Running is fast becoming a “thing” in our family this year. After years and years I have started running again and what used to be something very solitary for me has become something quite different as my four oldest sons begin running too.
So as summer has hit, most mornings I am out with at least a few of the boys while one or two of the older boys keep watch over the little ones as they sleep. What a change from my norm of stroller walks! I laugh at life and its twists and turns as I realize it only took fourteen years to get to this point. Running with my sons is such a pure joy it is truly beyond words.
And that makes me think of happiness and how elusive it can be. As a twenty something, before children and before I met my husband Kevin, happiness and finding myself was my goal. Each second counted, was I happy in this moment? What things could I do/what experiences/job/activities/deep thoughts brought me to that place of happy? I analyzed my life, stepped out brazenly into new experiences, wrote poetry about it, and reflected, reflected, reflected. Happiness was supposed to happen now, fast, in the moment.
It wasn’t till I got “elbow deep into the muck of the world” and life was no longer all about me that I started actually getting somewhere. Children have a natural way of ripping off that self involved band-aid. As a new mom life was painful. I was just surviving, with twinklings of exhausted joy mixed in.
But motherhood has taught me to put one foot in front of the other literally. My happiness is of the fourteen year variety. Fourteen years of letting go of everything I thought I wanted to be to one day (during vacation at my dad’s last week) go running on the beach surrounded by sons I never imagined, singing the theme to Chariots of Fire, the movie we had watched as a family the month before. -It was pure bliss.
And from that moment of bliss, it is back again to one foot in front of the other.
After our run this morning I sat perched in my upstairs bedroom listening to loud decisively angry yelling break the early morning quiet and then screams of pain. At first I am irritated that the two boys I ran with this morning may wake the little ones who are still asleep, but I tamp down the irritation, say a little prayer to remain calm and head downstairs to check on everyone and help parse this trouble. Thankfully instead of yelling about how they were impeding upon my time and their other brothers sleep (what I really wanted to do), I send the offending kicker out to take care of the recycling and I bring the yeller upstairs to talk. We say a decade of the rosary together, I feel the grace of Jesus through praying with Mary calm him, and give me peace. Afterwards we talk about what happened and what he could have done to have helped diffuse the situation. He apologizes to his brother (who had already quickly apologized for the kick moments after it happened) and we move on.
I didn’t lose my temper, I gave my sons what they needed. I wasn’t selfish.
My husband is working on the cleaning crew at our local elementary school for the summer. Up at 5:30 this morning and a little grumpy after I barrage him with too many questions for his foggy morning brain to handle he works steadily to get himself out the door. My “go to” in this sort of situation is to get irritated by his grumpiness, continually convince him with my words that he shouldn’t be grumpy, and then slowly let self righteousness creep in and without consciously meaning to, lead us into an argument. Instead, this morning, by the grace of God, I let go of how his grumpiness affects me and instead of bringing on a fight, offer to make him some coffee, even though I really don’t feel like doing it. When it is time for him to go I give him a kiss, from my heart thank him for going to work for us, and wish him a great day.
This is not how I thought happiness would look, small moments of overcoming my selfishness, and bliss when I least expect it.
I am finding contentment in the soft clap clapping of foot in front of foot in front of foot on this old rocky road of life that we are all called to travel. It’s humbling this sort of running that isn’t so much about winning and catching happiness in all its immediate fruit as it is about slowing down when I’m winded, sprinting when I can, even walking when necessary, but always moving steadily and faithfully forward to the finish line.
Love to you all from the dusty back roads of Vermont,