I have been a little down lately. Might be the weather, or hormones (bitches!). I really wanted to go to the lake this weekend and the weather was awful, so we ditched the idea and stayed home. The kids were kind of driving me crazier, and everything and everyone were kind of getting on my nerves, for simply existing. I felt, as my sis and I say, that i was so sick of everything that i was getting on my own nerves.
It didn’t help that i had three days of upset stomach, and I didn’t run all week. The more I put off the long run, the more stressed out I became, the more guilt I felt, and the more worthless I felt; it becomes a vicious cycle. If I exercise consistently, I get the endorphins, which are simply and purely an antidepressant for me, and I don’t drown the kids in the bathtub. If I get sick, or life gets in the way and I can’t exercise, I feel down. I totally have withdrawal, as if from a drug, and the cycle continues. I feel down and depressed and know that if I exercise, I will feel better, but I am too depressed to get off the couch and do it.
Even after my stomach was better, i was putting off the run, feeling depressed, and then cranky and depressed because i wasn’t running. It’s very hard to explain to you if you don’t fight depression, or if you don’t ever exercise. (And yes, I realize that exercise doesn’t cure all depression – I am lucky in that my depression is not completely debilitating. I get blue, but I function. I know some folks are not that lucky.)
Oh, the negative self-talk came out in force. I came up with a million reasons not to go run:
Luckily, my husband has been told numerous times to remind me how much better I feel when I work out and he finally told me yesterday, as I revealed a litany of reasons i shouldn’t, to “GO. Just GO.”
And so I went. I should have just walked out the door, and ran at home, but i got it into my head that it was cold outside, and i went to the gym instead. Six miles on the dreadmill.
Yeah, that’ll cheer anyone up. Not.
A little background – My friend Megan convinced me (bugged and badgered me?) to run a half-marathon with her, even though we only had 8 weeks to train and I had not been running a lot when we started. I told her that I would train with her until I injured myself, which is apt to be any time now, since we are adding a mile to our long runs every week, which is obviously too much, too fast. So, I told her we would finish, but i was not going to be fast. I figure if I am adding that much mileage, I am not going to make it worse by being fast. This attitude may be seen as cautiousness, fear, fat runner negative self-talk, or self-preservation. It is most likely a little bit of each.
So, there I am, on the treadmill, running my tortuously slow miles. The frustrating part about being a fat, slow runner is that you are, as mentioned before, slow. So, 6 miles? That can take a big chunk of time. And on a treadmill? Dear God, the boredom. The sheer will and number of Girl Talk albums required to stay on the machine and not get right off and go eat a slice of pizza and drink a beer are staggering.
So, there I am, listening to my Girl Talk, but having alternating thoughts of reasons I should just stop, and thinking about all the negative things I sometimes think about –
What is the point? I might get hit by a bus or murdered, wouldn’t I rather that happen with a full stomach, and well-rested, rather than exhausted and sweaty? I will never lose all this weight. How could i? It took years to put on. It’s not just pregnancy weight. It’s fat. Why do you drink so much beer? Oh, fun? Drinking beer is fun, but what is fun about being fat? Nothing. Remember when you thought you were fat in college? That’s a fucking laugh now, isn’t it? You couldn’t fit a pinky in those jeans today. Yeah, even your knuckles are fat. Or maybe it’s not fat. Maybe it’s the beginning of psoriatic arthritis or RA. Yeah, you are at a genetic risk for that. So really, what is the fucking point in all this exercise and eating healthy? You might be in debilitating pain and unable to run in ten years anyway. We could just get off the machine now. You have been on it for 30 minutes anyway. Someone else probably needs a turn. No one would think anything of it if you hit stop and went home.
And so on. For about the first 2 miles of my run. And then i attempted to drag myself out of the depths of the negative self-talk by looking around at people in the gym, hoping their hot bodies would inspire me to finish another mile.
And that’s when I saw him. The cute young guy in a wheelchair. He was with a friend, who was wearing camo pants, and not in a wheelchair. Wheelchair guy was talking to the friend as the friend lifted weights. They were doing upper body. I will not lie – Full disclosure: These men had very nice arms. I looked. I might have bordered on ogling. Do not judge me, because I know that when you are on the dreadmill, you also look around and admire the hard bodies at the gym. If you say you don’t, you are a liar.
So, I am watching, and camo pants guy stands up, and then wheelchair guy lifts himself up out of his chair using only his upper body, and lifts himself onto the machine. He pauses, and I realize, shit, that would be a workout for me before I ever even started the weightlifting. He takes a chain from around his neck and puts it in his pocket. Dog tags.
And I realize, with not a small amount of shame, that he’s not just a guy in a wheelchair. He’s probably a vet. He probably lost the use of his legs preserving my right to sit and be depressed on my goddamn couch.
I had slowed to a walk at that point, had given into the negative self-talk, and convinced myself that I needed to walk, that I wasn’t able to finish that mile without a breather. And my heart swelled at the thought of this young man, pulling himself around by sheer willpower, who has every reason to be angry and bitter, and yet, he is at the gym on a Monday, on the holiday. And he is smiling and laughing.
And here I am, thinking of all the things that I can’t do, all the reasons I can’t do them, all the obstacles I have preventing me from doing them.
What do I know about obstacles?
Yes, the unexamined life isn’t worth living and all that jazz. But why am I worrying myself sick over questions like “What is the point?”
This cute boy in the wheelchair, with the killer arms. . . he isn’t worried about what he can’t do. He’s doing what he can. And he’s doing it with a fucking smile on his face.
And I knew then, that I would finish those six miles and that every other mile I ever run, I will probably remember this young man, and what he lost, and what his loss gave to me. It gave me, among a million other things, the freedom to relish in 6 miles on the treadmill, sucking air, and knees aching. For no other reason than that, today, i can do it.
What is the point?
The point is not what I can’t do. The point is what I can do.