I was thinking a bit about the progress I’ve made in personal growth since my marriage ended. During my marriage I became part of the the relationship “we.” I became lost (at least partially) in that relationship “we.” If I asked my ex- to do something and he didn’t want to go, I often wouldn’t go either. I would convince myself that I didn’t REALLY want to go anyway. I didn’t try new things as often, because there were those times that my ex- gave me a particular look or would have a particular intonation in his voice that would suggest the question, “Why would you ever want to do that?” And the hint of that question often resulted in me shutting down and doubting myself.
(I want to emphasize here that there were many unhealthy patterns in our marriage on both sides. I was not perfect in it either, and I know that I had some very unhealthy communication patterns directed at him. I do not want to give the impression that he was abusive, because that is not the case. Or, if he was, then so was I.)
One of the first things I started doing for myself after the split was running. I tried to take up running a number of times during my marriage, and my ex- even joined in to support a few of these attempts. But he was a Marine, and I was out of shape. Not the best way for a beginner to start out… I would quickly get discouraged and stop my attempts. Over time I gained a bit of weight and lost a lot of self confidence…
But after my divorce I found the Couch-to-5k program. Jogging was a great relief when I had too many things on my mind. In the early days of the program, I literally had to pay attention to each step. To each breath. I started the program, and it engrained the habit of running with me enough that it has stuck with me to this day. One of the reasons I like jogging is because it is a bit meditational, and if I go too long without going for a jog nowadays I start to feel really antsy. Oh, how things change!
Right after the split I also thought I might like to learn to surf. I quickly realized that I couldn’t swim all that well, and perhaps I should take things one step at a time. So I signed up for swimming lessons with UNF’s campus recreation. I can’t thank Frank, my instructor, enough for the lessons that he gave. After that class I started doing laps pretty regularly, and I eventually worked my way up to swimming 1/4 mile. What a confidence builder! (Unfortunately I didn’t keep swimming up, though I can certainly still do it. Still haven’t learned to surf.)
Thinking back about those days when I could barely dog-paddle, and I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, I am pretty damn proud of myself. Certainly I’m proud of the health gains I’ve made in my life. But I’m also proud that I took those initial risks and persisted through the fear. (Telling someone you are taking swimming lessons when you are 30 is a bit daunting.) It’s allowed me to be more of a risk taker in other areas of my life. It’s allowed me to take opportunities that I might have turned down because they were too scary or I cared too much about what others thought of me. (Obviously that was not a problem for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2012 race. )
With the running, I did it one step at a time. With swimming, I did it one breath at a time. And so it is with life. I’ll keep on running, one step at a time. I’ll keep on swimming (literally and figuratively), one breath at a time. I’ll continue to live daringly.