Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What I'm learning while I'm learning how to run (part 2)

I'm learning . . . vulnerability feels, well, vulnerable and the solution is always the same.

I always feel deeply vulnerable before I stand up in front of people to speak or facilitate.  Vulnerability practically defines certain social situations and certain relationships.  And I can't remember when I have felt as vulnerable as I felt when I first tried to run.

I lurked around the track at the park until no one was around.  I tied my shoes, checked again to make sure no one was watching, clicked the app on my phone and then tried to do what comes naturally to children and dogs but felt to me as foreign as walking on the moon.  When I realized that I was even more inept than I feared, a certain amount of shame set in.

That--more than the physical limitations--was what I had to face every time I went to the gym, every time I went to the track, every time I imagined signing up for a run.  Vulnerability--the one variable that universally defines the human experience.

I know what I believe about vulnerability and shame; namely, that the antidote to both is a life oriented around courage, compassion and connection.  That's the north star of my daily living.  The courage and the compassion I got.  The connection?  Epic fail.

I did what human beings do when confronted with their vulnerable selves--I hid.  For a long time, I hardly told anyone what I was doing.  At first, it just felt too fresh, too close to my heart, to share.  But then hiding became a habit.  When I did sometimes let it leak out--either from anxiety or enthusiasm--I immediately swore people to silence or told them that I wasn't willing to talk about it.  I even blogged about it here in a moment of needing to connect and then told everyone to leave me alone about it.  I even picked out a run and then when I realized that I would know other people running, I backed out.

And then I got a tiny bit braver and realized the impossibility of finishing this thing alone and admitted that I was teaching authenticity while living inauthentically.  I realized that my assumption that I would be either judged or pitied was ridiculous, given the incredibly high quality of my friends and family.

I asked for help on Facebook and got it.  I shared some fears with a friend at a party and got customized reassurance.  Earlier this week, I got a lovely card in the mail from a friend who understood why I couldn't talk about it but still wanted to encourage me.  A friend offered to wait for me at the finish line and even though I have to do this virtually by myself, I was deeply touched by the offer.

So . . . courage, compassion and connection, these three.  And the greatest of these is love.

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