Saturday, I was supposed to do a 21 mile training run. It began with me trying to find some dry running clothes–its been a wet week and all my warm running clothes were WET. Sigh, I slipped on some cropped running tights, layered up a few lightweight long sleeve tops and set off in the wet muckiness. Within 2 miles, snow began to mix with the rain. By mile 5, my hands HURT like CRAZY.
In 2004, I climbed Mt. Rainier with a group of people from my university. We had to stop for longer than intended to switch up the rope teams as some people decided to turn back down to camp. We sat there for a good 40 minutes and by the time we were ready to move out, I was sick to my stomach because my hands were so cold. As I tackled the first hill at Point Defiance Park, I felt that same sick feeling coming over me. I felt a lump growing in my throat–I was fighting back tears. I thought, “Surely I am going to die!” For the next 4 miles I went back and forth, “Come on, be tough and finish the 21 miles.” and then, “Melissa, you don’t have to prove anything! 16 is sufficient!” and then, “You can work out inside this afternoon!” and then “What the hell is wrong with you! 16 miles! You don’t need to work out again this afternoon!” Sigh, and so it went over and over again.
Then I began to think about why I was having these thoughts. Before heading out for the run, I watcehd a Ted Talk by a lovely woman named Brene Brown. She is a psychologist that studies vulnerablity and shame. In her talk she spoke of the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is what you feel when you make a mistake and then you apologize/face up to it–“I’m sorry I ____.” Shame is about who you are.
As I sludged through the mucky, cold, wet park, near tears from the pain in my hands and wanting oh so badly to quit and ask someone to let me sit in their car an warm up, I began processing through some of the shame in my life. One of the things that kept resurfacing with not being a “good enough” wife, daughter, teacher, homekeeper, WOMAN.” Our society is full of messages about what a “liberated” woman should be like–she works a full time job (and if she puts in more than 40 per week she gets bragging rights about how much she works), she keeps the house clean, she is thin and sexy (and is so because she works so hard she just “doesn’t have time for lunch.), she’s strong willed yet sensative…etc., etc.
I don’t feel “cut out” to work this 40+ hour week at a job that doesn’t make me feel alive with excitement. Am I less of a woman because I desire to one day stay at home with my children? Have I done wrong by my mother and the generation(s) of women who fought for women’s rights and equality?
I had a plan–and in it I should have had at least one baby by now. I should also be more relaxed and be ready to pick up and strap that baby on and go travel the world at any given moment (this is my ideal self speaking)…and I should maybe even have dreadlocks. But I don’t have a baby and I need time to adjust and plan. I’m a planner…and damnit I want the house clean…and I don’t have the guts to get dreadlocks. And I feel shame about not living up to be the person I “think” I should be.
Yes, sometimes my mind goes to the edges of my soul while I’m running. In this case, it was also a way for me to escape the reality that I was ridiculously cold. I think these are important conversations to have with ourselves, both men and women, and with each other. When we start to talk about it, we learn that we are not alone and when shame is met with empathy, it can no longer control us.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Theodoor Roosevelt (mentioned by Brown–watch the TED Talk! Its about Shame often keeps us from doing the things that make us come alive because we believe we are not “enough”, that we will fail and all our vunerablities will be spilled for a all to see. When we address the shame and respond to it with truths about who we are and when we meet each other with empathy, we can dare to be great:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
**Note: I did indeed only run 16 miles and went home and sat in a hot bath while drinking tea and eating an apple with sunbutter. It was more than satisfying.