In grade school my friends and I went through a teeter totter phase. Our main goal in teeter tottering: to see how high we could bump the other person into the air. I do not know how we managed to always land our butts back on the teeter totter after bouncing such unhealthy distances from that board. I am amazed we never broke an arm or cracked a rib flying off the end of the teeter totter and catapulting through the air to land on the very firm ground below. We tempted fate every recess but somehow came out safe on the other side. The outcome could have gone either way.
My point is.
I have a problem with exercise. Exercise becomes obsessive and compulsive very easily for me. I used exercise as a calorie scorcher by increasing the minutes of exercise exponentially until only ED’s permission made it okay to stop. I never allowed myself to back down from minutes of exercise from one day to the next, at the very least maintaining minutes while more often increasing. I let exercise rule my mood, my time, my relationships. I used it as a crutch, an excuse, and a pride-booster. I drove my body into the ground by never giving myself a chance to recover, never taking time off for injury, never making my need for sleep a priority. ED created a teeter totter called exercise in my life, and the higher I bounced to achieve ED’s main goal of control, the more I tempted that fate of a catapult to catastrophe. I bounced so high that even landing back on the teeter totter took my breath away. But I flew right back up the next day, too oblivious to the danger I was putting my body into each time I bounced and landed.
Until my teeter totter cracked in half. And I landed with a thud, wind knocked out of me, head spinning from the sudden jolt. I almost died. Period. ED’s need for control in the form of exercise took a fun child’s toy, a playground staple, a seemingly harmless ride and turned it into a life threatening obsession. And it cracked. I hit bottom and had nowhere else to go. Suddenly the destructive behavior I was pretending was for fun came full circle until I realized that I was taking my life in my own hands with every free-falling bounce. And I couldn’t stop myself. I was addicted. I was ruled by it. I needed it because ED said so.
When I dropped, finally caught my breath, and rolled off, I didn’t think I’d ever want to get on a teeter totter again. I was scared of it. I was scared by the out of control bounce that deceived me into a false sense of fun and safety. I watched the replay tapes and saw the bounces bordering on insanity. Who would push their body to the outer limits without even glimpsing the consequences, without even acknowledging the chance of disaster or even death? ED took an innocent recess activity, he took the simple joy of running, and turned it into an ugly thing. And now I’m scared to get back on.
The weather is turning beautiful. Yet I still drive to Snap to run on the treadmill or climb on the stair stepper where I know a clock will maintain my minutes and watchful eyes will maintain my sanity. I drive to Snap to avoid the teeter totter of obsession that I am deathly afraid to find myself back on. But the weather is beautiful. I see the sunrises out the windows while I’m on the treadmill. I see the vivid green of grass and trees against the deep morning blue of the sky. I smell the air that can only come on those summer mornings when the day is new and the air simply feels like a warm blanket. I hear the sound of birds, thrilled to be able to fill the morning with song before the world wakes up to drown them out. I remember what it feels like to run when running is pure and free and simple.
And that’s when I know that I love to run.
ED took something that God gave me to love and turned it into something hateful. I was never good at sports involving hand eye coordination. I wasn’t an amazing singer. I wasn’t a drama queen or any other superstar. But when I found running the summer after my freshman year in college, I found out that I could lace on a pair of shoes and pound the pavement. I had determination and motivation and dedication to not give up when my muscles screamed or my chest hurt or my breathing came in gasps. I could push through the last mile and finish feeling satisfied and accomplished and on top of the world. Running was a race against myself and I won every time. I wasn’t average when I ran. I was the best because I was up against myself. That is what mattered to me. Pushing myself to the best I could be. No one else could decide that for me. Running let me decide if I was being average or if I was winning my race. And then ED came along and stole that from me. He used my passion for his cruel purposes. He took what I truly found as a passion and distorted it for his own means. I hate ED for that. Because that distortion took priority over every part of my life that mattered most – God, my husband, my family, my job, my joy. ED stole too much.
I want it back.
I want to be able to lace on my shoes in the fresh summer air at 5:30am and find joy in the movement, the breathing, the quietness of that space when night passes the baton to day. I want to know the freedom of no clock, no calorie counter, no agenda, just a good, hard run where I get to push myself to a new record-breaking pace just because I can. And I get the gold medal every time. I’m not average on those mornings. I’m God’s, running in the body he gave me, running for the right reasons and with the right motivations. That’s what I want back.
I’m not there yet. The teeter totter still sits broken. It’s being repaired by my Carpenter who has a new and improved design. He doesn’t want that nasty bounce every time one end hits the ground. I think it’s going to have seat belts and brakes built in with shock absorbers on both sides. It will even be equipped with multiple seats on both ends so friends can ride together and make a party out of the whole affair. He mentioned that he’ll put speakers on it so public service announcements can play along with encouragement and support. This teeter totter will be top of the line, and it will be mine. My teeter totter will be meant for what it was invented for: to have fun. I can’t wait. But until it’s ready, I will keep practicing my technique under the supervision of the playground monitor on the little plastic teeter totters that come on the kiddie swing sets. The ones on chains that swing back and forth rather than bounce up and down. I’m starting to go pretty high, all in anticipation of the real thing. But I can wait. I don’t want to teeter totter on the old model. I’m patient. I’m careful. And I’m in good hands.
And I really do love recess.