I’m sure most of you have seen Michael Phelps’ Under Armour commercial that debuted during the Olympics by now. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a watch here.
The tagline at the end says, “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”
Last week, I was getting my 3 year old son ready for bed and, as usual, I asked him what day tomorrow would be. He said “Wednesday… Mommy goes to exercise on Wednesday. When it’s dark.” I said, “Good job, buddy. That’s right. Mommy goes to run with her friends on Wednesday mornings.” Then, without prompting, he said under his breath, “Mommy exercises in the dark with friends. Girls afraid of the dark. Mommy’s friends not afraid of the dark.”
This conversation has stuck with me this week because (a) I have no idea who told him that girls are afraid of the dark, and (b) It has dawned on me that he knows. He already knows.
My son is only 3 years old. But, he already knows FiA. He knows our logo. When he sees one of my FiA shirts in the laundry, he always says, “That’s Mommy exercise!” When we brought one of our FiA BRR vans back to my house after a grueling weekend in the mountains, he saw the FiA logo on the back and said, “That big truck took Mommy to exercise?!” He knows that I exercise while he and his sister sleep. He knows that he usually gets to come to bootcamp on Saturday mornings to hang out and watch. He knows that we go to FiA coffeeteria after bootcamp on Saturdays. This past Saturday, he didn’t come with me to bootcamp because he had soccer practice in the morning. I rushed over to meet him at his practice straight from bootcamp, and afterward, I took him to grab coffee to-go with me. The whole way there, he asked if we were getting coffee with “Mommy’s friends.” When we walked into the coffee shop, we saw several sweaty non-FiAs in workout clothes, having coffee together. He yelled, “Those are Mommy’s friends!!!” Even though those women weren’t FiAs (or least not yet), at the age of 3, he can identify that women in workout clothes are the women we hang out with. They are the women we exercise with, get coffee with, socialize with, and hang out with in our neighborhood. Those are our people. It hit me, after we got home that day, just how significant that moment was. My child is 3 years old. God willing, he has a long life ahead of him, and that life includes exercise, friends, FiA and F3. My job is to model the kind of life that I want him to value. My job is to show him what our priorities are as a family. My job is to show him that we belong to a community whose mission is “to make each other stronger in all areas of our lives.”
What started as a convenience for my family on Saturday mornings after my daughter was born (you keep the baby at home, I’ll take the toddler to FiA) has become something so much more significant than that. This child, who mostly follows me around (and, let’s be honest, whines a lot and throws goldfish at people) at our bootcamps is secretly and quietly learning a way of life. He is learning that friends are family, and friends with whom you can share physical fitness are some of the best kinds of friends. One day, I will tell him all about how he was 9 months old when I met you all in the dark for the first time, and I didn’t know a single one of you by name then. I don’t know if he’ll believe me. Back then, If you would’ve told me that stepping into the dark with you all that day would’ve led to being a part of one of the biggest blessings in my life, I honestly don’t know if I would’ve believed you.
I had my second child 7 months ago, and I ran the BRR with our FiA teams this month. What my teammates don’t know is that there were so many mornings when I was running and training for BRR with you, completely and totally sleep deprived, on the verge of breaking down into postpartum tears during a run because I wasn’t sure how I could keep going – breastfeeding, waking up throughout the night, being “on demand” all day at work and all night at home — and then getting up at the crack of dawn the next day to log some miles and do it again. I felt so overwhelmed and so exhausted. But, I distinctly remember the first time my daughter slept through the night, a couple of months ago, on a morning I went to a FiA run. I left the house surprised that she wasn’t awake yet and pumped in my car on the way to the run (while then awkwardly making everyone wait to start running until I unhooked my pump in the parking lot). I ran with a buddy for most of the run, and did the last mile on my own. I remember running that mile, thinking about how difficult this training had been for me, feeling overwhelmed by life, and then suddenly thinking about my tiny daughter. And my son. And how I would have logged 6 miles before they opened their eyes that day. And how they were both asleep at home in their beds, oblivious to the fact that I was out there struggling up a hill. All of a sudden, I remembered why I started doing this in the first place.
My children don’t know yet (although my son is starting to understand) that I get up several days a week, before they open their eyes, to make myself better. I showed up for that run that day to become better. To be a better mom and wife, to be encouraged by a community of friends, and to pray with those friends before the sun rises. Those friends will meet you, wherever you are and in whatever you’re facing, in the dark. In the past 3 years, you all have met me in sickness. You have met me in a high-risk pregnancy. You have met me between jobs. You have met me in happiness. You have met me in a postpartum haze. You have met me in sadness. You have met me with my children. You have met me at my best, and you have met me at my worst. You have brought light into my life and the lives of so many others whose lives are forever changed because you met them in the dark.
Friends, I know that what we are doing in the dark is putting us in the light. To our children. To our husbands. To our neighbors, our co-workers, our acquaintances. Be encouraged by that truth. Keep showing up, wherever you are, in the dark. No, we aren’t afraid of the dark. We’re getting better, stronger, and we’re changing women’s lives every single day – in the dark.