I usually walk the hilly mile to the front of our subdivision alone and then jog back, but today four of the kids go with me. I head out the door with my phone but no earbuds, anticipating two miles of silly conversation. The kids who are on foot took off without me—they’re halfway up the hill—and I’m left behind with one on a bike and one on a scooter, who’ll soon leave me in the dust.
I almost go back for the earbuds but then I stop myself because I need to know. I need to hear my labored breath and not resist the work, embracing the labor.
This doesn’t come easy for a girl who tends to hunker down inside her comfort zone.
Eventually my young walkers pass me, giggling, on their way back home; I haven’t seen the bike or the scooter in a while. I reach the front of the subdivision, a decision to make: to walk or to run. I’m not sure I’d ever leave the house if I didn’t give myself the option. I have to talk myself into running every time.
But something grips me when I take that last step, the pivot that turns me toward home. It’s like the urge to push (which I didn’t feel in my first deliveries, but that’s another story), an irresistible compulsion to run.
Sometimes I chant “I. am. not. a. quit-ter” in time with my steps. Usually I focus on the sidewalk in front of me, unwilling to look at the stretch ahead. But always, always, the buds rest in my ears, gatekeepers that only let in the sounds I want to hear.
If I’m introspective, it’s the Avett Brothers. If I need to set a pace, it’s disco or 80s pop. If I’m feeling down, Frank Sinatra croons promises of better days. Even the pause between songs makes me nervous.
Today I hear my own breathing—no filter—like two stuttered gasps followed by an exhale, over and over, until I find the pattern and hold on tight, unwilling to break the rhythm of this music I’m making. My foot catches on an uneven patch of concrete and I stumble and catch myself, briefly altering the time signature, aware that I’ve lost the beat, my rhythm syncopated, for months.
But today I crest the hill that will. not. break. me. and feel a cold sweat and a chill that rocks me in this heat. Childbirth taught me that feeling: Transition. The out-of-control intensity before you bear down and do the work.
I’ve been living outside the bounds of my comfort zone. Can I pull up the stakes; lift the ropes; and expand the space? Adapt but stay strong?
Not without the God of hope, the One who gives me strength.
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” ~Isaiah 40:29