Today’s post has been brought to you by witch Amy Blair.
I had a baby last year, and before my son’s first birthday two things happened. First, my husband served me with divorce papers without so much as a conversation, and second, I ran a half marathon. The half marathon was my New Year’s resolution this year. The divorce was something I never saw coming.
What I hate about running: I’m absurdly slow, I’m injury-prone (claim to fame – I broke my hip while running the New York City Marathon), my face gets beet red immediately upon taking a few steps, I sometimes have exercise-induced asthma that causes me to wheeze for several days after a race, I have lost multiple toenails, I once barfed on the Brooklyn Bridge while running on a hot day, my skin is pale and sensitive, and I chafe everywhere -- inner thighs, armpits, underboobs. All of it. I’m not one of those sleek, cute runners who wears booty shorts and effortlessly pulls off eight-minute miles without breaking a sweat. I’m straight disgusting when I run. Have you ever bled because of your underwear? Have you had a blister half the length of your entire foot? I have. Running is horrible, and I hate at least 50% of everything about it.
But there are a few things about running that work for me. Let’s be real, the best part about running is that I lost thirty pounds of baby weight and now that I am getting a divorce the concept of a revenge body is pretty fucking sweet. Zero shame. The other thing I love about running is that it gives me an opportunity to just fully wipe my mind clean of anything even remotely resembling thought. When I run, my head goes to its special place of sweet, dumb silence. The bad thoughts cease, and at risk of being cliché, all that is required of me is a simple action -- putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, until the little beep goes off on my running watch that tells me I am done. Taking another step. Willing yourself, sometimes despite yourself, to just move forward. I run and I whisper into my empty, thoughtless head, just keep going. It helps. I try to take that with me when the run is over.
George Bernard Shaw said “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pigs like it.” As my divorce got uglier, I got increasingly distraught. I cried. I screamed. I pounded my fists on the walls. I wanted nothing more than to somehow make my husband see how badly he had treated me, how much he was hurting me and my kids. But I came to realize that in some sick way, my distress only emboldened him. He was actually, depressingly, getting off on watching me suffer. He wouldn’t move out of my house (still hasn’t, actually), and every time I blew up at him, you know what he would do? He would smile. He saw this as some sort of game, and watching me shake with fury never made him sad, or remorseful, or even the tiniest bit anxious. What it did was make him feel like he was winning. And for a guy like him, that was the most powerful aphrodisiac. I had to find something else to do with myself after I put the kids to bed, and pounding out miles on my basement treadmill gave me somewhere to put my rage. Each day I could run a tiny bit further, or a few seconds faster. And it worked. It helped.
When I train for a race, I make myself a little training schedule and hang it in my kitchen. Whether the day’s goal is two miles or ten miles, it feels ridiculously good to watch myself crossing out those days. It’s a physical reminder that I can accomplish things. And you know what else? When I am done training, I run the race and whether I finish in 1st place or 22,973rd place (like I did in Brooklyn this spring – told you I was slow!), they give me a medal. And as a forty-two year old mother of two young kids who spends most of her free time wiping butts and folding endless piles of laundry and wondering how we are going to survive this shit storm, there are few things more satisfying than having a stranger dangle a medal around your neck and tell you that you did a great job. You did your best. You killed it. You cannot be stopped. You know what you did? You went the distance, and you endured.
Amy Blair lives in New York and runs the newsletter the D-Train. Subscribe NOW.
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