I’m a middle-aged mother runner living smack dab between the busy cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I am not making sourdough bread, picking up my high school flute, learning a new language, painting a room, or crafting. I am also not organizing, planting a garden, or working at a food pantry.
I am jealous of friends who are doing those things in this pandemic.
What I am doing cannot be seen, but it is occupying my time, both within my house and within my mind. Like many, I am at home with my husband and children, doing the best we can every single day.
However, starting abruptly this spring, I took on a mantle I felt totally unprepared for: being the primary caregiver for my adult daughter who has multiple disabilities. Absent her day program with friends and a full complement of aides and therapists, my daughter was thrown into nothingness when the pandemic began, with no comprehension of where her regular life had gone.
The only constant she has is her dad, her teenage siblings, and every day—all day—me. It’s a standstill, all right. A huge departure from our previously busy life.
Through all the initial upheaval and fear, and now the segue into constant uncertainty, the one thing that has been MY constant, and the thing that allows me to learn about caregiving in a new way, is my running.
I run alone, in the pre-dawn, from 5 to 6 every morning. Every weekend, I go on a long run with a dear friend. For years, a man in my neighborhood would call out to our sweaty selves as we wrapped up a run: “What are you training for?”
Our reply was always, “Life!!!” Even if we were in the throes of a half- or full marathon plan, we’d still yell, “LIFE!” anyway. It felt right.
Turns out, it WAS right. Through running, I can be the caretaker of myself and in turn be better for my daughter.
As a runner for two decades, I know now that my years of running have set me up with the fortitude I need to get through this time. The parallels between my years of running and my current role are many.
I try every day to stay in the moment, running the mile I am in. Whether I am helping my daughter shower, get dressed, eat meals, or navigate her day, I fare better one task at a time, not looking ahead at the hard patches to come. I know there are hills on this course. I know I will get tired and discouraged. I also know I can push through.
During a marathon years ago, I wrote a series of mantras on my arm. My favorite was, “I Can Do Hard Things.” That phrase helped me finish that race.
Now, seven months into this pandemic, I finally know those words are true.
Read more Seven Months into the Pandemic essays.