One thing runners tell me, just as they extol every good thing about running, is that there will always be bad runs. They will creep up on a girl just when she's feeling like this running thing is nothing but great. They come out of nowhere and legs feel like lead and lungs burn--the same legs and lungs that felt so great just 48 hours prior to this run.
I need a strategy for bad runs. It needs to be a different strategy than the one I have for bad weigh-ins. Yesterday, before I went on my bad run, I got on the scale. Up nine pounds. I blinked. Looked. Blinked again. Hopped off. Got back on. Up four pounds. Back off. Back on. Up two pounds. Enough of that. Clearly the scale has issues and it's determined to mess with my mind first thing in the morning. The scale has been pushed under my bed--all the way to the middle. There it will stay. No more bad scale days.
Bad scale days are days when three digits on a measuring device can determine my mood for eight hours or more. Those numbers often do not accurately reflect my efforts towards good nutrition or my intensity of exercise. They are capricious and seemingly out of my control.
That's what bad scale days have in common with bad run days. They just are. I don't cause them. I can't control them. Sometimes, despite all my best efforts, they just are.
But I'm not relegating my running shoes to a dusty spot beneath the bed. Instead of avoiding bad run days, I'm going to apply some mothering wisdom to them. If nothing else, I've learned one thing in twenty-six years of mothering nine different personalities: I am in control of very little beyond my attitude and my openness to grace.
I remember when my big boys were little ones. I wanted that magazine kind of house--the one where all the real, simple techniques worked in harmony to have a home where nothing was out of place and everything matched and no one ever lost a shoe. I began with the color coordination of everything possible.Every child was assigned his or her own color. Michael was purple. Christian was blue. Patrick was red. Mary Beth, of course, was pink. Towels, cups, backpacks, jackets, boots--all color-coordinated. Worked wonderfully. Until someone threw up on his towel and refused to use his brother's because he'd been warned that he was only to use the blue things. It worked until the red sippy cup melted in the bottom of the dishwasher. It worked until they outgrew their coats and boots and protested when I handed them down to the next child in line. Now what? Total color switch? All I knew was that my lone little girl was going to wear red and blue coats for several winters--and she still talks about it mournfully, even as I buy bright florals for her sisters. The color coordination of everything was a total fail.
Color coordinated cups have given way to a motley collection of water bottles. Some are carefully chosen in someone's favorite color. More are soccer tournament swag. Most are the generosity of Christian when he bought lovely, matching bottles for his whole basketball team, complete with a coordinating carriers. (Wonder where he gets that inclination?)
My reality is that lots of other attempts to control all the things failed as well. Large family mothering is an exercise in letting go. Every single day. The older they get, the less control I have. A bad teacher. A girl who breaks his heart even as he falls head over heels. An illness or injury that wipes out an entire season. A teammate who makes a critical mistake and ends the tournament. Even worse? The bad decisions my kids make all on their own. We won't list them here, but know that I have no control over them. They keep me awake at night. They are thoroughly discussed in heated conversations, but I don't have control. Sometimes, life in a big family feels like 26.2 miles of a bad run.
There's no option to quit. The only option is a good night's sleep and a run again the next day. And the day after that. And on the good days, I inhale deeply and notice how bright and beautiful the landscape is around me. I take the time to thank God for the air filling my lungs and the knees that bend again and again without that pesky twinge. I share with Him my hopes and dreams and I do it thinking that maybe all will come to fruition. On the good days, I almost believe there will never be a bad run again.
On the bad days? I'm learning to keep running, or maybe to slow to a walk and refocus. I'm learning that life is a marathon and if I get all tangled up in every bad run and I let them get into my head, they will quickly convince me that I am a bad runner.
A bad mothering day, a hard mothering season? They don't make you a bad mother.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that God is in control.