Today I ran in our local 5K Autism Run, which for me was a celebration of the J-Man and Dale Jr., being a dad, and the journey it’s taken me on, but also of a newer me who is getting fitter and feeling stronger a little bit at a time. About 2 1/2 months ago I started training for this 5K. Not long ago, walking up and down steps was hard. I was utterly burned out, and getting through the day took just about all I had. When I started running again, jogging for more than 90 seconds at a time was a real challenge.
Today I’m 13 pounds lighter and a pant size smaller than I was in late July, and I’m on a path that’s leading toward becoming someone who is strong enough to be the dad of two awesome kids.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter lately, you’ve seen me make references to being ‘strong enough’ quite a bit. I’ve read a lot of blog posts over the past three years about autism, parenting special needs children, and the challenges we all face. But none have stayed with me more than Rachel Coleman’s two-part “Strong Enough To Be Your Mom” post. (Part 1 and Part 2) I know we spread the love about Rachel and Signing Time around here because our boys accord her the adoration of a rock star and because we respect her so much, but her Strong Enough posts spoke to me when I felt like my body was falling apart.
It focused all my uncertainty, fear, and even anger about my health and strength and spirit into one thought: I just want to be strong enough. I don’t need to be stronger than anyone else; I just need to be strong enough to be their dad.
Finally, I started to do something about it. Goodbye Cokes and sweets, hello lean and green dinners, and back on the road to do something I used to love and am falling in love with again.
I feel as good physically as I’ve felt in a long time. Most days aren’t roses and sunshine, and emotionally life is still a roller coaster, but that’s OK. I’m not the Buddha, Mr. Congeniality, or one of the Care Bears. It’s not about measuring up to anyone or anything else. I’m training not for a marathon of 26.2 miles but the adventure-filled marathon that will last the rest of my life. And I want to make sure it takes me a very long time to finish it.
At first I started all this because I felt like I had to. Now I’m realizing I’m making the decisions to build a better me because I choose to. I choose to take better care of myself. I choose to do what it takes to be the good dad I want to be.
I choose to take ownership of my life, my health, and my parenting because I’m not some victim of circumstance, genetics, life chaos, or autism. I thought about my grandmother a lot while I was training and while I was on the road today. I thought about what she would do. The answer is simple: Kick butt, never quit, and don’t roll over for nobody or nothing. So that’s what I choose.
Now I’m looking for the next 5K to sign up for. Maybe 10K. After that, who knows what’s next!
But for today, I felt strong enough to be their dad.
Oh, and my time. Not bad considering last year it took me an hour and five minutes in a low-back brace!