Chasing Rabbits

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.


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8 Responses to “Chasing Rabbits”
  1. Jess says:

    same analogy can be applied to professional photographers. I have read time and time again never to compare myself to others, but to find my unique style and own it. Yes, I can always seek to learn more, practice, and get better. But there will always be a photographer better than me, with more experience, with better equipment. Yet, there is also that person who is just starting out and doesn’t know anything about exposure. Its okay to be where you are in the game.

  2. We always need to strive for balance, Kate. Sometimes, comparing ourselves unfavorably inspires us to try harder. My husband uses a 53 lb kettlebell with our crossfit workouts…and I am struggling with a 20 (25?) pounder. I actually never expect to do 53 lbs, but knowing that 6 months ago, that 53 lb was hard for him gives me hope that persistence will reward me with managing my own weight. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a certain level of jealousy and competitiveness.

    Likewise, the saints are honored and are meant to be examples of holiness. The Bible tells us to be perfect, as God is perfect (Matt 5:48) which is impossible…yet it’s what we are told to do. God isn’t giving us these directives to frustrate us. He wants us to constantly strive for improvement. Sometimes the area that needs improving is charity to self, forgiveness of our own failings and weaknesses, and reliance on self (pride) which attributes anything we have – our speed of running or strength to lift a weight or our devotion to God – as having any source other than our Creator.

    And when we figure out that balance, perhaps then we will be perfect.

  3. Kandi Wysong says:

    Going through this right now! Found that the toughest person to compete with is my younger, lighter, more energetic self! I’m sure I’ll get back there one day, right?

  4. Terri says:

    This is one of the main reasons I try to stay away from social networking. At the urging of my daughter, I recently took a Myers-Briggs personality test. (It was actually a free knock-off that I found online.) I do understand myself better now. Constantly striving for self improvement is inherent in my personality type. That doesn’t make it a good thing, but I know on a more conscious level now that I need to be sensitive to and protective of that proclivity in myself.

    Blessings. <3

  5. Angela says:

    Nothing quite the high school boys’ cross country team rapidly approaching on the trail one is peacefully running on to incite feelings of slowness, competitiveness, and humility. I picked up my pace and actually tried to keep them from passing me! I’m sure I wasn’t actually competing with them, but engaging my own drive to feel competent. I also struggle with perfectionism, and so often it robs me of joy. I definitely think I need joy more than I need perfection. There’s a JJ Heller song titled “Control,” and some of the lyrics are, “Perfection has a price, but I cannot afford to live that life. It always ends the same-a fight I never win.” True for me.

  6. Jen says:

    Having always struggled with body image, running helps me appreciate what my body can DO. It briefly takes my mind off what I’m not happy with, and leaves me happy “in the moment”. Having just had baby number six in April, it’s been…um, almost a good 10 months of running. Real running. I’m half way through the couch potato to 5K, but the ‘rabbits’ are there. When I start running a full 3 miles, I’ll be able to lose weight faster (which I packed on very nicely, thank you very much). When I lose the weight, I can work on my speed. When I’m done with that, I can try for a PR in my spring race..and on and on. God is trying to also tell me to be kind to myself. I had an elderly man approach me in Adoration this week. He so kindly hugged me and said, ‘Do not be so hard on yourself. If you do, you are no good to Him’. I’m trying to remember that. Being focused on myself so much, leaves nothing left for the One who is really who I should be focused on.

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