Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Mom: The O.R.F.

O.R.F.= Original Running Female

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about daily practice (see previous posting), and how we get to it. In the past, friends have asked me how I manage to be consistent about getting a run in (or some other form of exercise) almost every day. 

I believe that a major part of how I got into sports in the first place was my dad's influence, and I'm not trying to discount his support at all, but when I think about the most consistent model in my life of daily exercise, I think of my mother.

My mom did not grow up in an athletic family, nor did she grow up in an era where women did a lot of sports. Somehow (maybe because of my dad, I don't really know), she started running. Raising two kids with a ton of after school activities and working full time (not to mention preparing a home-cooked meal every night) did not leave tons of extra hours, and my mom got up at 5:30 and ran before work every day. Most days she had finished her run and shower by the time I woke up, but it was always there. Daily exercise was just something you DID, irrespective of the other drama happening in your life. She didn't make a production of it--it wasn't Big Deal Running, it was just a daily practice. Sometimes she ran races, but she always made sure she got some exercise in.

Knowing many people in social work careers (teaching, non-profits, etc.), I have seen many people (particularly women) put others' needs ahead of theirs to the point of ill-health. Now, my mother is not the woman I learned to relax from, nor did I learn from her that sometimes indulging oneself is a good thing. She did teach me (through her actions) about holding a time sacrosanct every day for herself alone. It could be argued that my mother has so much excess energy that getting some of that energy out every day actually benefitted us as well, but she taught me it was possible to have a hectic life and keep some time sacred for oneself. I learned to carve out time every day for something I need, something that keeps me healthy.

I spent a year being a single foster parent for a teenager, and while it was one of the most profoundly amazing years I have ever had, it was also one of the most exhausting (I have SO MUCH respect for single parents!). Running was one of the anchors that pulled me through that year. No matter what was happening, I got out and ran, and I can thank my mother for setting the framework (perhaps completely unwittingly) for this practice. 

In a recent conversation, a friend remarked that when you set a boundary, in a sense, you are saying "I love myself." I grew up with a woman whose running said every day that she loved herself, that she was worth taking the time for, whether or not she framed it to herself this way. Because of this I have never questioned whether I was worth taking the time to make sure I do what I need to stay healthy. My mother gave me a powerful gift, even if she never knew (well, until she reads this) what I received. 

One of the clichés in teaching says "Modeling is the most powerful teacher," but like any cliché, it became a cliché because there is a large element of truth to it (otherwise, why would people repeat it)? I learned more from my mom's daily actions about taking time for my own needs and caring for myself than anywhere else. Modeling: the gift that keeps on giving... Seriously though, I think this quality of my mother's (that I have now made my own) has supported me every day more than almost anything else I can think of. I'm sure that she had no idea when she got up and put her running shoes on every morning that this commitment to herself (which is what taking care of yourself is) would end up supporting her daughter--but it did.

Happy Mother's Day to the Original Running Female in my life!

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