Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When Good Things Turn You Into A Monster

I'm lying here on the couch, with an ice pad placed precariously over the curvature of my knee and another ice pad resting on my hip socket. Every step procures a grimace as pain shoots from my inflamed left hip flexor to my inflamed left knee to the week-old knot rooted firmly in my left calf. And this doesn't even cover the sharp stinging of my right knee cap where last week's injury has scabbed over.

I'm a total wreck. And yet, I'm happy about it. I needed this. I went too far. This is more than a reminder, it's a lesson I needed to relearn.

Two weeks ago I was running about five miles a day, five days a week. I had slowly worked my way up to five miles from zero miles. At first, three miles was hard. But after I conquered that number, I added one more mile, then another. I had no intention of going anywhere from there. My goal was just to stay active during pregnancy. And five consecutive miles was really challenging!

Then one day two weeks ago, just for the heck of it, I added a sixth mile to my work out. That was it. I was caught. Suddenly, my workouts didn't feel complete at five miles. I started to run six miles a day. Last week, that number crept to seven and then to eight. I felt good. Great actually. I was addicted.

My first seven mile run, I tripped and fell and scraped up my knee pretty badly. But that wasn't enough to stop me. My addiction was in full force. The next day, I ran EIGHT miles. With a freshly skinned knee (which hurt like hell every step for the first two miles). That's when I decided that five mile runs would no longer cut it. I started to toy with the idea of ten mile runs. "And then," I thought, "who knows where I will go from there?!"

Running is a wonderful thing. Exercise is a great habit. But like ANYTHING, it can be abused. I went way too far. And the worst part, I couldn't even see that past my runner's high. My six and seven and eight mile runs often got me home right before bed time. I missed outings to the park. I missed dinners. I missed bath times (not my own thankfully!). I would drag my kids to the park and let Jacob ride around while I pushed Ryan in the stroller. My kids were happy to be at the park. But I wasn't playing WITH them. Sure, I felt guilty. But I pushed my conscious under a mental rug and conveniently tunneled my vision.

I had become a running monster and I was totally blind to it. I was so amazed that my pregnant body could be pushed this far. I was so proud of my mileage. I was so proud that I had chipped my 10:00 minute mile pace down to 8:00 minute pace (yes, for EIGHT miles). I hadn't run like that since law school, pre-babies.

I wasn't just addicted to running. I was addicted to "success." Running offered me a measurable form of improvement. And when you are a working mom, spread so thin that it is rare to even accomplish mediocrity in any aspect of your life, measurable improvement of any kind fills the hole that is left by self-doubt and insecurity.

I let it get way out of control. It became my drug. I became so obsessed with running that it was literally just like I was an alcoholic. Spending all my free time running or thinking of running that there was no room in my life for anything else. I came home exhausted and starving with barely anything left to give my kids.

This weekend, I spent the day with my own mom. I complained to her that I felt guilty for not spending more time with my kids and told her I wish I could give them more attention. What did I do the very next day? I got off work and spent my first free hour running eight miles. What the heck?!

Somewhere around mile four, my left knee started to hurt. I pushed through. By mile five, my left hip socket was bothering me. I pushed through. When I finished my eight mile, I could barely walk. I had ignored all the signs of my obsessiveness all week long. I didn't want to see it. I wanted to do what I WANTED to do. And now I was paying.

I walked to the car limping. Jacob ran up to me and excitedly showed me a cup full of caterpillars and cocoons. I nodded dismissively, too tired to feign much enthusiasm. Ryan showed me his Frisbee. I eked out a smile before I rushed the kids into the car so that we could all get home before I collapsed. The full force of my shortcomings hit me. I sat there and soaked up the lesson.

I strongly believe that all working moms (heck, any kind of mom)  deserve to indulge in something just for them. No guilt allowed. We are one part of a duo that holds the entire fabric of the family together. It is important we have something of our own and time to ourselves. It's healthy for us and it's healthy for our families. Whether that be 30 minutes day to read a book. Or indulging in a weekly television show. Or hiding in the closet so you don't have to share your candy bar. Nonetheless, we all that have that ONE thing. That one thing that has the power, if unharness, to take control of us. That' exactly what happened to me. I let my "thing" consume me and I'm heartbroken that I didn't have the discipline to see it for myself. It took a pretty painful injury (ok, TWO painful injuries) for things to register.

This week, I'm hanging up my running shoes. I will spend the evenings after work playing with my kids at the park, blowing bubbles in the backyard, letting Jacob beat me at board games, and eating popsicles on the front steps. It won't be easy, but I know it's right. And I know I will not regret the time with my children.

Being a grown up is hard (and painful) sometimes.

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