A very wise friend of mine recently encouraged me to not be down about super-speedy-runner-girl who effortlessly ran 6ish minute miles in her first 5K (and is, as my husband reminded me half a decade younger than I am; I love that man). This lovely friend said something about how when she runs, she’s thinking about people who run a pace faster than she does. “We all have our rabbits,” she said.
This made me think of a very familiar quandary many runners face in their lives. (If you’re not a runner, bear with me here because I’ll soon make this more universal.) There’s the newbie runner who signs up for a Couch to 5K training program and just wants to finish the race. When she does, she’s elated. Soon she decides that next time she will try to run the entire race without walking. Mission accomplished. Then she starts training to get a little faster. She embraces a clean diet. She strength trains. She adds fartleks (just say it aloud – hilarious! This doesn’t say a lot for my maturity level. Fartlek! Fartlek! ) to her training and lo and behold, she rocks her next 5K. Maybe she even places in her age group, but she didn’t come in first. Maybe next time. She keeps raising the bar. There’s always that speedy rabbit who’s just ahead of her whom she starts to chase. What used to be more than “good enough” – just finishing the race – is suddenly overshadowed by the desire to be better than last time or maybe even to be a the top.
Recall Doctor Faustus who sold his soul to the devil for more knowledge and power. He was born gifted, but it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough until we make the decision to be content with our own gifts and to celebrate all those “better” rabbits out there instead of always chasing after them.
“There’s always going to be someone who’s faster,” my sage of a husband told me recently. And someone smarter. And richer. And with more children. And with easier children (you know the ones who easily fall asleep in their parents’ arms and never throw a tantrum and start sleeping through the night at eight weeks. Yeah, I’ve NEVER had one of those kiddos either). And with more children and mad running skill. And with a bigger house. Or maybe just a cleaner house. Or an enviable kitchen. There’s someone prettier with better hair, better legs, whiter teeth, or better toenails (you should see mine right about now; one is black and on the verge of falling off, and another one did fall off. Lovely.). Yup. There are a lot of fine, white rabbits out there. Thank God for that. Thank God for all the blessings so many people have. Thank God for my own blessings.
But there are also many people who have so much less. The people in Oklahoma come immediately to mind.
Once upon a time I thought the size 0 was the Holy Grail of happiness. For a brief moment, it was. I felt powerful when the smallest of clothing were loose on me. But it waned. Soon I wanted more, but there was nowhere to go except down. Healed and almost whole from those awful eating disorder days, there are still some relics of my past. These inner demons are always driving me toward endless self-improvement. They give me tunnel vision that only sees what’s ahead instead of all that is. And what is is a beautiful, charmed life.
Although I want to make the most of my potential and my gifts, I don’t want to spend my lifetime chasing rabbits. I want to celebrate with and for those who are ahead of me. Besides, my worst enemy is the voice within me that taunts me, telling me I’m the classic case of mediocrity or worse. I want to silence that voice and to be my best but to forgive myself when I fall short. And I never want to forget the ones behind me, the ones who have so much less. Sometimes I even want to slow down and walk with them, so they know they’re not alone and so I know I’m not alone either.