I like to run, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  I’ve always said, “I’m not a runner.”  When I was in high school I was always the last person to finish the obligatory weekly “fun run.”  (What sick P.E. teacher named it that, I ask you?!)  I walked the whole way, and whenever I tried to jog, my chest would seize up and I felt terrible.  So I would stop.

In the past three years I have obviously taken leave of my senses because I started jogging/walking short distances as a way to get some inexpensive, quick exercise.  I knew that I needed more exercise, and driving to the pool to get cold and wet on a winter’s evening (and to pay for the pleasure!) seemed ludicrous even though swimming is my preferred sport.  So I tried to run.  Fast forward three years and the distances I run have lengthened and I no longer feel like a fraud when I say, “I’m a runner.”  But it’s still hard!

At the start of the run I feel heavy and stiff.  Experience tells me this will get better (usually).  As I force myself to keep going (I have to now because I’m too far from home and it’s usually dark) I get into a rhythm and my mind begins the decluttering process.  Gradually I feel a little better.  And eventually I experience an unexpected feeling of euphoria.

File:Jogging Woman in Grass.jpg

How can it be that something that is so very difficult has the net effect of making me feel great?  This isn’t a blog post about the science of endorphins or the benefits of exercise.  This is a reflection on how sometimes the worst moments of our lives can produce unexpected effects.  Parenting can be such hard work at times!  I rarely have an uninterrupted night.  Sometimes my baby wakes me every 45 minutes.  Each of my children wants 100% of my attention, not the approximate 33% that is their theoretical due as one of three.  They argue and sometimes resort to violence.  I am referee, peacemaker, listener and consoler.  I listen to their feelings and want to have something helpful and encouraging to say afterwards.  I have put them first in my life, and sometimes this in itself is hard when I really wish I could have gone to a friend’s wedding that they weren’t invited to, or when I see my high-powered friends from my old life (read: pre-baby) and wonder where my career might have gone if I’d continued with it.  I sometimes wonder whether I’m cut out for this parenting business, but it’s too late!

I can well remember the same sensation during childbirth.  After the initial excitement that the contractions had begun, I felt frightened and wanted to somehow escape.  But logic told me that the only way out is through it: to carry on with labour and birth this baby.  It was intense.  It was scary at times.  But in that hard work there was also a satisfaction that this was somehow right.  Many people might say that I am crazy, but I felt there was a certain joy in the experience of childbirth itself, not just its end result.

Just like when I’m running, there are low moments.  I want to stop and walk (or call a taxi!).  I ask myself why I even bothered… I certainly won’t be doing this again!  I wonder if there’s a shortcut and I feel trapped in a situation from which there seems to be no escape route.   I find myself wishing my run away, counting down the steps til I get home.  I suspect it’s fairly universal to experience these tough times and wonder how we will ever get through it when we’re running on empty.

Just like in running, those difficult moments often precede a breakthrough.  The weight from my chest suddenly lifts, my stride lengthens and quickens.  I feel my head clear and my heart is beating in my chest like a drum in a pipe band.  I am energetic and filled with light.  The intensity and effort that happened only minutes ago is now forgotten and I am wholly in this moment, experiencing the beauty of being alive and free.

When I feel trapped in an intractable parenting problem I try to remind myself of those joyful moments.  Not just the ones I experience while running but the beauty of life with my children in general.  For me it’s the pure pleasure of watching my toddler running through the grass in little yellow wellies.  It’s the straight white teeth of my daughter’s huge smile.  It’s the devilish cackle my child makes when she’s made mischief and is waiting for us to discover it.  When life is hard it’s tempting to wish the days away, looking for the moment when things will get better.  But impregnated in the difficult days are moments of euphoria: flashes of light in the darkness.

We carry on as parents not because there is no escape, but because of those flashes of light.  And I suspect that even in the darkness we know that all shall be well, so we keep on running, one step at a time.

Photo credit: Mike Baird, Morro Bay, Calif, USA, Flickr.

Share this nice post:
Exciting times afoot!
Be the first to find out about e-courses and other exciting content I'm planning especially for parents and parents-to-be just like you.
I'm not a fan of spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Running on empty
Tagged on:                         

10 thoughts on “Running on empty

  • 28/01/2012 at 11:38 am
    Permalink

    Your blog posts always seem to come along at just the right time! Thanks Lisa x

    • 28/01/2012 at 1:05 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for that Abbe. They’re very much a reflection on what’s going on for me too! Love, Lisa

  • 29/01/2012 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    How true! It is always great to read your blog, because it is comforting to hear someone else reflecting on how hard parenting can be. It is your child’s smiles or their little special ways that keeps you going!

    • 29/01/2012 at 8:25 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for reading and commenting Charlotte. I like your phrase, “their special ways”– they do all have their special ways that make them unique and that’s why we love them!
      Love,
      Lisa

  • 29/01/2012 at 10:34 am
    Permalink

    What lovely thoughts as always, Lisa. I have been hiding in the bathroom after another sleepless night but your post has made me want to give them all a good squeeze and hug.

    • 29/01/2012 at 8:11 pm
      Permalink

      So you hide in the bathroom? I find the top bunk of the children’s bunk beds rather a good place to grab a quiet moment! 😉

      Thanks for your comments Sian. As a fellow runner I expect you’ve been here before!
      Love,
      Lisa

  • 29/01/2012 at 6:23 pm
    Permalink

    Excellent article, Lisa! I really enjoyed reading it.

    • 29/01/2012 at 8:25 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Mom!

  • 31/01/2012 at 8:43 am
    Permalink

    Hi Lisa,

    Great article tx, you sound just like me…Nice to know someone else experiences the same things. I only started running two years ago and although I struggle to find the time and motivation to get out, I always feel amazing afterwards, massive sense of achievement after years of possibly being the worst athlete at school. I am a runner!

    • 31/01/2012 at 4:52 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Nicola! I was such a bad athlete at school that I couldn’t even call myself one. Isn’t wonderful to see how much we have changed since then? Gives me hope that the things I worry about for my children today are unlikely to be relevant later in life. Phew!

      Many thanks for reading and taking the time comment.
      Love,
      Lisa

Comments are closed.