Thoughts on Darkness and How My Worst Run Became My Best Run

The Sweigert girls

The first mistake you make is thinking your body is, in any way, under your control.  

It’s not.

The second is assuming you are anything but 100% mammal. You’re reminded of this in 2 hour intervals for what will feel like the end of time.

You begin to comprehend the starkness, the completely utilitarian nature of your body. It has built and sustained life, and it will bear the scars of it forever.

Not all of them will be physical, most of them won’t be, in fact.

Easily the longest continuous stretch of time I’ve gone without running, I thought I was doing okay – at first. Our schedule left little room for basic hygiene, let alone long runs. After 7 long weeks that seemed comprised of hours ticking by in impossible slowness, I put my feet back in their running shoes.  

My newborn daughter is 7 weeks and 1 day old, so it’s safe to say I’ve been mostly easily occupied with other matters. Keeping a very tiny human alive is consuming work, it turns out. Still, I found time to wistfully gaze at my running shoes, and probably stare too long at other runners out on the roads, like maybe if I wished it hard enough I could Freaky Friday my way into their bodies, just for a second. Okay, a half hour.   

That my coping mechanism was now a pipe dream corresponding with an avalanche of new mom emotions seemed like a cruel trick of nature.

I’ve often assumed that there is darkness inside me, not anything insidious, just maybe the seeds of something that, in the right conditions, could grow into something actually sinister. Running is the method I use to deprive this darkness of its nutrients. I can literally feel myself running away from the unpleasantness that I realize is part of me. 

Unpleasantness that I have had the unfortunate opportunity to see manifest in all its ugly glory at precisely a most unwelcome time. In the sleepless wee hours of the morning, trying unsuccessfully to soothe a wailing babe, the darkness too easily organically generates thoughts of anger, frustration, disgust, and many others I’m still too ashamed to admit to as a new mother.  

Mommy and baby smiles

The guilt is overwhelming in the tempered light of day, that I am capable of these emotions. My only salvation the hope that my child will have little memory of these bizarre encounters with the woman who I swear is not really her real Mom, but a cranky, bloodshot-eyed interloper. In theory, I understood that parenting requires sacrifice, in practice I realize I couldn’t even begin to understand as I confront the real and profound ugliness of my selfish, me-ish nature.

Though the wounds this darkness has opened in me are still too fresh for sustained examining (I am probably too squeamish about such things) I know that it is only the darkness, and not me – not really.  

After a fake Fall of too-warm weather in this odd unrelenting Summer that just wouldn’t yield, I went on my first post-partum run the other day. The sky was a welcome shade of grey and there was even the promise of rain on the almost cool breeze.  

I already wish I could better describe the feeling of relief, of complete surrender, that settled over me in those few steps out the door. Down the blocks, it built and built, fresh air, even a calm drizzle had started. A very slow mile turned into 2, and though I barely recognized the tightness in my chest and the soreness in my muscles, I knew each step was helping choke out that gnarly darkness.  

By the time I neared mile 3, I couldn’t stop the tears. Tears of indescribable relief mostly, insane joy, too. There was so much happiness in it I had to fight from hyperventilating. It occurred to me to feel ridiculous at how good it felt, but I can’t. It was bliss and healing and redemption and a host of other things I’m still unraveling.  

Mostly, it was a reminder sorely needed: that my resting state is not the darkness. Even when it seems so easy, so consuming. My resting state is running, even when it’s been months. Even when I’ve been sedentary for so long, it is still joy and gratitude and love so big and vast it hurts.

So, with my first run as a Mom complete, and  with many more to come, to the darkness I say:

Catch me now, motherf**%er.  

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