I started this blog as I began to accept my divorce in summer of 2014. That summer I took some trips for work and started to see my world with new eyes. I had started to really embrace the excitement of starting over and felt that the brunt of the pain of our divorce was over.
Then our custody battle started later that summer, unexpectedly.
Even though I was granted temporary custody until a final order was given, the future was always uncertain. The legal process took about two years, and it affected me in a different way than the breakup of the marriage. Hands down, the most stressful time of my life came from the two years of dealing with a sudden influx of negativity & pressure, going through a three day trial, and waiting five months for a ruling. I returned to college during that final year of the proceedings. In many ways it helped me by giving me something else to think about. While I enjoy my courses and professors, being a 33 year old premed has stirred up plenty of additional stress on its own. My body physically started to show signs of how this process was affecting me. As I learned more about how our bodies digest food and interpret stress, I wanted to do more to take care of mine. The majority of the changes I've made fall into two categories: sleep and exercise.
Since I was a teenager, I always described myself as a "night owl." In my senior year of high school, I was voted Biggest Procrastinator and Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Class. My legacy is rich, and clearly I had all the qualities of a future physician. I let the bad habit continue into adulthood, and being a work from home photographer facilitated the toxic cycle. Editing photographs at night while the boys were in bed got me through many of the weddings I photographed while my ex was deployed or later, when we were separated. It wasn't good for me and now I know better. So I started with a small goal to get more sleep, and I really stuck with it. I do not model this perfectly, and there are semesters when it is impossible to keep up with my classes without staying up late or waking up very early. I've found that waking up early is the best way for me to read research papers. I think it's partially because of being more alert after sleeping (the morning spike in cortisol levels?) + quiet house with no other distractions. I actually enjoyed the ritual of reading papers before my sons woke up and I look forward to having another capstone class in the fall. I've become an early riser by intention, and my body does not mind. If I lose sleep, I make it a priority to catch up. Now I know that my body makes hormones that help repair my cells and I want to give it the chance to do that. I need all the help I can get.
My next priority was my weight. My marriage had quickly deteriorated after Damian was born, and I never lost the baby weight. In fact, I was heavier after he turned six than I was a month after he was born. Damian was born at 9 lbs and 7 oz, so my 5' 2.5" frame had to stretch to accommodate him. As a result of adding weight on top of that, I had a perpetual "pregnant" abdomen. It used to make me cry when someone mistook me for being pregnant, but then it happened often enough to stop surprising me. It seemed like something I would never be able to change, so losing weight sunk to the bottom of my priorities. After everything I had been through, I didn't have a high regard for my ability to tackle new obstacles. For the most part, I was just trying to cope with the ones I already had.
This might be the first story ever about how (adult) kickball changed a life.
Last summer I was playing on a kickball team, and realized very quickly that running to first base did not feel like it did when I played softball in high school. It was embarrassing to be short of breath and that moment revealed the condition of my body. I knew I was overweight, but I didn't realize how out of shape I was. So after finishing two semesters back at college, I decided to become a runner. This is also in contradiction with the person I thought I was in my former life. My older brother, Samuel, is "a runner." He won a division I state championship in cross country & ran all through college. At 40, his marathon PR is 2:36:38. I had never raced competitively like he did, but I was ready to start taking care of my body.
The first time I went to the gym at my university I could hardly get through fifteen seconds of a slow jog. The beads of sweat tickling my back weren't from exertion, it was embarrassment. I remember the distress of my navy shirt awkwardly sliding up my stomach and how I kept quickly pulling it down in frustration. I couldn't make eye contact with anyone else, because I felt like an outsider. I forgot to bring headphones and couldn't "tune out" the rest of the gym. I asked myself a hundred times what I thought I was doing. My negative thoughts were strong, but somehow my feet kept moving in spite of them. The kickball field had brought something important to my attention, and I wanted to address it.
A few weeks after I started going to the gym, my sister, an early childhood education major, joined me for the remaining summer workouts. Even though we both attend Wright State, we don't see each other often on campus unless it is on purpose. I really think it helped me to have her with me and create a routine that worked for us. I remember that she was telling me a story when I ran my first mile without stopping. I interrupted her to breathlessly share with her what I had just done! Being consistent for those weeks helped me realize that running is just as hard as I remember, but that my body can get used to it. We also lifted weights and I started to feel sort of normal in the gym. Sort of.
I don't have a wild update. I've been running off and on for a year and I am not ready for a marathon. I have not changed my diet drastically, but have tried to pay more attention to what, how much, and when I am eating. This part is important part to me. I had lost weight after Kevin by daily walking miles on a bike path while pushing his stroller. I drank a lot of coffee and barely ate. I know better now, and try to eat more green food and drink less milkshakes. I only permit myself one cup of coffee and seek out more protein. I started drinking plenty of water.
While I check my weight from time to time, it has not changed enough to encourage me to keep running. If it were just about weight, I would have felt like I had wasted my time. I lost ten pounds pretty quickly, but it seems like my body is slowing transitioning and building baby muscles while the scale remains fixed (for now). The changes are incremental, and I've had to learn to accept slow but persistent results. My inspiration comes in other places, like how my clothes are starting to fit my body differently. I started to feel muscles I didn't expect to find when I'm shaving my legs. Working out seems to help me sleep better, because I used to experience a lot of insomnia. I know it helps me work through my stress, which is a large part of why I have committed to keep running. I love how I feel after a workout. I live in an old house and notice how much easier it is to quickly skip up the stairs compared to how I used to slowly take my time. I feel stronger.
I'm so proud that for the first time in my life, I have running shoes that actually
have holes from RUNNING. Really, it never seemed likely for me.
My endurance is still not ideal, but it's so much better than it used to be. There are moments while I am running that I feel like I've been a runner all my life. After a few weeks, I was able to run the kickball field like I was fifteen years younger. It feels fantastic to know that I will be able to tell my patients that the rumors are true. The simple phrases we've heard throughout our lives, really can impact our health tremendously. The low cost of most lifestyle changes & absence of prescriptions shouldn't discourage us from acknowledging their value. My advice is to pick one area of weakness, even if it seems like a very simple goal, and commit to focusing on it until it is part of who you are. For me, it was realizing how much my poor sleep habits were affecting other decisions. It truly created space and energy to redesign other areas of my life.