It’s cold this morning. He’s long since left the bed, taking with him his warmth. Even under three blankets, I’m shivering.
I’d like to buy some new running shoes, though I am not a good runner. There was a time when I ran often. I completed a handful of 5Ks and even a half-marathon. Completed, not won.
I completed one 5K while 6 months pregnant with my youngest. The temperature was 18-degrees when we crossed the starting line. My hands were numb at the finish. My half-marathon was finished by pure will. I had undertrained, under prepared, under hydrated. When I crossed the finish line, my hands were so swollen I could barely text my husband to coordinate a rendezvous.
I remember long weekend runs–never more than a walk/jog–along the riverbank in the city my kids now call home. And along the roadside at sunset. Always worried about judgements from others as I bounced and jiggled and struggled down the path.
And now, just the desire to buy a new pair of running shoes elicits from within shadows of shame and whispers of embarrassment.
I am not a good runner.
My thick thighs are not thick with muscle.
I can already feel the burn in my chest as I draw in an exerted breath.
In many ways, I hate running.
That’s not exactly fair.
I hate how running makes me feel. Tired. Sore. Out of breath. Fat.
It’s hard to ignore thick thighs as they bounce, wobble, and sway as you’re plodding down the road.
However, idleness does not beget improvement.
I need that stitched on a pillow, I think. So I can bury my face in it when I can’t jog for 10 minutes straight. For when I horrifically imagine passing motorists’ judgmental looks. For when these thick thighs stubbornly fail to unthicken.
I’m getting distracted.
Wednesday’s meditation was about self-care.
What strikes me though is not the permissive tone, but the discussion of self-care within a relationship.
We’re learning to take care of ourselves, instead of obsessively focusing on another person. We’re learning self-responsibility, instead of feeling excessively responsible for others. Self-care also means tending to our true responsibilities to others.
Our true responsibilities to others.
When I first read this phrase, I latched onto it. I delighted in it. If there are true responsibilities to others, I contemplated, the opposite must be true, too: Surely, some of my self-assigned responsibilities to others are not true responsibilities.
For two days, I silently wrestled with this. I know I’m not responsible for another’s happiness. Does this mean I’m not responsible for their unhappiness as well?
I’ve often assigned myself responsibility for both his happiness and unhappiness. If I don’t make him happy, I reasoned, I’m making him unhappy.
By making his happiness as well as his unhappiness my responsibilities to him–my true responsibilities to him–I perpetuated the lie I’d built my post-divorce life on: that I could control him.
But more importantly, if I could control him–his happiness, his unhappiness, his sexual desires, his attention, his time–I could control the outcome. Wedded, committed, envy-of-all bliss, here I come.
And then my trust was shattered: not by him, but by a close friend.
Within an hour of realizing that most of our recent interactions included her putting me down through humor and sarcasm, I came to learn that this same person shared intimate details of my story and her opinion of it in my absence and in my safe place.
My boundary was crossed.
My trust was broken.
If I wasn’t yet brave enough to reaffirm my boundaries with my boyfriend, here was my Higher Power’s not-so-gentle nudge to step off the Ledge of Silence.
And I did.
And she cried.
And she fell back to self-deprecation.
And I did not rescue.
And at the end, the atmosphere was not light and happy. It was dusty, but grounded.
I was reminded of Ketut Liyer’s advice in Eat, Pray, Love:
To find the balance you want, this what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs instead of two.
I walked away from my first boundary-affirming conversation feeling as if I’d just grown two extra legs.
Perhaps some of my true responsibilities to others is staying grounded, setting and affirming my boundaries, and speaking my truth. But choosing not to rescue her was also a true responsibility. And one from a place of love. I own my journey, and she must own hers. It’s my responsibility to honor that. It’s my true responsibility to let go.
As I spoke with my sponsor after my friend and I parted ways, I paraphrased one of the promises of CoDA: This is life changing stuff, I said.
Yes it is, she replied. And this moment will dramatically change the trajectory of your life. I guarantee it.
And for once, I believe her.