On my run this morning, I spent most of the time pondering what to write today, what C word I wanted to focus on. Running brings to mind many things that start with C: competition, clothes, chafing, character, courses, Carol Frazey (Fit School Guru, coach), Cami Ostman (inspiration, writer, runner of marathons, friend). Circles (as in my favorite running route, which is essentially a circle).
Between thoughts of what to write about, I discovered I was chastising myself rather relentlessly. And that’s when my topic for today came to me: Compassion. For myself and for others.
I saw a headline on Facebook the other day that said something like “imagine if we talked to other people the way we talk to ourselves.” I thought about that for a moment (I didn’t click through to the article, but I could imagine well enough how it went). I don’t think I’d have many friends if I talked to others the way I talk to myself.
Imagine if I said these things to my running buddies: “Come on you lazy ass—get out of bed already. You can sleep when you die.” “Ugh, you really need some new running clothes. These are so unflattering.” “Jesus, pick up the pace already.” “Don’t breathe so loud! You’re scaring the other runners.” “How can you still be so slow after a whole year of this?” “I HATE running. Why do I torture myself?” “You should be better at this by now.”
Then, I considered not just what I say silently to myself, but what I think about other people as I run. I make up all kinds of crazy stories and confer relentless judgments on people I see on my routes, especially if they impede me in some way. Like groups that take up the entire width of the trail, or folks that smoke as they walk, or parents with children (in strollers, on bicycles, or running free range), or those that don’t keep their dogs on leashes. Never mind the people that don’t pick up after their dogs.
I have HUGE judgments and my internal monologues about them can be just as brutal as the ones I have about myself. This is not an easy admission—in fact I feel a great deal of shame as I even write it. And once I had this epiphany this morning, I immediately started practicing compassion. I don’t know what is going on in anyone’s life but my own, so it’s time I started cutting everyone some slack. What would it hurt me to give folks the benefit of the doubt? To show a little love to my fellow travelers and cut down on the snark and self-absorption?
I know for a fact that I’ll feel better. I’ve written a lot about running happy and how running does in fact make me happy. But maybe it’s time I start spreading some joy while I’m out there. Smiling instead of grimacing.
I have made a few friends on the trail in the past year—there’s the lady with Buddy the Dog who walks nearly every morning. And Diane, who stopped me one day last summer to tell me how great I looked. We talk now and then. And John, who is out there religiously. There are the women with the stroller, one of whom wears bright orange shoes and a skort. We wave and smile and warn one another if we see something suspicious.
I feel a little bit like the soft drink commercial—the one where the bottle of soda gets passed around to whomever is in the most distress. As sappy as that ad is, it still makes me misty. Something magical happens when ease up and spread a little love.
and then I remember: We’re
in this together.