After all that talk about how much better I feel when I workout, yesterday I didn’t workout. This was different than the times before though. This was due to truly running out of time. I took the boys school clothes shopping (as we entered the dressing room at Target with our mountain of clothes the attendant actually whispered “good luck” to me), I took them to get hair cuts (another hellish experience due to the screaming toddler throwing the mother-of-all temper tantrums), and finally (because they had been so well behaved the entire day) I took them to see Lion King. It was a very long day. And no, I couldn’t slip in a jog somewhere in there, let alone a swim. But it was not for laziness or anxiety that I skipped, so I wont beat myself up about it.
But I promised to tell you about my swimming epiphany from the day before, so here’s what happened. I took the boys to the gym pool, like I have many times before. It was a bit cloudy so we stayed inside. They were in the family pool and I was in the lap pool right next to them. I could literally stand up and look at them if I wanted to. The place is littered with lifeguards, so I wasn’t at all worried about leaving them unattended. Besides, they are becoming quite good swimmers. And this was a system we had already practiced with the outside pools.
Then I hit thirty minutes and an old familiar sense of dread gripped me. My breathing quickened, my heart rate rose, and I just knew something horrible was going to happen. It was like a claw had reached up from the depths of the pool and clutched my heart in a gnarled talon. I didn’t want to continue. And certainly not for another forty minutes. I could barely breath. This was supposed to be my safe place! This was supposed to make me feel better!
Then I mentally stopped myself and took a figurative step back. I asked myself; where did this panic come from? What was it’s meaning? Why was here? What was it trying to warn me of? As I continued to breathe and kick and breathe and kick, the answer came to me. I was scared to take the time for myself. I felt guilty about spending an entire hour focusing on me. I was feeling the pull to stop so that I could put my focus back on the boys. I wanted to make sure they weren’t bored or tired or … anything at all besides brimming with joy. It was as if I suddenly couldn’t see how they would possibly be okay for another thirty minutes without my attention.
Let me explain precisely how silly that is. I have mentioned already how the boys and I have done this exact thing in the outside pools. They play in the family pool while I swim laps for an hour in the lap pool. A couple times Mason has come to me to fix his goggles for him, but he had no trouble getting my attention and otherwise they didn’t need me at all. Before the summer I would take the boys to the indoor pool on the weekends. I wasn’t swimming back then and so I spent that time sitting on the bench next to the pool (that is normally reserved for bags and towels). I would read and wish they had better seats. I would do this for THREE HOURS sometimes. And not once did the boys need me there hovering.
Now look at what my anxiety would have had me do. I would have stopped swimming early just so I could watch the boys not need me. Knowing how important working out is to my mental heath and emotional state, I would have sacrificed both to sit on a hard cold bench and work up my worry till it reached frenzy. How serene would I have been the rest of the day? How understanding and accepting would I have managed to be towards my kids? How much patiences would I have been able to have with them? Very little, if I had ended my workout early.
So, this was my Ah-Ha! Moment. It was a perfect example of why you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before your kids. It also beautifully demonstrated how the solution to my anxiety is not always what I think it is. In fact, sometimes what I am first urged to do is the exact opposite of what I need to do. My anxiety was telling me to quit and go check on the boys, when what I needed to do was continue working out and focus on myself.
So, as I continued swimming I realized all of this. I was struck by how important taking the time for myself to workout really is. The positive effect this exercise is having on my life is truly amazing. I may not be the fastest or the strongest or the fittest or the skinniest, but I no longer care (as much, anyway, I am still human). I am becoming comfortable in my own skin and my own head. A side effect I wasn’t expecting.
My conclusion; today I will go swimming. It is one of the first things on my to-do list. I will let you know all about it tomorrow.