I walk daily. Walking is the only exercise I get because, as I understand it, you can’t count housework. LOL I walk five blocks. A while back I decided to run those five blocks. I have never liked running, but in February of this year, I decided to run. The goal I set was to run the full five blocks by September. In the article I wrote sharing why I decided to run, I told you I would tell you how it worked out.
Well, it hasn’t worked out well!
I began having significant nerve pain in my right foot, the front of my shin, and in my right knee after only one week of running. The pain was intense. After an MRI, my doctor told me I had to stop running. There is an issue in the vertebra of my lower back that I may need to deal with someday, but for now, giving up running will help prevent further disintegration. I was bummed out. I mean, I should be able to run; other people run.
Not being able to run was a letdown because, as I said in the article if we have a big enough why, we can accomplish anything. It didn’t matter how big my why was, running was not something I could do, and remain healthy! However, pouting wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal of brain health. If I couldn’t run five blocks by September, what could I do that would make a difference? I gave it some serious thought. After all, running or no running, I had a big why!
- I could wear better shoes. (My daughter bought me a pair and it made a world of difference! Far less leg pain!)
- I could walk faster.
- I could practice better breathing as I walked.
- My sister, a fitness instructor, suggested I could employ the weights I carry better.
I took her advice and began utilizing my weights in a new way. I raise one arm into the air and keep it lifted as I walk, for as long as I can. The pain begins slowly, but eventually, I must put my arm down. Then I lift the other arm and repeat the process. Then I let both arms swing by my side until I feel I can lift the weight again. I do at least two repetitions of each arm and sometimes three. Each month I can lift the weight longer.
Lifting a Weight is Like Caregiving and Parenting
During one of my walks, I realized how much this exercise is like the caregiving I do every day and how much it’s like the parenting we’re all doing. Both are weights we carry. Sometimes, it becomes painful, and you wonder if you can keep it up. The truth is that to manage these weights well, we do eventually have to put our arm down, metaphorically speaking. We need a break.
I know that carrying the weight of caregiving in my family is a blessing, just as carrying those 3-pound weights is a blessing. It’s the same with parenting. The weight is real, but parenting also has its compensating blessings. Any parent with adult children can look back on the hard days and be grateful because of what they see in their adult child. Then there are the grands. Need I say more? LOL We are also blessed because we learn hard and valuable lessons, we grow and hopefully make changes, and become better people. Without the weight, there would be far less growth.
But, just as in my walk, you need to occasionally put the weight down. There are many ways to do this. It might be a night or a week away, but I suspect that will be rare. I am taking a four-day weekend off at the end of December, but this has been a few years coming. : ) It may be a trip to the grocery store by yourself. I use this one at least once a week, despite how much my mom likes to go on rides. Maybe you can drop the kids off at your mom’s for the evening. I do this for my daughter, Jodie. They already live here, so all she has to do is get a ‘yes’ from me, and she can take an evening off. : )
It might be an occasional lunch with a friend or an evening with your book club. Have you ever thought about an hour or two at the library? I have used this. It’s a perfect place for stillness and rest. What about an adult-only movie night? My daughter Jodie hides out in a comfy chair in our garden during the summer. Try taking the dog for a walk.
It’s never easy to create space for yourself when you are caregiving or raising a family. I have had moments of quilt when I leave home to get some space for myself. After all, I snuck out knowing my mother was pining for a ride. But when I come back, I am a better caregiver, a more loving wife, a cheerful grandmother, and a gentler daughter. You will be a better mother when you occasionally put your arm down. Our parenting/caregiving muscles need a rest.
You can’t carry the load well without an occasional break. You need to figure out how to find moments when you can put the weight down so your parenting muscle remains strong, and you can carry the load for all the years it takes to parent a family.