Monday, October 7, 2013

Being Vulnerable by Recognizing Our Common Humanity

I love it when people write or talk about their life challenges with a dirty paintbrush, reminding us that life is messy.  Telling it like it is.  There's a disconnect between our own experiences and what we see on social media. How often do we become vulnerable to our audience, our friends, even our own families?  I often write something only to edit it into what I think others can handle.  What?! You say.  Considering what a potty mouth I have, you're surprised aren't you?  

Social media only adds to the problem of everyone's seemingly perfect life. We post pictures of our amazing trips where we're smiling, running, winning, and enjoying good food.  Can we even live up to our own profiles? Are our relationships so perfect? Are we super fit?  Um, no, no, no!  I once had a friend tell me that life really is like the TV show Desperate Housewives.  If you haven't seen it, it's full of dramatic events that are (mostly) well hidden under a smooth, beautiful surface.  At the time I thought, yeah whatever, mine's not.  Then I took up ultra running, went through a nasty divorce, and had some secrets of my own that I'll spare you from.  I became very close with a few of my friends who shared their own shocking secrets with me.  I was stunned. Here we all were living in quiet desperation thinking we were all alone all the while everyone else was too.  

I guess it's not practical to think that we can share our struggles with just anyone, nor is it a good idea on social media.  Yet there must be a way we can be more real.  How do we become more genuine with those close to us and honest in social media settings without creating a big pity party?  Being vulnerable is hard but it is exactly what makes us compassionate and bonds us to each other. We alienate ourselves when we hide parts of ourselves and when we smooth over our lives.  

  Dirty Truths about Life as an Active Human
  • Life is boring.  Don't let Facebook fool you. Life can be a fucking monotonous load of crap. Take it from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published in 1798, sometimes life is like being on a sailboat with no wind to move you where you want to go:
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
'Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

  • Life is Unpredictable: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  You win a race, complete a FKT, PR on our favorite run... the highs can be so high.  But the lows are often equally dramatic. Don't put too much on any one event (good luck with that one). It's too darn depressing when it isn't the brilliant success you wanted.

  • We all have Addictions: In the broadest sense, we all have things that we use to keep us from feeling vulnerable, feeling our emotions or anything else that scares us.  Maybe it's a drug or maybe it's an addiction to a person, exercise, food, work, internet.... the list could go on.  We all have something that we turn to when we don't want to feel.

  •  We all have Fantasies: All you have to do is listen to an episode of Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast to know that you're not alone.  Where do all these people come from? I don't think I know any in my daily life.... or do I?! 

  • We Write Our Own Story: When aren't most people spinning the string of their life into some sort of story?  We all do it.  Isn't this what training is?  We try to create the picture that we want the world to see, backing up peoples' online social feeds with disgustingly happy, fit, romantic stories.  Ultimately, that we can write our own story is a very, very good thing. Don't waste your opportunity.

  • We are all slow: At least sometimes. Yes, some of us are way slower than others, but there's always someone waiting in the wings to kick your slow ass.   I recently ran and DNF'd the Run Rabbit Run (dropped at mile 20). I ran in the hare race, which is the elite field.  All the "normal" runners do the Tortoise race and start 4 hours earlier. So there's like 40 bad ass runners starting in my "fast" heat and I line up after a night of severe gastrointestinal issues (we'll leave it at that). Lo and behold I experienced something I've never, ever experienced and hope to never experience again: the dreaded DFL. Until it was DNF that is. Yep.  I feel your pain back of the packers.

  • We're all Scared Shitless.  Recently, it was a message from Trail Runner Podcast wanting to interview me for a podcast. OMG!  I've always wanted to be on a podcast but all of a sudden all my insecurities came out.  To grow, we must get through our fear. When we avoid it, we may be missing the greatest opportunities of our lives.  Take it from Georgia O'Keeffe: I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.  

  • We are No Better than a Herd of Cows: Ok, we're a little more advanced.  I'm sorry to break it to you folks, but don't we all just seek acceptance most the time?  Oh, this is the pitfall of so many of us!  We lose our sense of style, our beauty, our creativity, our very souls by seeking acceptance.  No, I'm not being dramatic.  This is serious stuff folks.  We lose who we are when we join the herd of mooing beasts.  Originally, I got into ultras to do something different and exciting.  Not to ruin it for all the newbies, but it's just another herd. Moooooooo

    1. hear hear!! love it.

    2. Human beings have sort acceptance as a basic survival technique from our earliest origins. If you consider our primitive routes as perhaps the cave man/woman, being outcast from the group/tribe/cool peeps would spell certain death as there was no one to help fight off animals, help stay warm, hunt etc.

      I work on the other side of the world in a management consultant role and a lot of your points ring very true for the corporate world. If you changed a few of your words from ultra running and social media to lunch room and after work drinks you could take this post to market. Keep up the great writing.

      Now if you'll excuse me, I hear 2xu have a new compression head band that all my friends are buying :)

    3. New follower! And, mooo :)


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