Last night was 5k Wednesday. Like most Wednesdays, I found myself at my favorite local park and I immediately got into exercise mode. I love this particular park because it has great hills, clear paths, and perfect scenery. Aside from the millennials riding motorized skateboards and scooters while paying too much attention to their phones, its relatively easy to maneuver here.
It’s roughly 85* and the sun is high above my head. After spending the weekend camping, the leftover remnants of my sunburn are a little tender but tolerable and I know the hour I am here, the temperature will drop, and it did by a whopping 3 degrees but this range, 80 to 100 degrees is where I most prefer to run. As an asthmatic runner, I always prefer the heat over cold, every single time. My lungs don’t scream nearly as much.
Tonight, however, it wasn’t my asthma that was screaming. It was my neck. I have been careful not to aggravate it too much with training, and basically, a slow run pace is about the best I can hope for right now. I still do yoga as best I can but swimming, biking, and fighting have been off the table for a couple months now. Sadly, with the amount of pain I was having last night, I wanted to stop. I thought about crossing the grass and just cutting my 5k short because I was cranky, irritable and in pain, angry that I may have to stop yoga at some point too before this neck issue is resolved.
Then I feel like the Fates stepped in with a big ass dose of “quit being a whiney baby”.
As I summit the hill on my 2nd pass, I see this amazing woman for the second time of my run. I have no idea who she is, nor have I ever spoke to her, but she spoke to me last night in my moment of despair.
I have seen her several times as I run the park on Wednesday nights, but tonight I was running a bit later than usual and I missed the normal routine I had grown accustomed to. Every Wednesday she starts out from the same pavilion entrance. Her elderly husband puts their SUV in a protective position that blocks her from traffic while they get her situated. He places her very tall walker in front of her, he leads her to it, she has her probing cane in her hands and she starts on her way. There’s a sign on her walker that says “Please do not touch my cane or walker, I have a spinal injury” so that no one comes up to her, surprising her and jars her (I am assuming).
Tonight I see her further down the road than normal, her husband following her in their vehicle, far enough back not to hinder her but close enough to get to her if something went amiss. On my first pass, she was climbing up the hill from the less extreme side. She had gotten a little off track and her husband parked the car, got out and corrected her back towards the curb, as she was angling out towards the vehicle side of traffic. I smiled and passed.
The second pass she was up the hill but had made it only about 50 meters farther, but she was still on track and her husband was dutifully watching from afar. This time I paid closer attention. She was sweating, her gray hair was floofed & in disarray, in a way you knew she had worked HARD, yet she had this smile on her face as the sun shined down on her closed eyelids…pure bliss was her expression.
At that moment (and in this one as I write it out) I started tearing up. To say I was overcome with emotion is an understatement. I literally cried the rest of my FULL 5k, tears streaming down my face. Not because I was in pain, but because I know that no matter what happens today at my MRI, I will face what it is and adapt. If I can get back on my bike and into the pool great. If not, then I won’t. No matter what, I will adapt and overcome. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt that my adorable husband will follow me in his little red CMax and make sure I get to do whatever it is I can do and be safe (and yes I even asked him, to which he replied “Hell yes I would, that goes without saying!”).
All in all, it was a very good moment to have, because I think we all get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves. The “I’m not good enough”, I can’t do that”, or “That’s way beyond my skill level” kind of stories. Our inner voices lie to us the best, especially when it involves hard things, like exercise, sleeping, and doing the right things for our bodies. Trust me, my inner fat girl is AMAZING at talking me out of doing the hard shit, and at times, I still listen to that siren’s call. Even when I know better.
The fact is, we all have to self-correct our own paths and that’s not easy to do, especially when life, society or our own inner voice is telling us we shouldn’t do ‘the thing’. I would have never become an extreme athlete or recorded my first video for youtube, written my first poem or published my first blog if I’d listened to everyone else. But somewhere inside me I found that voice that has moxie, that voice that hates losing, that voice that wants to live forever. The voice that is truly Me – the girl who is the fighter, the runner, the swimmer, the biker, the Badass. That’s who I am, most of the time, but that fat girl is me too and I can’t ever forget that. All these versions of Amy exist inside me and they make up the woman, the human I am. I love that person, more than anyone else on the planet and sometimes that focus gets blurred and we fall short in loving ourselves the way we should. We give in to the excuses and the reasons why we CAN’T and forget that the very act of trying is what has gotten us this far.
Last night, it just took a very subtle reminder to center my focus back on what I CAN do and not wallow in what I can’t. That woman with the walker could someday be me, and if I end up with such elation on my face from climbing that near impossible hill…so be it. I hope I do it with as much grace and as much support as she did at that moment.
Here’s hoping you do too…