When I'm running, I imagine there is black smoke venting from the top of my skull. Each step builds a bigger fire. I push all my dark emotions, all of my fear, all of the things that plague me towards the flame, transforming them into the acrid cloud moving up and out. I wash the sudden internal emptiness with gladness, relief. Light pours into places once dark and I am reborn. Running is the tool. I use it to create a clean reality. Gain sanity. Find zen.
I wasn't always like this. I used to hate to run. But that was because I didn't have the guts to push or the tools to build a demolition fire.
Before, when I would attempt to break my own barriers I would inevitably give up. Face them, and turn away. Run away. It could be something as simple as the physical discomfort I felt during distance running, or something more complex. It didn't matter - whenever I had doubt in my abilities I would inevitably think that failing was worse than not trying. Backing down showed smarts. Knowing your limits was a sign of maturity. Yes, yes - it is truly shocking what information we can cognitively align ourselves with sometimes. And I'm not sure it would have changed, if it wasn't for Willow.
It was motherhood that shattered the first wall.
I never thought I could live without sleep. During those excruciating first weeks of parenthood, if someone had given me the option to quit, I would have. Gladly. But there is no option to give up at 3 AM when a little baby is depending on you, so I learned to adapt. I learned to take command of my ego just a little bit more. Pull back on thoughts of myself, give more than I thought possible. Not always in the most beautiful or graceful manner, but I learned how to push beyond. It was just the beginning.
Doors tumbled open in streaks. Sometimes I felt like I was crashing through them - pulverizing so many mental blocks like steel doors I could kick off the hinges. Shattering my own conventions. It felt amazing.
I learned how to cook, I brought art back into my life. I ran - and I ran farther than I ever had.
I re-learned how to learn. Then, I learned how to unlearn. In fact, I felt like I was figuring it all out for the very first time. I felt the concrete reality of mastering the learning process, but what I was really feeling was evolution. I was feeling it happen - to me.
It made me think suddenly how people always say that having kids changes you. I had always taken that to mean that it changed just your heart or your schedule. But, no. That's not it. Those things are involved, sure. But the real change is more than emotional - it's a warping of your physical fabric. It is an opportunity for reformatting the brain, completely rewiring yourself - should you so desire. There are certainly varying degrees to which people take advantage of this, but I believe when the birth of your child is an earth-shattering experience for you, you get the chance to build the world back up again. And it can look however you want it to.
It didn't happen overnight, but I did rebuild my world. I built it around my little earth-shatterer and my husband and me. And I built it into something much better. Stronger. Even more adaptable. I not only look for challenges these days, I invite them in for tea. It's something I really never saw happening. I would look foreign to an old me, should one come hopping out of a time machine.
So I adapt through a pinch in my side and drive my legs harder. I think about that smoke coursing out from the top of my head, thick with the burning of all my doubt, all my old selves. In doing so, I am evolving, unlearning, re-learning. Venting black smoke. Becoming.