Divorce is not exactly a walk in the park. If you thought planning your wedding and getting your bridesmaids ready for that walk down the aisle was tough| it doesn’t hold a candle to splitting apart your life| and sometimes a child’s life| like divorce does. Even the easiest divorce can be unnerving. When my soon-to-be ex-husband and I decided to separate| the world spun. How was I going to care for my child as a single parent? At the time| I was job hunting for a full-time position while working part-time. I wondered if I would be able to provide for my daughter financially. I wondered how she would cope. I wondered what the future would bring. Divorce brings upon many new changes and “what if” scenarios. I needed to find a way to clear my head when the noise inside of my brain and heart became too loud.
Let me not forget to mention that when my marriage started to crumble| my daughter was two years old. We didn’t make the clean cut until almost a year later. Still| I had a young child and had just been pregnant not so long ago. I was back to my pre-baby weight and slimmer than before| but I had gotten lazy at the gym. I did my routine but never pushed myself and simply went through the motions. My workout was an unispired habit| like having a morning cup of tea. The thrill of fitness was gone. And the thrill of fitness wasn’t the only thing that had “left the building.” As the marriage decayed| so did the sex life. Most of the time I felt invisible and as if I had no sex appeal. This was unusual; I had been very confident of my sex appeal before marriage| albeit a little self critical. But at the point in which we said| “It’s over|” I didn’t feel like a woman and a mom ¡ª just a mom without any feminine allure. I wanted to feel excited again. I wanted to be out in the world| not only as a mom but also a woman.
That’s when running walked in. (Did I just say that?)
As a kid| I was coordinated but I wasn’t the first kid you picked for dodgeball. I was able to move and get by| but I never considered myself athletic until I got older. I still hesitate to say athletic and instead would say “fit.” Running was never a passion of mine. I figured I could get by walking and using the elliptical machine| but now I wanted more from my workout. I wanted more from life. I didn’t want the status quo| but instead| I wanted the best for myself and my daughter. I wanted happiness.
It started on a treadmill and then when I went out with someone for the first time after my separation| unnerved about being in the dating world again| I hit the pavement outdoors. I was a part-time employed| soon-to-be single mom with a low income| a large amount of student loan debt| and a huge question mark of a future in front of me. Those details didn’t matter though when I put on my sneakers| sunblock| exercise gear| and earbuds| ready to face the trail around my local reservoir and all the dogs| moms| and couples walking and running alongside me.
There were many times I ran through tears. Sometimes it felt as if I were running away from my problems and my life. From myself. I remembered all the good times in my marriage and I thought of the bad times too. I remembered hitting the reservoir trail when my daughter was an infant in her stroller| enjoying the fresh air| feeling human again even with my weak post-partum core (thanks to a C-section) and my leaking breasts (thanks to breastfeeding). Here I was again| but my daughter was with her dad during his parenting time. Now I was keeping up with the wind without her.
I was alone| yet I wasn’t lonely.
Running is a companion in itself. The movement| the air| the soundtrack ¡ª they become your friends whether you’ve run one mile or three| whether you give up and start walking or whether you pound through your fatigue and trudge ahead. Running was the silent| steady| true companion I needed to remind myself of who I was before marriage and who I could be after marriage. It was the free therapist I sought counsel in. It was the way I found answers to problems and how I calmed my fears. Running was the one partner who told me without wavering: “You are strong. You are sexy.”
Running told me: “You can get through this divorce even| if for today| you believe you can’t.” I hadn’t known I needed a cheerleader to get me through divorce| but I did.
After a brief time| that running translated into energy and that energy infused my workouts. I started increasing my weights at the gym and requiring more of myself. In a split second| I wasn’t simply thin ¡ª I was slim and toned and not too shabby looking for a late-30s soon-to-be divorced mom.
I can thank it all for the one time I thought to myself| “Let me try this.”
Today| I am still not a marathon runner and have never made it to a 5K| but it’s still the one thing almost two years later that turns off the noise in my brain| giving me clarity and peace. It’s the best gift I have given to myself since saying “I don’t.”
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell