Love Story

On trying to treat myself like I'll treat my dog.

The biggest thanks to UCAN for sponsoring Trail Mix this month. I’ve been a UCAN fan for years because it gives me such good energy for running and every other outdoor outing. Their energy mixes help me run strong and enjoy snacking all day long while I’m throwing down miles (which is a very big priority for me!). You-can be a UCAN fan too, and try it out or stock up with 20 percent off. (Click that link and use the code TRAILMIX.)

When my schnauzer Brutus developed a mysterious leg injury in his old age, there was pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do to try and make him feel better: vet visits, CBD doggy treats, and in an especially desperate and hilarious move, I even consulted an animal communicator and told myself “if nothing else, this will make a good story!”

This schnauzer schmoozer used some form of telepathic communing with my dog to ask him what was wrong with his leg. She reported that Brutus was 100 percent certain that it wasn’t cancer or arthritis. It was a bone spur, he said, without a dog hair of a doubt. She also reported that he was confused about why I left him every morning and he could use an explanation for my daily abandonment. I told her to tell him that I was confused about how my dog was intelligent enough to self-diagnose a complex medical issue but didn’t understand the concept of gainful employment.

During this time, I also started bringing Brutus to a physical therapist who specialized in treating animals. Every Thursday morning, we would spend an hour in her office while she gave Brutus a doggy massage and I fed him nonstop treats so he would sit still-ish on her table.

While I was shoveling both treats and cash at the problem of Bru’s bum leg, I developed my own physical niggle that flared up during a long run.

“You should get a massage,” a friend suggested, when I filled him in on my ailment.

“But that’s so frivolous!” I responded. And proceeded to let the niggle rage in my body and get in the way of running, while I continued to take Brutus to the PT for his weekly puppy spa time.

I wasn’t hesitating to get my elderly schnauzer a massage a week, but I wouldn’t treat myself to the same care.

As this winter hit, I was careening toward some tough grief milestones and rough mental health. I knew I would need to show myself some extra love to get through these harder months. As I was reflecting on how I might do this, I chatted with some friends about the idea of intentionally showing ourselves love with little acts of kindness – and how we can sometimes be really shitty about doing this.

“I realized I wouldn’t cook myself the same special meals I make for dinner guests,” my friend reported. “So during the pandemic, I just hadn’t been making any of some of my favorite dishes. But then I was like, ‘damn it! I deserve these too!’”

I realized I had the same resistance to getting myself a bunch of new plants while we are all locked down at home.

“Why bother?” I said. “It’s not like anyone is going to see them for months.”

But I was going to see them. Why did I not think that I mattered as much as other people!

My friend Nicole likes to ask the question: what would I do if I truly love myself?

Which is such a slap-me-in-the-face question. Because, when I ask myself that question, I realize I am often not acting in alignment with the best answer. Whether that’s treating my dog to better care than I’m treating myself, or not buying myself a new monstera for my own pleasure, or shit-talking myself during speedwork.

I have wanted a massage since I finished running the PCT last summer. While the pandemic presented a slight barrier to making that happen, there have been plenty of months since last August when I could have arranged for a little TLC for my battered body, but simply didn’t do that.

This winter produced the mental and emotional flare-ups that I expected it would. I tried to meet them with those acts of self-love through both big and small gestures. Like, driving a couple of hours to go on trail dates with some of my favorite girlfriends. And, enjoying extra long snuggles with Dilly. And, booking therapy sessions. And, granting myself compassion when I was struggling. I regularly asked myself how I could best show myself some much-needed love and tried to do those things and it helped - a lot.

But in addition to the predicted mental strain from the pandemic and grief and depression, some physical niggles started to flare up as well. I had to take a week off from running back in January when I ended a run with a howling hip adductor.

My first response was to spend an ungodly number of hours trying to self-diagnose and self-treat myself with the help of the internet.

But when I was weeks into this strategy and reading about what XCbro15 did for his groin strain during his senior season on the letsrun forums, I realized I could do better.

And, what I really needed, was to ask myself that question: what would I do if I truly loved myself?

So, I called my physical therapist and booked some time with him.

I started regularly doing all of the PT exercises that I need to do to keep my body healthy and running strong.

And, I finally booked myself that damn massage.

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Thanks again to UCAN for the support this month! I got vaccinated this week(!) and was chugging the very berry hydrate all yesterday when my body needed extra good fluids. It’s usually my post-run drink of choice, but I discovered it’s also a great post-shot beverage.