Thursday, June 7, 2012

Running for My Life

Well, it's been awhile. Again. That is because I have a new hobby and definitely no room in my life for more than one hobby, unless changing diapers counts as a hobby (and if you count it as such, I suggest a spa day, if not psychological help, immediately). I have become...wait for it folks...A RUNNER.

 If you just heard a faint, distant crackling sound, that was hell freezing over. To say that I do not have an athletic background would be an understatement on par with saying the Kardashians are overexposed. Oh, I did letter in high school. As the MANAGER of a varsity team. A VOLLEYBALL team. The GIRLS' volleyball team. I was so unathletic, I couldn't even get a decent managing gig (that would have been for the rugby team, of course). Managing the girls' volleyball team entailed pumping up balls, chasing balls, cleaning up balls, keeping records of various kinds, telling girls they didn't look fat in their shorts, and making brownies (which did make them look fat in their shorts). Excellent preparation for motherhood, come to think of it. But it entailed no actual athletic ability, and certainly no running or exercise of any kind. I even did the job one year with a broken leg.

 Now, I have exercised on and off over the years, however, because my parents, and my father in particular, instilled in me an intense fear of getting fat. In fact, I recently overheard him telling a friend of mine that he only eats "to be social." He is very fond of saying that he weighs the same as he did when he got married, causing my mother's eyes to roll out of her head. And of course it doesn't help that my older sister's size has fluctuated wildly between thin, skinny, slender, and merely svelte, with the occasional period of emaciation when she has lived in God-forsaken places. It seems like every time I talk to my grandmother after she has recently seen Laura, she agonizes about how thin Laura is and do I think she is OK? Yes, Memaw, I think Laura is more than OK. I think she's pretty much the luckiest woman on the planet. I doubt my own weight has cost Memaw many hours of sleep, in any case.

 So in the terrified quest for thinness, I have gone through various exercising crazes. In high school, I power walked, I felt that was all I needed since my boarding school was at 7000 feet above sea level. In college, I got hooked up with Paula "Killer" Cain's aerobics classes my freshman year and MC Hammer-ed and Paula Abdul-ed my way through the early 1990's. In grad school, I swam laps, given the luxuries of a free Olympic-sized pool and a schedule that allowed me to stay in my PJs until midday lap hours began at 11 am. I still prefer swimming above all else because I hate sweat and the sensation of my brain sloshing around in my skull. But after entering the real work world, my schedule could no longer sustain a swimming lifestyle, and my exercise habits petered out altogether. This was especially true after I gained 50 lbs twice, with each of my children, and discovered, twice, I could lose 50 lbs without exercising at all. Weight Watchers taught me this--it really is more about diet than anything else. Imagine my rude awakening when I entered 45 minutes on the elliptical machine in the points calculator and got only 2 additional points to consume. No, I'll pass on that practically microscopic chocolate chip cookie, and the work out, thanks so much. I have even tried taking up running a few times, but it's never been pleasant. Kevin is fond of recalling the time we went running together, and I had to stop due to searing pain in my ears. I can't explain why, but they hurt, stop making fun of me, Kevin. I have also had to contend with itchy leg syndrome, another inexplicable reaction to running that I can only chalk up to my extremely low blood pressure. Then of course there are the more typical sensations of one's head exploding, calves catching fire, and lungs collapsing.

 So why, and how, in heavens name am I now running? The reasons are many and complex but can nonetheless be encapsulated in one word: CHILDCARE. As in the most precious commodity there is, the thing I covet more than all else, the pathway to peace, quiet, and sanity. I found a babysitter, a teen babysitter no less, who lives on my street, and will pop over several times a week so I can leave my house unencumbered. I will do almost anything for that, certainly I will risk a collapsed lung, but to justify it, I really had to find something worthwhile to do. So I picked running. And I have stuck with it because this blessed teenager continues to show up at my doorstep over and over and over again. And it turns out when you stick with something, it becomes a habit. In this case, the area in my brain associated with running has now been inextricably linked to the area in my brain associated with FREEDOM. No one touching me. No one yelling at me. No one watching me while I urinate. No one asking me for anything. It's just me and the road. There's still the sweat and the brain sloshing, which I don't really appreciate, and in my neighborhood, there are the bloody hills which cause me to curse the glacier that chose to flatten Kansas instead of Virginia a kabillion years ago. And then there is the tendonitis I have developed in the one leg and the unexplained numbness in the toes of one foot. But I am going to keep running, gosh darnit, even if I am hobble-running, because it is 1/2 an hour, four times per week that I don't have to listen to the whines and wails of small children. I will run backwards on my knuckles if I have to.

 When I am really really bored, I like to think up advertisements for various products. One of my best ideas is for Nike, which they may use if someone out there sees this, but they must at least give me some shoes or a nanny or something. So you see a woman running, in her Nikes of course, and then you hear a voice over: "I have never scored the winning goal. I have never won a race. I have never been raised on the shoulders of my teammates. I have never even made the team. But I am an athlete." Then it says Just Do It. on the screen. Pretty good, huh? I tell you what, this athlete is training for the marathon they call motherhood and competing for the prize of still knowing my name and that of the person I am married to in 20 years. If that isn't high stakes athleticism, I don't know what is.

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