I lost my way. Somewhere in the wasteland of being trapped in an unrecognizable body, I turned on myself. I forgot the difference between goals and expectations.
I expected to be back to pre-baby body by now. I expected to be back to pre-baby running by now. I consoled myself through the physical disorientation and aesthetic destruction of childbirth by clinging to these future ideas. I told myself it would be ok because I would be back to myself at some future point.
While these would have made perfectly healthy goals, as expectations, they poisoned my mind. Expectations require I suffer if they do not happen as anticipated. Goals can be fluid and constructive, are just a direction on a path. Expectations are pass or fail, with a hard deadline. Goals can not be met, can be a process, continually worked on.
When I perverted my goals into expectations, I lost the reason I run. I lost my running self. Instead, I turned on myself as my harshest critic, unable to be sated or satisfied. I began to torture myself, and that sucked all the joy out of running (and much of just my normal life).
Like the Run to the Shrine.
And I know better. Expectations are the root of emotional suffering.
I have not run by myself for a while. Yet, last night, I hit the pavement solo, with only my playlist in my ears. I took 6.5 miles to sort through my inner turmoil about running and weight loss lately and to therapize myself. I know I require this mental time, yet on a schedule so tight, I scarcely have time to sleep these days. While I was busy catering to beating up the physical part of myself, whipping it back into “shape,” I completely neglected the far higher priority mental/emotional part. Instead, I pitted them against each other.
I have been so fixated on getting back to where I was before my son. Part is this is physical insecurity at what pregnancy and childbirth did/does to my body and at how alienating it feels to change so drastically so fast. Part of it is the amount of time, sweat, and suffering I poured into running and fitness in the first place, mourning how all of that seemed lost and undone in just a couple short months.
Every week, I don’t weigh or run what I should expect. I start overanalyzing my food; I start restricting deciding not to eat (even as I continue to breastfeed). I start doing extra workouts, maybe more than one a day. I internally celebrate how much I can abstain from food or over work myself. I obsessively plan how I can do more. Welcome back, eating disorder.
I have been holding running and the scale up as the measure of when I am “back there.” But I am never going to be back there; I cannot go back there. That person, that body, that time is all in the past, behind me now. Just like me at age 30, just like me with only one child. I cannot (and do not want to) mentally revert back to that image of myself, so why would I be so fixated and obsessed on becoming the physical her again?
It is an impossibility.
Who I am now is new. How I change who I am now has to be new too. My goal has to be yet another new version of myself. Someone who completed two pregnancies, who gave birth twice, who is raising two children. Someone who is another two years older, across that metabolism crushing threshold of 30. Someone who has a more demanding day job and an increasingly demanding side job as a published author. This new me has to be able to exist in the new state of my life. I cannot strive to live up to how and who I was under circumstances that have changed and evolved so drastically.
Somewhere in my running float, I recaptured my zen. I made my peace again.
The revelations are simple; they are epiphanies I have made before at multiple points in my life. Truths I somehow lost in the tumult in my head. I was so easily undone by dissatisfaction in my appearance and physical performance. I let those negative assessments cast a huge and consuming shadow over all the amazing things I was and am doing, everything that is positive in my life.
As if how much I weigh or how far I run are actually the things that matter.
I need to stop and appreciate the progress I have made. Six months ago, I could not run 3 miles straight or break 15 minute miles. Now I have broken 8 miles straight and am back in 11 minute miles. I have lost 25 pounds. If I am going to fixate on numbers, perhaps I should actually look at them.
So I am letting go (or am going to try to). I am going to eat healthy and do exercise that I enjoy or that is good for my body. I am going to take rest days and do restorative activities. I am going to work hard and have goals and strive. But that is it. I am going to abandon the expectations and the disappointment they demand. I am going to stop struggling to get back to where I was and, instead, start working to move forward to somewhere new.