“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
My brother-in-law recently texted me a picture from my New York trip that he had taken of my younger two kids walking with my niece, each holding her hand. Inadvertently, he had also captured my oldest and I walking in front of them, with our arms around each other. I looked at the picture, and for the first time in probably over 20 years, I thought about how I would just like to freeze time.
When I came back from my trip to New York City, that first home run again reminded me that my favorite place to run is still at home….on the path I most often take…by myself. It is the path that knows my stories, has absorbed my sweat and tears, the path where I get lost without getting lost. When I run somewhere new, the run is about discovering the new location through my own 2 feet…. the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people….I’m looking around at the new surroundings, making sure that I don’t get lost, keeping a mental log of where I take turns so that I’ll know my way back. When I run at home over routes I’ve covered hundreds of times, I’m oblivious to my surroundings…I’m lost in myself.
I’ve spent the last 20 years looking forward to what’s next or a better phase in my life….medical school graduation which coincided with my wedding weekend….passing various certifying exams…have a kid…finish residency…get a job…have a kid…move…change job…next kid…move…next kid….when will they all be out of diapers…when will they all shower on their own….find good schools, change school districts…I won’t bore you, I’m sure you can imagine it for yourself. I’d find one phase of my life stressful and think that the next phase might be better, and the next phase was just a different kind of stress. Interspersed, I’d look forward to major events like a sister’s wedding or a vacation….and the time in between these major events was not really living as it should be…..going through the motions of day-to-day life for a few months at a time….awaiting an event that is a weekend or a week….and then starting the cycle again.
Looking at that picture of my son and I walking with our arms around each other…. I want to freeze time. My kids are all at a good age and place right now. If I’d been walking in the street with my oldest(14) close to our home, he probably wouldn’t have walked arm in arm with me…but in New York, he did. When I am giving him a ride to a friend’s and the two of us are alone in a car, he will let me hold his hand….but how much longer will he be ok with doing it…he won’t need me for rides in just over a year…. And I only have him at home for another 3 years….
And I don’t want to freeze time just because the kids are now all at an age where we can enjoy our time together, but also because I just enjoy my every day life right now. It is because of running and finding myself on the run…after years of furiously treading water….that I am doing that….
I don’t really wish that I could go back and tell my old self, the mother of 3 little kids who was trying to hold everything together, to stop trying to hold everything together by putting herself last….that if she would find a passion that is all her own and put herself on the list, then everything would come together and she wouldn’t have to look forward to a better phase….that her children would benefit more from a mother who is happy and has taken time for herself even if it means that sometimes there is no milk or bread in the house….I don’t wish I could tell her to live differently, to enjoy everyday, to have her own identity, to not mark time like that…I’m not going to dwell on my past and what I didn’t do…I’m not going to sit here and have regrets….because every part of my past has led to the person that I am…sitting here and writing this and cherishing the moment today…. But I am going to tell you that if you are reading this and you see yourself in the old me, then please take my advice…. don’t tread water doing the doggie paddle if you can learn the butterfly.
Last summer we took a trip to Italy, and for months before I was looking forward to running in Rome, Venice, and Florence…. In a couple of months we are going to Spain, and while I’m looking forward to discovering Madrid and Barcelona through early morning runs on my own, I don’t look any more forward to those runs than to the one tomorrow morning in my very own neighborhood. I’m not counting down the days to my trip. I’m excited about the NYC marathon in November….but I’m not counting down the days to it. I’m not counting down the days to anything. My every day life with my every day run is just as enjoyable as anything else. I’m just as excited about tomorrow, about today, than any day that lies ahead.