Taming the Butterflies

23 Nov

Sometimes I wonder how I stayed sane before I started running again.  The answer, of course, is that I probably didn’t.  Several years ago things got kind of hectic in my life.  I left my job in a whirl of negativity on the same day that my Dad, on the other side of the world, started chemotherapy. Six weeks later he died, and my guilt about not having made it home in time to see him alive plunged me into depression.  A year later, my second son was born, and I learned the hard way that post-partum depression does, in fact, exist, no matter what nonsense Tom Cruise may have been spouting at the time. A year or so after that, we were hit with George’s autism diagnosis.

So for a period of three years or so, we were very unsettled.  As soon as we came to grips with one thing, something else would crop up and derail us again. And in those days, I didn’t have running. I had no means of escape, no way of letting off steam.  Anger, despair, and sadness reigned supreme in my household.

Several years on, I look back at those days and wonder how on earth I got through it all. How did I endure the stress, the confusion, and the absolute lack of self-esteem without blowing a gasket?  My life now is so different.  I have a job that I enjoy. I love being Mom to my two beautiful boys.  I am getting married next year (the day after the Royal Wedding, no less!) to the man who has been by my side for the last ten years.  I have rediscovered running.  I am, for the most part, happy.

For the last little while, though, a certain level of anxiety and nervousness has been creeping in.  It’s not all bad – it is attributable to the fact that I have been making decisions to make some changes in my life, to make things better, and to confront ghosts from the past. The destination that I am aiming for is positive, but the journey to get there is somewhat unnerving.

What this means is that I have entire herds of butterflies constantly jiving around in my belly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind them being there.  Butterflies are lovely, and every healthy belly needs a few of them from time to time.  I just wish they weren’t breeding like rabbits, and I wish the little buggers would all dance to the same tune.  And I wish they were waltzing instead of breakdancing.

I get relief from this state of astonished nervousness when I run.  I am very focused as a runner.  When I’m on the road, I do not think about what’s going on in my life.  I think about what’s going on in my run.  How is my pace? Is my heart rate within range?  Does my body feel good enough for me to kick it up a notch or do I need to hold back?  Am I hydrated enough?  Do I need to take a gel?  And so on and so forth.  From time to time my thoughts drift into non-running-related territory, but they always come back to the running.

When all of this is going on, the butterflies don’t get much airtime.  They probably realize that no-one’s watching their manic performance, so they lie down and take a nap.  For whatever reason, when I am running, the butterflies are still.  I feel a sense of calm that is almost surreal. I always know that as soon as I stop running, the butterflies will wake up again, but in the moment, the lack of nervous agitation is a beautiful thing.

At the end of the day, though, I find that I have to embrace the nervousness, because it is symbolic of positive change. To cross the finish line, you have to run the race, even if the road you travel on takes you past places you weren’t sure you wanted to go.

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2 Responses to “Taming the Butterflies”

  1. runtobefit November 23, 2010 at 4:54 PM #

    I know exactly what you are talking about. For me running has been my therapy. It is what lifts me up constantly. I don’t know where I would be without it. It has become such a need in my life. Things will work out for you, as long as you believe that they will. We all get nervous about things, but I think God has a place for us. There are reasons we go though what we go through…they are stepping stones. Everything will work out. 🙂

    • runningforautism November 23, 2010 at 8:08 PM #

      Thank you for the words of encouragement. Sometimes we have to take leaps of faith in our lives, and if we can have the courage to do so, great things can happen.

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