I.Can’t. Breathe. “It’s all going to be okay,” I tell myself as I try to inhale, barely able to squeeze in enough air to fill my lungs. 1…2…3… I try again. Straining, I can see blackness creeping into my periphery and still, nothing. “We’ve been here before,” I say to myself, “and we’ve always gotten through it.” I try again with one last shallow breath, but it’s no use. I hang my head, exhale deeply, and admit defeat. Off with the pants and on with the leggings. Sigh…elastic, my friendly foe. Sure, they have a hole in the crotch from months of overuse post babies, but I am hopeful that with a long sweater and the right alignment of leg-crossing, no one will notice. Apparently, while the spring buds were growing and the flowers blossoming, my waistline followed suit.
It has been a while since I have not been able to button my pants. Sure, it hasn’t always been a breeze, but with enough sucking and squeezing, I have achieved success. There may have been folds and rolls spilling all over the place, and I may have had bruises on my hips the next day from where the unforgiving denim did its worst, but those pants were buttoned, dammit. Not today, however. Not even close.
I don’t own a scale, and in my newish role as a mom, I generally go by the rule: If my clothes fit and I feel good, then so be it. Learning to be kind to my body is a daily practice, and my inner dialogue waxes and wanes between positive and negative as much as the elastic band on my leggings stretches and recedes. However, on this day, the day that my zipper wouldn’t come close to zipping and my button lay two inches from its resting place in the button hole, I decided to do something a little different. I have never been much of a runner. Sure, I ran in high school to stay in shape for sports, and I still manage to play in a women’s basketball league, which is the only type of intense exercise that I don’t dread. But on this day, I would run.
I come down the stairs in my dusted off workout garb and tell my husband that I am going for a run and try to brush off the mild look of surprise that I think I see on his face. Now, I should say that my husband is most definitely a runner. His ideal date would actually be to go on a run together, to which I have always said, “If we are not running towards brunch, then I am not interested.” So, when I tell him that I won’t be gone long he says, “Take as much time as you need, love. There is absolutely no rush.” Absolutely no rush?!?! As I type this, it now sounds supportive and sweet, but at the time my insecurities got the best of me and I immediately thought, Why doesn’t he say that to me when I’m going to get drinks with my girlfriends?! He just wants me to run longer, so I get skinnier. Ridiculous, I know, but such is my internal battle. It is so hard not to project that on someone else, especially a partner. I had to resist the urge to head straight to my car, go to a coffee shop, read a book, get a pedicure, dab a little water on my face and come back a couple hours later after an epic “run” since, after all, there was “absolutely no rush.”
Instead, however, I decided to legitimately run (read jog) and it felt pretty incredible. The sun was shining on my face, and after a few minutes I realized the quiet. I could actually hear my footsteps and the rhythm of my breath. And best of all, I COULD HEAR MY OWN THOUGHTS! I was out of the house, away from diapers and tantrums, and I was doing something that was good for me.
My body, like most bodies, is so many things for so many others. It’s a restaurant providing milk for infants and meals for the rest of the household. It’s a sanctuary, a thermometer, a compass, a vacuum, a chauffeur (or perhaps pack mule is more accurate), a source of pleasure and a remover of pain. But, even with all of these offerings, I have to remind myself, that it’s still mine. I need to listen to it and appreciate it. I realize that I am going to have on days and off days—that is just the nature of the beast—but I am going to do my best to, at the very least, be aware of it.
Today was an off day, so I had a day-old cupcake for breakfast, a salad with a few slobbery crackers for lunch, and I took my kids to the swimming pool for the first time since my youngest was born. Because, why not? I figure I am going to hit insecurities head on and nothing does that quite like putting on a swimsuit post Seattle winter and going to a pool with well-rested, teenage lifeguards. We ended up having a lovely day, and it was actually very liberating. I doubt my kids will remember my pasty thighs dimpled with cellulite, or my less than flat tummy, but if I’m lucky, they may recall the day we went swimming and ate bags of fresh popcorn while running to our car in the pouring rain, laughing about our now soggy treat. Plus, I even got some exercise while I was at it (crouch-walking in a wading pool for three hours is no joke).
On the way home, my daughter fell asleep in her carseat, and I had a quiet moment to talk to my soon-to-be four-year-old son. I told him that he was one of my favorite people on the planet, along with his baby sister and daddy, of course. He thought for a moment and then said, “What about you, mamma?” l love when I get an unexpected lesson like that (although if anyone is going to give you a lesson in self-love it should be a pre-schooler). It’s okay to be your own favorite person as well. In fact, it may just be the thing that saves you.
So, I am going to continue running. Not every day, but at least a couple of times a week. This is partly because I cannot afford to purchase a bunch of new pants at the moment, but mostly because I genuinely want to, for me. Oh, and for the record, no matter how much (or how little) I run (or swim), I will always consider a day-old cupcake to be a totally reasonable breakfast.