Running And Forgiveness

Most people I know have done something stupid, disturbing, or against the law. I don’t hold it against them.

But why is it so hard for us forgive? And why would I open a triathlon blog post with something so intense? Well, because, occasionally the things I see and feel on a run brings out strong emotions.

Here’s what happened.

I was about two miles into a five miler, and struggling. It usually takes me a bit to find stride, but between allergies and being out of shape, I was digging deep to get this run organized.

Then I saw a woman walking toward me with her dog.

I was breathing hard. My right knee and left ankle were giving me noticeable pain. But, about twenty yards from the woman I made a conscious decision to get my good mood in order and flash the most congenial smile I could muster.

As I closed in, I thought of rainbows, sunny beaches, and a deep love for strangers. I glided toward her with a relaxed and genuine smile in hopes of receiving something similar in return.

She never even looked at me.

About 2 minutes later, a couple walked toward me and I repeated the entire process in vain. They walked right by, both with their heads down.

That’s when I went into this internal dialogue about whether or not people are even actually happy. I know, it’s a stupid thing, but I really do wonder about that a lot. We’re so distracted by shit these days, that the connectivity piece seems lost. And I’m actually one of the worst isolationists I know, so I get it.

Then I started seeing familiar chalk writings on the pavement. Someone actually goes to the greenway and writes things like: “Run” “Walk” “Dance” “Smile” “Stand on your head” etc. on the ground and it always cheers me up . . . and I wonder what kind of person does this?

I passed a couple more people who didn’t look at me, then, out of nowhere, it started pouring rain as I approached a guy running my way. He had his head down, and I pretty much threw in the towel on a hello, but as he got close to me, he not only smiled, but gave a big “thumbs up.”

This rain runner gave me hope as I made my turnaround to head home.

Then, Dan Bern’s “Wasteland” came on my iPod. For a while it was my favorite song and somehow fit the mood perfectly as I trudged through the downpour.

I saw men with dreams like the ones I’d had
Beg quarters outside the 7-11
Till it got so they didn’t affect me anymore
Then the mailboxes I’d passed ‘cept that sometimes
I’d put something in the mailbox
I’d had the wind at my back
Now I felt it cold in my face
And for an awful long time now you were the only one who ever Called me late at night and I really never noticed till after
You stopped calling and the emptiness, silence got so heavy

It’s a pretty depressing song on the surface, but it gives me hope for some reason, and about 4 minutes in, he crooned this lyric just as I realized the rain had washed the chalk affirmations from the concrete.

And I watched TV and read the papers and listened to the radio
And made all the fancy scenes and said all the right words
And wore all the right clothes and knew the names of the hip people
But I still felt out of touch so I stopped watching TV
And reading the papers and listening to the radio
And making the fancy scenes and saying the right words
And wearing the right clothes and knowing the names of the hip people
And I felt more out of touch than ever but I didn’t care anymore

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care anymore, but I do. I care about triathlon. About being the best person I can be. And I care about others and their happiness.

But why is it so hard for us to forgive?

Last year I raced at Ironman Wisconsin which about 45 minutes from where I grew up. For months I tried to express how much I wanted a childhood friend to come watch me race. Share my accomplishment with me.

He promised to try to show up, but in the end, didn’t make the short trip after I drove 9 hours to race in his backyard. It did bum me out, and I had a hard time forgiving . . . for about one day.

We’re in this together. IMG_8112Learn, love, create, travel, try new things, meet new people, don’t smother others with negative energy, and forgive.

Dan Bern’s Wasteland

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