The baby turned one year old a few weeks ago, and it felt like a major milestone for me as a parent, like a graduation of some sort. Finally, surely, we're out of the hard part and things can go "back to normal," right?
That phrase! A lot of people say it -- don't! "Back to normal" is full of assumptions and judgments that are just wrong. First, why fix a narrow part of my late 20s as my "normal" life? Second, why assume I want to go "back" to that time? Third, why suggest that going "back" in time is possible with just a little effort, when we all know (despite spending all of our energy and money repressing it) that we're steadily marching toward death?
Still, it's an intoxicating idea, that I could somehow keep my baby but get back all the things that I've lost. I loved my life before I had a child: I loved my free time, I loved my body before pregnancy, I loved my dignity that has been lost amid those postpartum months of stains and sleep deprivation. And because this is a running blog: I loved training, running fast, and having all the time in the world for that and anything else I had a whim for. People don't talk enough about that grief of losing the empty hours, the opportunity to indulge in something frivolous or dumb-seeming.
On one of my first runs after having a baby I came home so sad, because nothing felt the same and I couldn't imagine how I could ever enjoy running again. And I suddenly saw that every thing I chose to do from here on would come at a terrible cost, which is spending time away from my child. If I'm slow now, is it even worth it? Do I really need to spend a weekend morning doing the whole race thing if I'm not even going to be competitive and PR? If I don't have time for serious training do I really need to be racing?
I know intellectually that the answer is yes, of course. In my vision of motherhood I'm a fully realized adult, not a martyr. But I can't tell you how hard it is to make the choice to do something for myself on a day-to-day basis. The only reason I'm managing to run when I am now is because it's still light out in the evening and I can go after the baby goes to bed.
Even when I do make it out, some of those runs have really sucked. Some are just okay. But some, like tonight, have been like hearing a whisper in my ear from my old, "normal" self speaking to me from the past. "Psssst. You're doing great. You're killing it, you're amazing. You've fucking GOT THIS."
There's a big hill around here that I try to avoid whenever I can. The grade is 3% on the sloping part, up to 9.5% on the steep part. Most nights, I'm like, no thanks, I'm too tired/not "really" training/just want to chill. I'll turn around when I get there or go another way. Tonight I charged up it (about ~200 meters) four times, each time faster than the time before. ~7:00 pace, down to about ~6:30 pace.
There's no going back -- I'm not going to have the kind of time or freedom I used to. I'm living into this new normal. Tonight it felt so good to be sprinting up toward something, even though it was hard. Eyes fixed on the ground under me, I didn't even think to glance back.