by Sarah Shaffer
How do we keep our heads balanced, keeping optimism and strength, when nothing seems balanced anymore? As I am running, I breath in fast and my pace quickens. I feel the wind on my face while my wild and curly hair skims across my cheek. I can feel a bead of sweat roll down my arm. This is my tale as a mother, as a lover of the wild and free outdoors, as a wife, as a human, as a woman. This is my way of finding steady footing during a time of worldly chaos.
This experience has not been easy for any of us I believe. Most during this time I think of my relationship with my only child, my daughter, who is 6. She is bright, kind, and joyous. I think of how she shouldn’t have to experience such a scary and poignant time in our lives, in everyone in the entire world’s lives. How do I balance the task of explaining to her why she can’t go to school, why she can’t play with friends, without scaring her about the big bad things in the world. How I hold and hug her and kiss her, and other times after a long day of homeschooling by day and working by night, I just want to cry from feeling burnt out, exhausted and the longing for a date with my husband, even if it’s just in the backyard..How do we, as parents, come up for air as parents during this time? I have decided we don’t come up for air. We cope, and we all have our own methods for coping. I have gratitude, as I know my life is relatively easy. I have my body, which is still in relatively good shape, am healthy and eager for exercise. I have nature.
For the first couple of weeks I tried running and using my mountain bike to grind up a steep paved road near my home. Then on week two I realized my back couldn’t handle the running anymore, an ongoing issue for me for years: I knew it wouldn’t last, but I had sure hoped it would.
So I formed a new exercise goal: l. Power walking 40 plus miles per week with my dog while my daughter rode her bike. Our 11 year old dog did surprisingly well, with her arthritis subsiding from all the activity. I guess we were under-exercising her for the last six years of her life since the kiddo came along.
After three weeks of getting between 40-44 miles per week my child lost interest in biking around the neighborhood, or biking much at all really. Now I have to bribe her with a popsicle.
I bought some stretchy bands and looked up various garage workouts to do with them. I watched my husband become a burpee machine while I mess with the bands and try not to have them hit me in the face. The garage workouts get a bit boring, but I am trying new activities, participating in some workouts using video and having my daughter keep track of what I have left to do while she rolls around on the skateboard or makes obstacle courses around me.
The biggest jolt of energy and feeling grounded I get is riding my mountain bike up steep hills and mountains. The pain I feel in my lungs, in my legs, and the burning sensation in my face is heaven.. I do the same ride every week, only I want to do it faster. Sometimes I lay on the ground at my topping out spot for a minute or two and just take in the utter fatigue, because that makes me realize I am well at this moment. It is what keeps me balanced. I think this is what you can consider type 2 fun. Not at all fun while it is happening but totally awesome afterwards.
In my neighborhood I find great joy exploring the little things with my daughter, seeing the Balsamroot flowers in bloom, finding rolly pollys, digging in the dirt and planting veggie seedlings. Listening to the birds, the Meadowlark, the Robin, the Sage Grouse along with the Quail. Most exciting is listening to the Pacific Tree Frogs (a.k.a. The Chorus Frog) that have a beautiful call that is also super powerful outside our back door. They stop and start their call almost in complete unison. With all the windows closed you can still hear them clearly. It feels like a special gift to listen to them on a nightly basis.
Although I cannot make things better in the world for my child, I am working at keeping myself somewhat whole during this devastating time for our collective world. For me having activities that bring me joy or give me clarity make me a better mother. I hope someday my child doesn’t remember this time as scary and unknown, but as time she got to spend with her parents. I am hopeful that I can remember it that way too.
I want to give a big thank you to all the Physicians, EMT’s, Grocery Workers, Package Delivery Drivers, Scientists, Lab Workers and many many more that are risking their health for us. You are very appreciated.