At first, I thought my moping was only about being sad the experience was over. I’d spent eight months organizing and building up to the four day event of running a 24-hour team relay from Logan, UT to Jackson, WY. At just over 205 miles split between 12 women, to say it was an experience is an understatement. I will never forget it. The training, camaraderie, and the moments of intense bonding will live forever in my heart. So why was I feeling so unhappy about all of it?
I’d returned home to my life post-relay. All the things I’d left the week before were still here. In some cases, that was a blessing—a loving husband, healthy and mostly happy children, a safe and comfortable home. But, I also came back to the not-so-nice version of myself that sometimes lives in my head.
This version of myself is a nasty bitch if I’ve ever met one. I’ve started referring to her as The Head Wench. She is never satisfied, always negative, constantly nagging, and shockingly degrading. She wasn’t satisfied with the accomplishment of the almost 15 mountain miles I’d completed. Nope—she started in on me before the race even began and she didn’t lighten up after it was over.
The thoughts running through my head would’ve made any eavesdropper cringe. I was the slowest runner on my team—with the easiest assigned leg. I was by far the biggest woman on my team, both by standards of height and weight. These are just the facts, and most of the time I’m not ashamed of the facts. But this time—oh my, this time, The Head Wench got ahold of me and wouldn’t let go. My not good enough performance on the race road turned into a constant stream of internal jabber about my not good enough EVERYTHING. She wouldn’t stop. My physical appearance—I couldn’t look at the beautiful pictures of the scenic mountain views with my able and somewhat willing body joyfully celebrating with my friends while we exchanged the baton without a steady stream of put-downs about my weight or my obvious lack of athleticism. Then she moved on to reminding me of every shortcoming I have with respect to my housekeeping, parenting, partnership, friendships, academics (or lack there of), career choices, hobbies—it was all up for criticism and she had an effing truckload of criticism. I’m talking a double trailer eighteen wheeler Mac truckload.
What followed was the better part of 56 hours spent in tears with heavy feelings of depression, and the too frequent outward verbalization of what The Head Wench was going on about in my head to, or rather, at my husband.
As I type away at this…I’m still hearing her, but I’ve managed to put her in a cage for the time being. How? Well, remember that loving husband I mentioned in the second paragraph…yeah, I can thank him for the one question that pushed me off the runaway crazy train I was on and sent me out hunting for a beady eyed, nasty tonged wench.
HIM: “Five years ago, when you were laying in that hospital bed and you couldn’t even walk without excruciating pain—did you ever think you would do all the things you’ve done since your surgery?”
ME: blank stare
HIM: “Gee, I don’t know—like continue to raise not two, but (now) three children. Care for our home, grow a garden, stand for hours in the kitchen cooking, go on family bike rides, carry your sleeping children through Disneyland, exercise—sometimes arguably extremely hard, and YES run over a goddamned mountain!”
ME: Cry—because admitting to him that he is absolutely right is just beyond what I’m capable of right now.
Good grief! How quickly we forget.
You can blame whatever source of influence you like for our complete lack of gratitude—our incessant need for more, not just in the material sense, but in every sense. Blame the media, an a-moral society, our own weakness—it makes no difference who is at fault. It only matters whether or not we choose to exit this crazy train and thumb our way back home to a place of gratitude. It is fitting that one of my favorite blogs, Momastery, had a post on that exact topic earlier today. It wasn’t framed in the same way, but it was another reminder of how easy it is to allow a beast we have the ability to cage to run wild and wreak havoc in the most treasured of our places—the soul. She (Momastery) was talking about keeping up with the Joneses. I’m talking about quieting negative self-talk. We are both talking about finding peace through living with gratitude.
So, tonight I am exercising. No physical mountains for me to run over tonight. Instead, I’m exercising my gratitude and even more than that—I’m exercising my forgiveness. I’m not fast. I’m not small, or average, nor am I exceptional, or outstanding and I’m absolutely not perfect. BUT I am enough. And I can be proud of that. In a world where we are guaranteed nothing—where within a life, at any moment, it can all end. It is too great a shame to waste time listening to anyone’s lies—let alone a nagging, nasty, ill-tempered Head Wench.
I plan to muzzle that bitch and starve her.
To my friends who run with me through mountains big and small, real and imagined—thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my husband who isn’t afraid to push me off the crazy train when I won’t jump—thank you. To my body, which I continue to torture, take for granted, and sell-short—thank you. To myself—I forgive you. God willing, we start again new in the moment we so choose. I choose now. Head Wench, shut the eff up—I’m loading my gun.