Someone recently asked me why I decided to start a blog. I wasn’t sure how to answer. My insides immediately jumped towards being defensive and I felt the response that I have been trained over the years to feel: guilt. Guilt for doing something that takes up my time. Guilt for doing something that doesn’t produce any tangible benefits. Guilt for doing something that brings me joy.
No one has taught me this response. I have trained myself to feel this way. It is the underlying message that whispers to me, to many women, perhaps, that to be a good mother, you must be entirely selfless. To get this right, everyone else must come before you – and you want to get this right, don’t you? You only get one shot at building the foundation of someone else’s life; at framing the perspectives through which these brand new eyes will see the world. (No pressure, or anything.)
I couldn’t put into words why I wanted to write, or why I had ignored my own desires for nearly a decade. I couldn’t adequately answer the question until this weekend when I watched my son run his first mile.
He didn’t set out to run that day. The wind was biting, howling through the oak trees that tangle over the hill country as grey clouds began to encroach on the bright, blue sky. It was a wind so intrusive it deterred us from our quiet fishing trip – not the best conditions when you have a newborn in tow. As my family of five rounded the bend that leads to a long, uphill, dirt road, my husband slowed the all-terrain vehicle we were riding in. And this is when I saw the little spark ignite in my son’s eyes. As he jumped out of the vehicle, we asked what he was doing. We were still a mile from our ranch house. “I want to run,” he said. This was a new one. Neither my husband nor I knew how to respond. More affirmatively this time he repeated, “I want to run!” As my husband began to instruct him to get back in and sit down, I leaned over, gently placing my hand on his wrist, and said with a smile, “Let him try.” Neither of us thought he would make it that far. It was terribly cold and his six-year-old legs surely would grow tired climbing the rocky hill. But why not let him try? Why not let him discover what he is capable of?
And so, he began to run. Unsure at first of this freedom we were allowing him, his legs moved timidly. But as he made his way up the hill, I noticed his stride gain intent. His arms naturally fell into a rhythmic pattern beside him. His shoulders relaxed and his chin lifted higher as his shaggy hair blew in the cold wind. Every once in a while, he turned back toward us, cheeks flushed with exhilaration, to flash a beaming smile as we drove along slowly behind him.
My husband and I didn’t say anything to each other as we watched him run. I think we were still existing somewhere in the realm of adult realism and doubt – waiting for him to stop, waiting for him to give up. Yet, halfway home it became clear: he wasn’t stopping. Even if he ached inside or his legs gave out, even if he kind of really wanted to, he wasn’t stopping until he reached the end. Halfway home is when I realized: he is a runner. Six years and it was just now hitting me. He is a runner. Of course he is a runner! From the moment he wakes until the moment we wrestle him into bed at night, he is in motion; leaping from couches and making circles in our suburban backyard. He is a runner. All this time, and I had never let him try. What if we had not said yes at the bottom of the hill?
When we reached our home, he fell to the ground out of breath and full of pride. We asked him how the run had made him feel, as we always ask our children, to which he replied, “I feel amazing. I didn’t think I could do it.” And that joy was entirely his. It wasn’t because he had raced someone else and won. It wasn’t because he had proved his parents wrong. It was because he wasn’t sure that he could do it and he did it anyway. You could not have wiped away his smile if you tried. And you know what? The next day he had us drive him back to the exact same spot – and he ran it again.
To the question I was asked weeks ago, I have finally arrived at an answer. Why did I decide to start a blog? Because I cannot remember the last time I felt that breathless, heart-thumping, adrenaline-filled rush of accomplishment. I cannot recall when it last was that my cheeks flushed from the thrill of my own effort, or when I last stood atop a triumph that no one else could claim as their own. I started a blog because the little spark of determination that I saw in my son’s eyes that afternoon exists inside of me – it exists in all of us. I started a blog, because while I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a giver, a mender, a healer and home maker, among all of these things, I am also a writer. And I am not going to ever feel fully alive unless I write.
So, I won’t say to myself, “You can be anything you dream.” I won’t say this to you, either. I don’t even say this to my young children. Because it is simply not true. What I will tell myself is, “You can achieve the dream you choose to work toward.” I am finally ready to work.
What is your dream? The one that makes you come alive a bit just imagining it? The one that makes your heart pound a little more quickly if you say it aloud to yourself in the mirror? What is the thing that you think you cannot be because you are too busy being everything to everyone else?
Whatever it is, just start running.
And chase it like hell.