“Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” – Maya Angelou
Hubby and I ran a three-hour timed race with a friend of ours last weekend. For those of you who have never run this type of race, in a timed race, you run to see how far you can go in three hours, rather than to see how fast you can cover a specific distance.
The course was a 1.5-mile loop in a central Pennsylvania state park. Roughly half of the loop was single-track trail through the woods and half was on a gravel park road. The trail was re-routed from previous years due to the extreme amount of precipitation this region has received recently (2018 was our wettest year since record-keeping began), but even the new route had significant stretches of mud. My feet were wet for the entire three hours. Trail running heaven!
This is the fourth time I have run this race, one of my favorites, and one of the very few options available nearby the first weekend in January. The weather was 40 degrees with light rain. Of course, it was raining. I recently read a statistic in the local paper. Saturday was, by far, the wettest day of the week last year. The 40-degree temperature at race start meant it was 39 degrees warmer than it was at the start of last year’s race.
This was the first long-distance test of my injured hip since the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Here is the thing about my hip – I have been able to run without pain for the past month or so, but only for short distances. Five, six, even seven miles are good. Anything longer causes my hip to start aching. The longer I run, the more it hurts.
This may be difficult to believe, but the first two hours of the race went by like the blink of an eye. I was running with Hubby, having fun, and the first time I looked at the race clock, it read 1:55. My hip was beginning to ache a little bit, but it was not too bad. Bill and I stopped to get a drink and some pretzels at the aid station and set out on our next lap.
And then the real issues started. My hip hurt. A lot. I was running in silence, which Bill knows is a bad sign. Self-pity seeped into my psyche. My hip injury has been recurring for a year and a half.
A cascade of negative emotions flowed from there. I became angry at myself for feeling self-pity, then disgusted for being angry. I finally settled on a frustration/resignation combo and stuck with it for the rest of the race.
The whole experience made me think about self-pity. The reason it is so destructive is that, at least initially, it feels so good. Pity equates to attention. Being a victim of some sort of injustice, whether it is an injury, mistreatment at the hands of another person, or an unfortunate twist of fate, requires you to surrender personal responsibility for the outcome of the situation.
Self-pity requires us to believe we deserve people to feel sorry for us. It hands us external validation for our feelings as an undeserved present, rather than forcing us to strive for internal self-esteem. It’s misery that we create for ourselves, an excuse for failure.
The insidious thing about feeling sorry for yourself is that once you start, it’s really hard to stop. Once you fall into the self-pity routine, it gets to be comfortable, cozy, like a deluxe fleecy onesie. It’s a crutch that is too easy to lean on.
I realized that I needed a reset. A shift of focus. Rather than obsessing over things I can’t do, I must be grateful for things I can.
I have little control over how my hip feels. Oh sure, I can and do perform the stretches recommended by my physical therapist, but they have not relieved the pain. I believe, however, that the injury will not last forever. None of the doctors I visited have suggested that it would. I can be optimistic about the future, rather than pessimistic about the present. More importantly, rather than lamenting that which is temporarily impossible, I can be grateful for the activities that are possible. Gratitude short-circuits the negative emotions associated with self-pity. As it turns out, accepting your situation, and the responsibility that comes with that acceptance, even though it may initially be more difficult, is worth the effort in the long run.
Ditching the self-pity makes us feel more valuable, more capable, and increases our self-esteem. Gratitude leads to optimism. It forces us to focus on something outside ourselves, something bigger. Self-pity narrows our focus to, well, ourselves. It makes us feel smaller and weaker.
When we are grateful, we direct our gratitude towards someone (or someOne). We pay attention to all the good things that have come into our lives. Our gaze is drawn away from our suffering and toward the good things in our lives. Cultivating a grateful perspective frees us to create positive feelings and allows us to eschew negative reinforcement.
I can control my attitude about how the injury affects my ability to run. Rather than pining over the lost long distance runs that cause me pain, I can shift my focus to shorter runs I can do pain-free.
Which brings me to the “Chocolate Frosted Buns 5k“, an upcoming race in our area. Indoor restrooms and a sweatshirt giveaway are appealing bonuses. The “chocolate” in the name refers to the copious amounts of chocolate served after the race. The “frosted buns” refers to the cold weather likely at the beginning of February in Pennsylvania, which may freeze your, um, buns while you run.
Hmmm…sounds like a perfect antidote to incipient self-pity. Running some shorter races as a way to foster a grateful attitude is pretty appealing. Time to break out of the self-pity which is no longer comfortable and, in fact, has hardened into a prison and create some good memories.
As an added precaution, I believe I will follow the advice given in the Book of James: Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
I am linking with Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team and Global Blogging, Hooks and Dragons for Mix It Up, Char at Trekking Thru, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Purposeful Faith for RaRa link up, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, and Oh My Heartsie Girl for Wonderful Wednesday.