This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I got up, put on my exercise clothes, and went for a speed walk on the trail that runs along the old railroad tracks near my house. I gave a split second thought to saying the hell with it and walking to Safeway as I'm out of sugar and need more to make lemonade from the lemons life hit me with last week, but decided against it. So what I had to leave the job I so enjoyed. I'll find another.
Walking, working out, was something I used to do every single day. When my late husband was sick, exercising kept me healthy so I could take care of him. After his death, it gave structure to my days and kept the panic that raged in my brain to a low roar.
When I remarried though, my sixty minutes of me time fell by the wayside. Nudged, no, shoved out to make time for managing personalities and tension and tempers. I spent my days in fight or flight mode, ready to play referee at the drop of a briefcase or a backpack. The results were textbook.
I gained weight. I got sick frequently. Back to back to back bouts of strep throat. A sinus infection that migrated to my gums. Hip bursars discovered by a particularly prescient friend during a Jazzercise class that were quickly confirmed by a rheumatologist. (A rheumatologist! Old people see rheumatologists!)
"You see that?" she asked, circling a spot on an MRI of my lower back. "Your spine is collapsing."
Was it old age? My turn to get the rheumatoid arthritis that runs in my family? No. It was the weight of my world, all my desperate efforts to keep everything on an even keel, crushing me. And my body was crying "Uncle."
Sometimes at night, when my courage and confidence have the audacity to fall asleep before I do and my self-doubt gets its second wind, I torture myself thinking about the good times. The dinner parties that ended just before breakfast. The nights spent watching movies and, God help me, Top Gear reruns until we fell asleep on the sofa. The road trips filled with friends, endless rounds of Cards Against Humanity, morning wine tastings, and the discovery that a) I simply cannot drink during the day, and b) I can find a place to nap in any barrel room known to man (and probably those man's yet to discover).
I have many beautiful memories from my two and a half year marriage, and a few indescribably painful ones of things I shouldn't have tolerated for two and a half seconds.
We all know it's unhealthy to focus on the lemons life hits us with but, on those nights when morning feels years away, and self-doubt has invited fear and second-guessing to the party it's having in my head, I have two choices: concentrate on the moments that shattered my trust in my husband, or curl up next to self-doubt and worry,
What if I threw in the towel too soon?
Wrenching as it is, I choose to concentrate on the crap. Release the flood gates and let it rip. Relive every single second of every single stunning, out of the blue betrayal until I'm so angry I'm out of bed, making coffee, and muttering like a crazy woman, Throw in the towel? Am I insane? I clutched that towel. Cared for it. Mended the holes that man blew through it without a moment's hesitation or a morsel of remorse. I loved that towel. I didn't throw it in.
And I didn't. I just put it down when it got too heavy and hurt too much to keep holding on to.
It's four fifteen in the morning as I'm slipping into my sneakers and congratulating myself on surviving another long night. I've been through half a box of Kleenex and six cups of coffee and that latter fact alone means just one thing: today's speed walk will definitely include a stop at Safeway. Sure, I need sugar. But it's much more likely I'll need the ladies' room.