On Running. (And Control.)

February 15, 2013 at 10:32 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., My life | 6 Comments

A good blogger friend of mine posted today about a terrible bout of anxiety she’s feeling about where she is right now – she’s perched on the precipice of a lot of unknowns. Which is really hard.

And this sentence got me: The more I can’t control the big issues, the more I micromanage and grab onto smaller things. When we were ttcing it was my weight and body image and running. I couldn’t get pregnant, but I could damn well make sure I got skinny and could run really fast.

That last sentence.

That’s ME right now.

I have finally gotten to the point where realize I am not in control of much of anything in my life. I have a career which is ill-fitting. My relationship with my husband is challenged by the stress of our infertility, the drudgery of our daily life, and parenting. My nearly-five-year-old still wets his pants regularly. I will likely never be pregnant again.

And all of this is uncomfortable. I LIKE having plans. Sitting with decisions, really forcing myself not to CHOOSE anything, really sitting with emotions and feelings… it’s kind of exhausting and tiring and uncomfortable. And hard.

Except there’s one thing in my life which I DO have some measure of control over: running. And food choices.

Oh, running.

I wish I could bottle up the feeling of nailing a workout, how amazing and light and fast I feel.

Words don’t do that feeling justice either. It’s joy. Freedom. Sometimes exhaustion. Sheer will. The rush of pushing past some mental barrier and realizing that you can DO something you previously thought you weren’t capable of. I have moments where my overriding feeling is, I am MADE for this. That feeling you get when running is changeable, like catching lightning in a bottle. But always, always, always fulfilling.

After being snowed in with my family for two full days last weekend, I went out the day after the blizzard for my long run and experienced nothing more than sheer JOY. The run had it all: birdsong, the crunch of the snow under my sneakers, the quiet without any traffic, the people outside shoveling I got to greet… it was perfection.

A run is the one thing in my life right now that gives me joy, and success, and happiness. It makes up for all the ways I am failing everywhere else.

Because, you see, I DO feel as if I’m failing a lot. At work, I fail to be detail oriented; I am trying not to be crippled with self-doubt right now whenever I turn in something I’ve worked on, but it is so hard to banish the Inner Critic who tells me it’ll never be good enough.

I fail to be patient with my son, who still struggles with using the damn potty. We have been dealing with accidents for far too long, and I am nearly at my wits’ end* with it all. Our conversations when I discover that he’s wet often end up with him telling me, Stop being mad at me, Mommy. (I don’t yell, nor punish him for it, but I do lecture. I just can’t be neutral about it any more, no matter how hard I try.)

I also fail to be a good wife nowadays. Charlie is under some pretty tough work stress, and though I know he could use support and kindness, I’m having trouble not being resentful of the fact I feel like his work takes precedence over me or Lucky. I am failing at giving him the support he needs without expecting something in return.

I also have failed, utterly, to complete our family. I am mourning, already, the end of Lucky’s childhood; it’s going by so fast and I won’t ever get to experience it again. I mourn FOR him, the fact that he will have to bear the burden of taking care of Charlie and I at some point in the future on his own, that he has no one to share the burden. I mourn that his children won’t have cousins.

My body has failed. Failed me in the most fundamental way, on the deepest, most basic level possible. My body will not produce children. I have one child, yes, but that’s a product of luck. Happy luck, clearly. But luck.


It all melts away when I go out for a run, when I look down and see a pace which I never thought of as “comfortable” and I realize I am barely exerting myself. When I run a race and completely shock myself with the pace – nearly 3 minutes faster over the distance than I did in May of last year. When I go to track practice and get stronger and faster as the workout goes on, instead of giving in to my tired muscles and stopping.

Running is when I can get caught up in the sheer joy of DOING something with my body. Running frees me in a way I don’t have in other parts of my life. It gives me happiness, and a sense of control, and a deep thankfulness for my body and what I can accomplish with it.

But yeah. There’s the control thing again. This is another way for me to grasp at control over something. It’s an escape, too. I can get away from the Fail of my life for a while; escape into the run, and come home feeling stronger.

And it makes me wonder if this means I am falling back into my old patterns; where I am looking for SOMETHING I can control, since I feel so out of control with everything else. Except it’s hard now.

With running, I don’t WANT to let it go. I have accepted the fact that I can’t control EVERYTHING. But can’t I have one area of my life where I feel like I can work hard and see the benefit?

Or is that unhealthy, too?

I don’t know.

I suppose the best I can hope for is that someday, running is just something I do, and not something I need. Because I NEED it right now. Right now, I need the joy, the release, the feeling of being good at SOMETHING.


*Thanks to a comment on my blog, we just ordered Lucky a watch which can be set to vibrate every two hours. Our new strategy is to talk up the fact that the “doctor” suggests that we do this; that THIS is the way he will be able to keep his underwear dry – use the potty every time Mr. Watch tells him to. We’ve mentioned it to his teachers and they’re willing to work with us on this. We’ll see what happens.



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  1. Oh man, I hear you, and you hear me. (And it was SO nice to see your name on my comments!)

    What sticks with me is how frustrated you were when you were injured and couldn’t run. Because it was a stress release, and a chance to feel like you were good at something. But I do also wonder if you are right here to think that it is also a way to control things, and not being able to run stripped you of your own area that you could really control, and could get better at. Because that’s what we like to do- get better at things and succeed.

    I have no assvice since I am wading in a sea of my own uncertainty, but lots of support. I think it is ok to NEED running right now. As other parts of your life settle down the need will probably become less and you will eventually reach a stage where you can just enjoy the runs and not need them as a form of control over your life. But I do think it is good you are aware of this.

  2. It seems to me that if having one area where you’re in control makes you feel better about not being in control in other areas, makes you have less of a need to control other areas, then it’s a good thing. If it’s making you just want to run all the time, to ignore the areas you can’t control, then it’s a problem. But I certainly don’t feel it’s a BAD thing to want to have something in life you can control. (don’t know if that makes any sense)

    And you know, everybody’s children are a product of luck, regardless of how easy or difficult it was to have them. Don’t say that like it makes it not count.

  3. Oh, how I understand that need to be good at something … yes, yes … anything. I’ve arrived at “well, without my career, who the f* was I, anyway?” which is a very scary place to be.

  4. This makes a lot of sense. It’s so important to feel in control of something in our lives. Plus, running is really good for you and produces those great feel-good endorphins.

  5. I think you running is great. I think it’s amazing. I think it’s a really positive outlet in your life. I don’t think you have to worry about it being another way to control something in your life. Who cares if it is? There are few ways you can take control that are healthier–both mentally and physically– than running. I would only worry if you start to run despite pain or injury, if your running is coming between you and your partner, if you are running at the expense of other obligations. Then it might be a bad thing. But, from what I can green from you’re writing you’re no where near that. And I only bring it to show you that it can be a negative presence in you’re life, that is possible, but also to show you that running does not have that place in your life. It is a very positive thing.

    We just for an elliptical trainer and I’m working out on it 2-3 times a week, which isn’t much but which is doing a WORLD of good for me emotionally. I told MV just today that I believe 100% that my current stable emotional state is due entirely to working out regularly. I have always known that aerobic exercise regulated my mood but man, did I forget how much BETTER I feel when I’m doing it. My gawd, it’s like night and day. I’m sure it’s evident on my blog too. And I absolutely attribute it to exercise (thought I think the diet might be helping too, I’ll definitely be bringing foods back very slowly and seeing how they affect my mood because I think the restrictions have helped a ton on that point too).

    Anyway, sorry to make that about me. I just wanted to let you know, you’re not the only one who feels like a different person when they are doing that thing that makes me happy.

    Keeping on running. 😉

  6. Sounds like the running is a GREAT release. Perhaps it may feel like an escape, but it’s healthy. Especially if it brings confidence to the body you say ‘failed you’. Keep at it!,

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