At the beginning of October, a friend brought up the challenge of walking 30 miles in 14 days. I looked it over, saw other people’s enthusiasm at the challenge and thought, “Meh, I would rather be a shut-in.” A week prior, the anxiety and depression had been overwhelming. The girls and I were struggling through a developmental leap, and I was counting the hours in the day until it was over and couldn’t be bothered to take more than two showers a week. The girls were on the brink of full mobility, and I was on the verge of a breakdown.
It was bad.
I was not okay.
When I am not okay, I know what I need to do in order to get myself out of the funk. I need human contact, exercise, and/or fresh air. Prior to our second IVF, I walked and eventually ran on the treadmill every day. I ate better food and lost 25 pounds. I felt proud of how I was treating myself. I knew I needed something to look forward to every day. On Twitter and Instagram, I saw people posting their miles. I was encouraged by their progress. On October 5th, with nine days left in the challenge, I decided to join. I walked three to four miles the first day. The girls were crawling around everywhere, climbing everything. A day alone with them holed up in the small play area was exhausting. I quickly learned to strap them in the stroller and pray for them to nap while we were out. It was less exhausting to walk for two hours than it was to chase them around the house for the same length of time. They were learning to walk. They were excited and trying out all of their new skills and they reminded me that I needed to walk, too.
My anxiety had been palpable—my rapid heartbeat, the searing pain that comes with a tightened chest. I had applied for a job, struggling with the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t get the job. I felt like a failure. After the first day of walking, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but the anxiety over the job stayed my constant companion as I wondered what happened, why they didn’t like me, why I wasn’t good enough. I covered a lot of ground the first few days of walking and hit my 30 miles before the 14th. I felt the anxiety and embarrassment of not getting the job subside, but it took days of walking.
I didn’t really want to walk very much before because I never knew when one or both of the girls would scream and cry, drawing all eyes to us on the walking path. It was normally Ruby that cried and she would only stop if I was carrying her. However, carrying a baby for two miles while pushing a double stroller was unsustainable for my back and arms. I would put her back into the stroller and screaming would ensue once again. People stared. I wanted to shout at them, “The only way to get her to stop crying is to get her home as soon as possible and the fastest way to do it is pushing her in the stroller!” I never said anything though to the onlookers except the occasional, “Well, at least I don’t need to let you know we are coming up behind you,” accompanied with a sheepish grin.
Eventually, I figured out that they needed snacks. I packaged Cheerios and raisins in a large plastic bag and brought along those plastic cups that are supposed to prevent them from spilling their snacks everywhere—which of course just slows down the inevitable; Cheerios still end up everywhere. It gave them something to do, though, when they weren’t napping. Whenever we were out walking, I thought about what a cushy life they were living on these walks—snuggled in with blankets, either napping or snacking while strolling along. They weren’t climbing anything, though—for an hour or two every day, I felt like I was expending less energy walking and pushing a double stroller for five to eight miles than I was pulling them down off the couch or the coffee table. As the air became cooler and autumn leaves fell all around us, I got a weather shield for them. Even when the ambient temperature was 40°F or 50°F and/or it was raining, the girls would be warm and dry. I had no excuses for not walking, even in winter, or so I thought.
Depending on my mood and the weather, the goals of the walk were different each day. Autumn on the East Coast of the United States is absolutely beautiful and I captured nature’s elegance with my phone’s camera whenever the girls would allow me to stop without crying. On the days I took photographs, I was focusing on filling my soul, slowing down to appreciate my surroundings. Those days, I wasn’t focused on distance. Other days, I battled against the rainy and cold weather conditions—placing the weather shield over the girls in the stroller, focused on getting out and getting home. Some days, I concentrated on distance—carefully weighing how long the girls would feasibly nap against how much they would snack and how long they would let us be out before a full-blown, wailing revolt.
I know when I start to feel better. I start to daydream while I am walking instead of working through my nervous energy and anxiety. Sometimes I find myself far away from people and I worry about a zombie invasion, or I pretend that the people I am walking past are Russian spies still left here from the Cold War. I think of silly things to put in my Facebook statuses. I come home and I am calmer with the girls. I give them more space to explore their surroundings, their instincts, and their self-trust instead of hovering over them.
In October, we walked 141 miles. November, 93 miles. For December, I set a goal of 30 miles. I wondered if I had set a goal of 100 miles again that the girls wouldn’t have gotten colds and my back wouldn’t have bothered me for two weeks. Two to three weeks without exercise, and I was decimated again—anxiety at its peak and self-loathing at its worst. In this cycle of anxiety and depression, I know I will always struggle. I just need to remember to walk. As my girls flail about, building the muscles and neurons to run, I hope to be able to run again, too, even though I can still feel—a year later—where the progesterone in oil was inserted into my gluteal muscles.
I will reach my goal of 30 miles in December, but I had forgotten why I needed to walk in the first place.
In January, the goal goes back up to 100 miles again.
I started a Facebook group called 100in30. If you are interested in joining the group, please do. It is not about walking 100 miles, unless that is your goal. You set your own goals and receive encouragement from the group when you post your miles. You don’t have to do the same goals as anyone else. Ultimately, I just try to keep the goal of “do something.”