A Journey of 5000 Meters

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Diet-wise, this year is looking pretty much like last year and the year before – two pounds forward and 2.5 back.  There was one year where I did have diet success.  It was more of a lifestyle victory than a diet.

One spring about three years ago, I started a job with abysmal pay and benefits but lots of walking around the building.  I added a walk to my lunch routine.  An app junkie, I found a calorie counter and began controlling my portions. Summer progressed, and getting really serious, I started running.  With the aid of  another app, at summer’s end, I ran my first 5K with my sister and her kids.  It would turn out to be my only 5K.

That fall I headed into one of the periodic depressions that have plagued me since childhood, and I fell off the the diet and exercise wagon.  I fell hard.  Even with a better job with great people, pay, and benefits, I started spiraling down in early fall.  I knew the mental health benefits of daily exercise, but I could not get myself to run (after 40+ years, I’m still surprised that depression isn’t always rational).

This winter has been a lot like that winter three years ago.  Work was good.  Life was good, but every single day was a struggle to get out of bed and, once out of bed, not give into the temptation to dive into a permanent oblivion.

I plodded through winter, knowing the cycle would progress eventually and getting help when I knew I needed it.  I’ve been coming out of this curve for a few weeks, seeing pieces of the moderation and even the mania that will follow.  Spring is coming.

Outside, spring is here.  As with the last two years, sun has inspired thoughts of exercising again (dieting is a more distant goal).  Last Monday, however,  news of the Boston Marathon Bombing took all attention away from spring and diets and work.

Tuesday it rained.  The weather fit my mood in the aftermath of the tragedy.  It didn’t inspire running, but it became a good day for reflection.  Knowing little would change during the day, and that there was even less I could do to change things, I’d already decided not to gorge on news of the bombing.

The kids home for Spring Break, so working and keeping them busy helped divert me.  Thing1’s improved report card had won him back some forfeited computer time, and Thing2 embarked on a new construction paper sculpture.  We all worked quietly for a while.  Then, forgetting it was a rainy day, I accidentally broke the relaxed rhythm.

“Why don’t you two go outside?”  It was an automated question, timed, after all these years, to go off when children have been inside for too long.  “Go do something. You’re wasting your lives in here.”  Thing1, with the perfect amount of pre-teen sarcasm, quickly reminded me of the downpour outside.

Rebuffed, I lumbered back to my desk.  I sat down, my girth forcing air out of the seat cushion with a sharp whooshing sound.  I didn’t, as usual, automatically push from my mind the irony of a behemoth of a mom telling two wiry kids to get moving.  Today, I reminded myself, once again, that they deserved a mother who could keep up with them now and into their futures.

I shook off the irony and clicked on my email.  Then, despite my resolve, I clicked on a Boston webpage.  Pictures of Monday’s victims flashed on the screen.  Below, there were life stories of people who had been physically whole until the day before.  Then I saw a story of a school trying to raise money for the wounded.  My spirit lifted a bit as I found another story of a man who had never run a mile resolving to run the marathon next year to fundraise for the survivors. Through all the stories ran a theme of people trying not only to help but to live fully.

I got back to my email.  I’m physically whole, but I had to admit that I take a lot of my life for granted.  There are even some parts of it, like my health, that I toss aside very casually.

Wednesday morning I got up before the kids.  The rain was gone.  Without waking the boys, I slid on a pair of running shoes that hadn’t seen daylight since October 2010 and slipped out the door.  For the next 30 minutes I ran when my app told me to run and walked when it told me to walk, and there were times I had to stop.  I doubt I’ll be in that marathon group any year, but, chasing my acorn-squash shaped shadow through the woods around our house made me hope that I was taking the first steps of a better journey.

No Ordinary Day

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Today wasn’t the perfect day to begin with. I’d planned a day off to spend time with the kids on their first day of Spring Break.  Instead, most of my morning was spent working, and filing and paying taxes.  The morning was gone in a heartbeat, but, even though I had squandered this day of freedom on busy work, something made it feel like the perfect day.

I’d finished a couple loads of laundry.  Dishes were done.  The sky was crystal blue, the kids were still excited about yesterday’s news that we were headed to Fenway to see Paul McCartney in July, and six-year-old Thing2 and I were heading out to the garden as soon as I checked my email for any fires from work.  And then the day caved in.

I sat down at my desk and checked my email.  I finished repairing a database for a customer, flipping back and forth between work and webpages while I waited for things to upload.  Nothing much was happening.  The gun background check legislation was front page along with fluff pieces on Tax Day.  I wrapped up my email quickly, hoping to go spend some quality time in the garden with Thing2.  It was only as I was shutting things down that I noticed the big yellow headline on the front page of Yahoo!

By now everyone’s learned of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Part of me wishes I had ignored the word Boston in that yellow strip and preserved what little was still perfect about this imperfect day.  Boston was our town once upon a time.  It’s where the Big Guy and I lived when we were first married.  It’s where we explored art and culture and each other.  It’s where we got addicted to Sunday brunch at the Freedom Trail Diner (since replaced by a shi-shi bistro).  It’s where, thanks to the Big Guy and the adventures our town offered just outside the tiny backyard of our basement apartment in the North End I learned to believe in people again as I left behind a life that had long been lived in fear since an armed robbery in another place and another life.

Now, as the sun goes down, Boston is under a shadow of fear.  The Big Guy takes things in stride, but I can tell he’s numb, as am I.  We haven’t mentioned this at all to six-year-old Thing2 (We’re still going to Fenway in July, and I don’t want his joy tainted by the fear of things that we can’t control).  Twelve-year-old Thing1 is much more aware, however, and I can see the news has him upset.  Like most of New England and much of America, I’ve been glued to the internet since learning about the lives ended and torn apart on what is normally a day for a city to celebrate itself.

Ironically, the internet has, for once, been a small antidote to some of my numbness.  Fred Rogers once advised parents to tell children in times like these to look for the helpers.  Today it’s been easy to see those helpers in their Boston Police Department uniforms and fluorescent jackets and vests, running toward trouble when they should be running away.  But I’ve also seen plain, ordinary people stopping to help complete strangers in all kinds of need.  I’ve seen a shirtless runners who must be exhausted after a 26.2 mile run stopping to help a man down on his back.  I’ve seen an ordinary man shielding an injured woman with his body and trying to resuscitate her.  I’ve seen pictures of everyday people cradling other everyday people, even though they must be terrified.

Boston may go to sleep tonight under a cloud of fear, but I don’t think it’s going to live under it for long.  One thing that city taught me was that nothing is completely safe, and, while you have to be vigilant, you still have to live your life.  Chaos tried to upend the city the day today, and I’m sure fear and anger will be part of what propels the search for the deluded person or persons who thought killing and maiming innocent people was an effective way to influence a country or a city.  But the fact is that it was humanity and courage that prevailed today.  We have the pictures.  And those pictures tell me that this town that holds so many memories and lessons for me and the Big Guy will not surrender its soul or character to fear.

from our roof