I’ve mentioned before that running is a time of meditation and centering for me, and I believe that to be true of many of us. Even when we choose to run in a group, we’ve usually chosen that group because it allows us, or even stimulates us, to be reflective, positive, and engaged during our run. We have “our” trails that we run regularly, that are able to bring us a sense of calm and adventure, simultaneously. We love these people and these places, and feel they are almost sacred. So, what do you do when someone, or something, is challenging the sanctity of your run? How do we counteract emotional pollution on our trails?
This weekend, I felt that my run had been emotionally polluted. It was a group run. It started late, not everyone got the trail directions before a leader yelled, “GO!” and we were off. Luckily, I thought, these runs were on MY trails, and I knew the route required to get the miles we had planned. However, as I began to lead my group the way I knew, I was hollered at to go another way – a way with which I was unfamiliar. Then, when we reached a crossing, I took the trail I thought the others had, only to add ½ mile and be redirected onto the “proper” trail. The run ended with 3 different groups getting the same mileage over 3 varied courses. I was irritated the entire way, which was exacerbated by the fact that I ended up alone after leading an injured runner back to the trail head. What was supposed to be the relaxing part of my weekend ended up being a cluster, and I allowed myself to internally pout over it. Actually, I externally pouted also. In fact, to be honest, I got into it with the leader a bit for starting before everyone knew the plan. He laughed it off, which added to my mood.
A day out, looking back, I remember what I always tell my students; you are in charge of your emotions. No one can “make” you angry, or sad, etc. We allow the emotional pollution to affect us, when it is completely in our power to take a big breath and blow the pollution away. It’s ridiculous how many times I have to slap myself with my own teacher advice, or worse, tell myself things my mother would say. I don’t know what makes us feel so entitled to our grouchiness as adults, but I know it isn’t healthy. And I know, and feel horrible that, my emotional pollution yesterday was seen by others, therefore polluted what, to them, was a perfect run in the woods. The group didn’t know there was a breakdown in communication among leadership. They didn’t know we got lost. They were just proud they had completed their first 8 mile trail training run. While I was sulking in my own mistakes and shortcomings, the group was bouncing through puddles and over logs. I missed the smell of the wildflowers blooming after the rain, because I had gotten in my own head about my own expectations not being honored by the group. AND THE GROUP DIDN’T EVEN KNOW. *
Life is so busy these days. Expectations, both internal and external, are growing exponentially higher with each generation. We don’t have time to [fill in the blank]. Time has become our most precious commodity, and when we feel like people aren’t respectful of our time, it throws us into a tragic spiral of the cry-babies. But, if we flip the script, we realize that we may be emotionally polluting others. We aren’t honoring their time, or the sanctity of their experience of something.
If you feel like your run has been emotionally polluted, and the experience is dead to you, try doing a posthumous diary entry of the run. Give yourself a day’s space from the negative experience, and remember only the good. It may help to take pictures of the experience before it’s over, as the images will help you remember the good.
Today, I am remembering the fields of yellow wildflowers that stretched along the road leading to the trailhead, and the smell of wild onions growing in the woods. I am remembering the smile and laugh of my trail sister, Angelique, that I could hear from across the wilderness. Her passion for life is one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed, and I cherish having her in my life. Every time I was sad on the trails, alone, I would suddenly hear her Level 10 Latina cackle, and know that something great just happened ahead of me. It made me run faster, hoping to catch up. Today, I remember that one of our kids, who quit last week, came back, and was running with a smile on his face, proud to be back in the pack. I am remembering that my 4 year old son ran a full mile in the woods before turning back with his Pappy. Now, the negative memories are gone, and all that will remain is the feeling of sunshine warming my back, and the sight of a pitbull smile waiting to greet all of us runners at the finish. And if a pitbull smile doesn’t fix your mood, then nothing will.
*When I asked Angelique about the run yesterday, she said, “I should’ve taken pics yesterday! We all had fun trying to figure out where we were going, and then I would freak out when I would run into spider webs.” See, I should have been more like Angelique!