There is always something to be positive about.
Election Day is here and these last few weeks have been like trudging in the mud. Everywhere you go, everyone you talk to, people are uncomfortable with how this election is making them feel. About their country, about the world, about their communities, about themselves.
The New York Times new column Meditation for Real Life could not have appeared in our feeds at a more opportune moment.
While political discourse around family dinner tables and at the office are hallmarks of the very best of American democracy, with this election, we are reporting, in increasing numbers, that we are just not able to have any conversations with friends, family members, or colleagues who do not support our candidate.
We're on a short fuse with each other and this may contribute to our unease. We're spending a ridiculous amount of time talking about whether we like this person or don't like that person.
What are we, in 7th grade?
For me I'm sticking to my exercise regimen regardless of how distracted I'm feeling about the election or as I continue to confront lingering running-related issues and injuries. This is how I continue to build my resilience.
Gini, too, albeit at a much more intense level. She finished her first full IRONMAN on Saturday, November 5, and now she's headed to IRONMAN Kona in October 2017.
To balance my addiction to political reporting and commentary as I obsessively tune in to NPR Politics and The Run-Up during my walks and treadmill runs I've added the Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and 10% Happier with Dan Harris into the mix more regularly. Lately whenever I start to listen to my favorite, go-to fitness podcasts - Octane Athletic Performance with Jason Benavides, Run to the Top with Tina Muir, and the RunnersWorld Show - I find myself shuffling between conversations about politics and staying positive. I'm looking forward to bringing these back to the front next week.
I was listening to Rev. Angel Kyodo on a recent Metta Hour podcast with Sharon Salzberg where she said she rarely likes anyone.
The comment took me aback. Angel’s an activist.
They were talking about an experiment at a psychological lab where volunteers showed up to participate but didn't know that the experiment was occurring in the waiting room. Among the volunteers were meditators, nonmeditators, and actors. The waiting room didn't have enough chairs for everyone, so when actors on crutches or in obvious pain entered the room the scientists wanted to see who would jump up first from a chair to offer that person a seat.
In the experiment the volunteers who had just completed a mediation training offered the seats first.
But what Angel really wanted to know was how many people stood up and asked the lab personnel why there weren't enough chairs for everyone in the waiting room? Who followed up the next day with the lab owners to talk about how they were allocating their resources?
That's taking compassion for others to the next level. Taking action.
Living compassionately might sound New Age-y but at the core of Sharon’s Real Love, the best-selling author’s upcoming book, is the idea that it’s more important to love everyone than it is to like anyone.
This is an idea that can help get us through today.
Both Angel and Sharon talk about having compassion for people we know a little or people we know a lot or complete strangers so we can begin to have an appreciation for what we value in each other's humanity.
These ideas made me think about what it means to appreciate a person even if you don’t really know, or like, him or her.
Angel pointed out that Martin Luther King preached the idea of loving your enemies. People you don’t like.
Because you have to love everyone, he said. You have to.
Especially the people you don’t like.
So here's something else.
On the drive home from the Cape Henlopen Tri in June, Bob was offering me some helpful tips on improving my transition times. For example, he mentioned that other competitors set up their electronics on their bikes before the start of the race.
"Really?" I said. "I have no idea what people do."
I'd never watched a race or volunteered at one.
So it was in the spirit of observing how others compete that led me initially to volunteer at one of the water stops at the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30.
I wanted to see how people run, what they look like when they approach their edge, how they manage a water stop. I wanted to check out the latest in running fashion.
I knew it would be fun and I wanted to give back to the running community, which is incredibly supportive.
What I didn't expect was the boost to my mental health.
I was assigned to assist Marines responsible for the water stop at mile 14.5.
What I observed:
- None of the runners in the first group took water or made eye contact with the volunteers. Their intensity was something to behold
- The weather was cool and crisp for the volunteers, but the runners were soaked with sweat from head to toe. It's not possible to underdress for a marathon in mild temperatures
- About half of the runners in the mid group either took water from the volunteers as they ran through the water station or used our supply to refill their own water bottles. Seasoned runners knew to ask us for refills from our gallon jugs; this never would have occurred to me as a runner
- Nearly all of the runners in the third group walked through the water stations and used the stop to catch their breath; I watched them as they continued around the corner and resumed running. The intensity of effort was epic
- Every single person who took one of our cups thanked us for being there or thanked the Marines for their service
- Sorry but no one looks good after running 14.5 miles. Ok maybe Oprah Winfrey. We used positive language to keep the runners' spirits up at our stop, just past the halfway point on the marathon. We'd say things like, "You look awesome!" "Lookin' great!" The reality, though, was that everyone looked like crap. That made me feel better about how I look in race photos, even if I've given the photographer an energetic thumbs up. The good news is looking like crap as you run a marathon has its own kind of allure and is the new awesome
- People run in every kind of footwear imaginable, even Converse and sandals. Amazing
- No joke runners come in every shape and size. I've noticed this myself when I'm in a race but I figured that's because I am among the slower pace runners. Not so. Young, old, tall, short, big, small, these runners are in every pace group
- Nike is hands' down the most popular brand of running pants or shorts for women and in every kind of crazy pattern imaginable. On top, I saw Oiselle racing tanks in gorgeous, saturated colors, and loose running tops, by both Nike and Lululemon. Since most running tops tend to be skintight, these caught my attention. After a fruitful trip to Nike Georgetown I had a great experience running in the Nike Elevated Training Top at the Rockville 10K on Sunday, November 6. Also there were quite a few women and men running in race swag. I never do that but now I'm thinkin' I should give it a try as it's another way to strike up a conversation when you're running with the back of the pack
- Men approach the water stop with their arms outstretched and their hands ready to grab a cup; some women do this. And some runners actually point to the person they plan to take the cup from - as if they're calling a fly on the outfield - to avoid any confusion. I liked this - it kept us engaged
- Volunteering gives you a rush! Yeah it's exhausting - we were on our feet for 4 hours straight - but I had no idea how good the experience would make me feel, how much it would lift my spirits. I know what it feels like to get a rush from running. But this? For my article on the idea of the helper high, Stony Brook University's Stephen Post told me that typically when individuals are other-concerned in their activities, one of the unintended side effects is that they show elevations in their own happiness and energy level.
I'm takin' that last one to the bank.
See you next time!