to the basement,” wonder and awe thick on his voice.

My eyes snapped open. His eyes shone in the dark.

“Well, don’t you peek. Now go get your sleep so we can wake up and have Christmas!”

I heard his feet run down the hall, followed by the shutting of his door. In the dark, my heart grew eighty sizes.

He was all in on Santa all season long. All. In. He spoke of him with reverent wonder, wide eyes, and a joy I wish I could bottle for darker days yet to come. Honestly, the pure belief that kid has in Santa helped smooth the edges of a really rough season.

As adults, we don’t believe in much the way our youngest son believes in Santa—with all of his being. We worry. We doubt. We try to reason it all away or into being. We talk ourselves in circles. And yes, as we age we require those critical thinking skills that allow us to make informed decisions about the world around us.

But there’s something to be said for magic.

Our Christmas Day was busy and beautiful. We spent the day with family and ate entirely too much food. Our hearts were heavy for various reasons, but we did the best we could to enjoy the day.

We cleaned up some messes after we got home and set up some Christmas presents. After LittleBrother opened one box, he noticed it had some dings. This particular present was delivered by Santa.

“I bet it got beat up on the ride here,” he told his daddy.

His belief was our joy this year. It was a hard year, for so many reasons. I am living through and with loss. My husband and I are working hard to care for his grandparents. The world is literally and figuratively on fire.

But one little boy—our little boy—believes with all of his heart. His joy became our joy; his heart carried our hearts.

His Heart Carried Our Hearts

A Broken Birthday

It’s my daughter’s birthday.

On her first birthday, I pushed down all of the emotions I felt as I attended her birthday party. Most of the people didn’t know who I was. Those who did, thanked me and told me how grateful they were for my sacrifice. It felt awful and weird and nothing the adoption facilitator, not anything I had read online prepared me for watching my daughter’s parents pose for picture after picture with her while no one asked me to smile with her.

Still, I felt grateful. Not many birth parents get to attend their child’s first birthday. I knew I was lucky, even if it felt weird.

Every birthday since then, I’ve either been able to speak with my daughter or be in attendance. I’ve either told her, “Happy birthday, I love you,” on the phone or in person. It’s always been me, doing this thing. It was part of the promise I made to her as I held her on that first evening, back when she was still mine and mine alone. I promised I’d always be there.

I didn’t wish her a happy birthday today.

Or, I did.

When the clock rolled over to midnight, still awake and feeling an overwhelming mix of emotions, I sent a birthday wish out into the universe. This afternoon, I sent her mom a text asking her to send along my birthday wishes—if she felt that wouldn’t make my daughter’s day worse. My daughter’s mother did and reported back.

But I didn’t speak to my daughter.

I didn’t get to tell my daughter that I love her. No matter what. Always. Forever. I didn’t get to tell her that I understand certain aspects of her life. I was once a teenage girl. I didn’t get to apologize for not knowing, way back when, how my decision would negatively affect her, her brothers, me, all of us.

I didn’t get to tell her that she’ll always have a piece of my heart.

She doesn’t want to speak to me right now, doesn’t want me in her life.

They don’t tell you about that when you’re considering placement. They don’t tell you that someday your child may want nothing to do with you even though you’ve been there, every single day, since day one. They don’t tell you that the first birthday after your child decides you’re expendable feels worse than death.

My heart is broken. It’s just broken. I physically hurt.

I can’t even write anything more eloquent than that tonight. I’m broken.

14 years ago I gave birth to a baby girl. They told me I could be a part of her life. I was. Until I wasn’t allowed to be anymore.

Happy birthday, my daughter. I love you. Always. I will be here when you are ready. Until then…