Sometimes when you least expect it, memory and emotion collaborate to knock you off balance. That happened to me this morning as I was running stadium steps at the high school. I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but my sciatic nerve won’t let me. Sprinting up stairs doesn’t seem to bother it, so that’s my cardio of choice, when my schedule and the weather permit. The burst of effort on the way up and the recovery on the way down suits me just fine. Also, it makes me feel like a badass. Just a little bit.
While chugging up and down the stairs, I watched little boys in baseball caps and gym shorts, carrying gloves that looked too big, gather for the baseball camp run by the high school coaching staff and some of the varsity players. Both of my boys participated in the camp for years, and my oldest helped coach when he was on the team.
At one point, while doing tricep dips on the bleachers, I watched a group of six year olds run off with their coaches to their own corner of the field to do drills. I remembered watching my own little boys more than a decade ago, doing very much the same thing – so full of energy and joy and perceived athletic prowess. I felt my heart squeeze hard in my chest and then I burst into tears. Full on, drippy tears rolling down my face, right there, mid-tricep dip.
It’s not just that I miss my babies and the old days, though I do. I miss loading them in the car for family outings, and I miss when I could make their problems disappear with a bandaid, a kiss and an ice cream cone. They’re teenagers now, with teenaged problems. And teenage attitudes. Family outings are few and far between. We hardly even eat dinner together anymore, given our individual school/work/activity/social schedules.
What I really miss though, is the IDEA of my lovely, intact, secure little family of five. I capitalize IDEA because it clearly wasn’t all that my rose colored glasses want me to believe it was … Now, after 20 years of marriage, I’m a divorced, middle aged, former stay-at-home mom trying to raise three fledgling adults largely on my own. The amicable 50/50 parenting plan I’d imagined when we began the separation process doesn’t exist (The kids live with me. All the time.). There’s single parenting to deal with, and then there are all the household duties to deal with solo, and don’t forget the social aspect of divorce … navigating the scary/exciting/fucked up world of online dating is a whole ‘nother blog post on its own. Yikes!
But here’s the good news: I’m much happier – much more MYSELF – now than I have been in years. My home-based personal training business is doing well, I met a great guy on Tinder (we’ve been dating for several months now), and the chronic severe stress that I’d been living with for years is abating. Dare I say it … life is good. NOT PERFECT, but good.
In the process of renewal, rebuilding, and rediscovery (and probably several other “re” words I haven’t thought of yet), I have become passionate about supporting women like myself, who find themselves starting over at an age when we thought we’d be a-l-l-l-l set. I imagined that I’d be enjoying all kinds of stability and security in my 50s … I was in no way prepared for the chaos that took place instead, and certainly never dreamt that I’d be scrambling to reinvent myself at THIS age.
While there are many approaches to getting on top of the stressors and challenges of our lives, I tend to start with fitness. First of all, my exercise habits are something I can control, and that feels good. It’s something to hang on to. And If I feel strong and fit in the weight room, I feel strong and fit in most other aspects of my life. It gives me the confidence, energy and fortitude I need to move forward. And swagger. Can’t be denied – a good session in the weight room gives you swagger that you cannot buy. And in a Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off situation, you need as much of that as you can get, though nobody on the planet has as much swagger as a kid with a baseball mitt and a ball …
Can you relate to my story of starting over? I’d love to hear yours, if you’ve got one …