the reset button

shoesI only run on bad days.

I’ve tried to be a real runner in the past, but I’ve never gotten beyond eking out a couple of miserable miles at a time. It’s not just that I can’t really get into a groove; I viscerally hate it with every fiber of my being. I hear friends enthuse about “runner’s high,” but all I’ve ever managed are shin splits. In my head, I’m committed to regular exercise. In real life, chasing two kids is my cardio.

There’s only one thing that can send me to the closet to dig for my running shoes: one of Those Days. Those Days are ruled by Murphy’s Law. When you have two kids and everything that can go wrong does, that’s a LOT of wrongness. As the tiny disasters pile up, one after another, it starts to feel like they’re trying to bury me alive. Running away becomes the only option.

Today is one of Those Days. My daughter refused both her lunch and her nap, so that she is a surly bundle of neediness by 4 p.m. My son has somehow managed to spill every single beverage he touched today, while demanding much more attention than usual in general. In a fit of creative inspiration, someone took to the bonus room walls with crayons. The overfull trash bag ripped when I tried to remove it from the trashcan. We didn’t make it to the grocery store as planned, which means dinner is a free-for-all. I’ve lost my temper and raised my voice more times than I can count, and all three of us have shed tears on at least one occasion. By the time Jon walks in the door, I’m shoveling chocolate Teddy Grahams in my mouth as I hide in the pantry.

He’s been home less than five minutes when I tell him, “I think I’ll go for a run.” His eyebrows raise in surprise, but he must read the desperation in my eyes because there is no smart remark about how out of character this sudden desire for exercise is. I need to escape, but more than that, I need to release the resentment bubbling up inside of me. I ache for something physical to force the anger from my body. I lace up my shoes and head out.

Initially, it isn’t so bad. I set an easy pace and marvel at the silence around me. It’s the first moment of quiet in my day. I actually feel pretty good, and wonder why I don’t do this more often.

It’d be nice if it was a little less humid though, and a breeze wouldn’t hurt either. There’s a pain beginning to emanate from my right hip.

I glance over my shoulder; my front yard is still in sight. I’ve gone less than a quarter of a mile.

With a groan, I force myself onward. I realize I’ve picked the worst time of day for a run – it’s dusk, and the mosquitoes and gnats are out in full force. I feel them smacking my face, and their accuracy at landing directly in my eye is impressive. The pain in my hip spreads and becomes a full-fledged burning ache in my side. Simultaneously, my left ankle begins to throb. Gritting my teeth, I force my body forward with sheer willpower.

I can feel it working, though. As my anger toward running grows, my frustrations about the day seem to dissipate. I despise every single step my feet pound out on the pavement, and as a distraction I find myself anticipating my son’s smile when I come back through the door, and the way my daughter will snuggle up against me as I put her to bed.

It takes two full miles tonight before I’m so miserable that I long for the demands of motherhood once more. The pain in my hip and ankle reach a fever pitch as I mercifully slow to a walk in the driveway. Is it possible to limp on both sides? I’m not sure, but I’m giving it my best effort. My face burns and my breath comes in wheezing gasps. I walk through the door and sink into the coolness of the air-conditioned house.

“So, how was it?” Jon asks, with a knowing smile.

“Awful,” is my terse response as I head to the kitchen to fill a glass with water. And it was; every last second was pure agony. It served its purpose, though. I’m not angry at my kids anymore, and I’m not mad at myself either. It was a bad day. It’s not a bad life.

My reset button has been pressed. Thank goodness I hate running.