Self-pity; As Snug As a Feather Mattress

“Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” – Maya Angelou

Meditations in Motion

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!

Meditations in Motion

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.

 

Meditations in Motion
My dashboard before 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 myΒ 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.

Meditations in Motion

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.

Meditations in Motion

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.Meditations in Motion 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.

chocolate buns.png

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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72 comments

  1. Oh I’m sorry your hip was bothering you. I’m sure you’ll build it back but it wasn’t ready for that distance as yet. Wet feet don’t help one bit either. I often notice while running that my mood changes as my glycogen stores are used up. I get stabby, then a second wind…lather rinse repeat. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an important post – thank you so much for sharing, Laurie!

    Ah, all the time I’ve wasted wallowing in self-pity because it feels good to be childish, and that’s the temptation. How much more powerful are the antidotes: gratitude, optimism, focusing on others and something bigger than ourselves with prayer and praises.

    Looking forward to reading about the Chocolate Frosted Buns!

    -C.D.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a slogan: Awareness, Acceptance, Action. I have applied it in difficult situations and it empowers me and lifts me out of any temptation to drop into self pity. We become conscious of what’s going on; we adopt an attitude of acceptance vs self pity; lastly we take action as we are guided to do. In your case, you made a conscious decision after awareness and acceptance to focus on what you can do which is *plenty*.

    I don’t judge anyone lapsing into self-pity because it can be a normal human emotion but getting bogged down in there for the duration is not helpful or healthy as you so courageously point out .

    A wonderful post full of wisdom and insight – and the quote about prayer and praise is a perfect way to start my day.

    Thank you,
    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

  4. frosted buns run!! That gave me a giggle. You are so right, self pity is something we are all guilty of, and a lot of the time we deserve to be, but dwelling on it means recovery is so much slower. I sometimes dwell in self-pity and it takes me down like a rock. As soon as I start thinking of other things I feel better, even the pain feels better. It really is mind over matter. Now, make sure you wear some nice warm jogging pants to protect your buns πŸ˜‰ #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly. Dwelling on self-pity will take you down like a rock! Great way to say it. Haha! I have some fleece-lined tights so my buns don’t freeze! πŸ˜€

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  5. Awesome post Laurie!
    I found a really cute book that I bought for my friends. The front was write a random act of kindness you did. The back half is spaces for what you’re grateful for. Didn’t get it for myself as only had space for 3 things you’re grateful for (and I try write a list each day, 3 spaces isn’t enough so wouldn’t use it).
    I’m glad your hip is getting better. Good luck with the next race!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That book sounds really good. You are more advanced in your gratitude practice than the book’s format allows. πŸ˜€ Thanks for your good wishes. We will see how the hip is this Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so sorry your hip is hurting again. Boo!! Hiss!! I know how much you enjoy running and hope it gets better real soon. I do have to gasp though on you comment of 5-7 miles being a short run. While I know it is relative to the long runs you do, it make my hobble to the mail box look ridiculous and very much supporting of the self – pity award. Feel better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an awesome shift you have made in your thinking! Thoughts are so powerful, aren’t they, and sometimes so hard to change. I’m sorry that the hip is still an issue though.

    And now I want to drive down to PA because chocolate & indoor bathrooms. Not that I really want to run outside in PA in Feb, mind you, or even tempt the fates that the drive wouldn’t be atrocious, but you do make it sound appealing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an insightful post! I find being grateful is the best way to put a lot of negativity in perspective in general.

    That 5k sounds like fun! It’s a bit too far for me to travel though given the unpredictability of winter weather. Eat some chocolate for me if you run!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Laurie, your take on life is so refreshing. πŸ™‚ I have to say, I might have grinned rather big at the thought of you “only” being able to run 6-7 miles with your hip. Ummm, I don’t think I’ve ever RUN that distance in my life. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the reminder that gratitude is a wonderful antidote to self-pity. I’ve started my 2019 gratitude list with my family. Now I need to continue in my gratitude journal…just me and God. I hope your hip continues to mend and cause you less and less pain!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very kind comment, Jeanne. I love the idea of a gratitude list for the year. I had a gratitude journal at one time, with hopes of writing down 1,000 things I was grateful for, but I got sidetracked around #192.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the Maya Angelou quote! It’s true that self-pity can feel good for a while, but it is definitely not a good way to live. Choosing to focus on what we can control and on the blessings we have makes a big difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. And I’ll quit complaining about my shoulder – your hip pain affects your long-distance running, but you are able to still run short distances and maybe long distances down the road. My shoulder does not affect my enjoyment of my exercise regimen so I have no real reason to grouse. It is my fault I was not more proactive in the beginning when it was just a twinge; when it hurt, I saw the neighbor in her fourth year of dementia and the classmate with metastatic breast cancer … serious and life-ending medical issues – I said “I’ll live with it” … I should have had it looked at it at least. At 62, I feel blessed this is all I have. I am glad you are reconciling your issues with your hip Laurie. On a happier note, that is a cute name for a run – very clever.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Me too – my boss even offered to take me to the doctor who specializes in shoulder injuries – an orthopod just for shoulders – can you imagine? When Robb went headfirst over his bike three years ago, he went to the E.R. and then called his friend, a lawyer who has defended doctors and hospitals for decades – he asked for a referral for an orthopod and got this shoulder specialist (he had a third-degree shoulder separation from the bike accident). This doctor was great because he could have operated, but told my boss since he swims daily all year around he had strong chest and arm muscles and could just do exercises to eliminate the pain and just deal with the “knob” that stuck up where the bone was not surgically put back into place. He had Robb (my boss) have a month of physical therapy which he completed and after that he has used resistance bands all the time (at work, in his car, at home) and said “if you won’t let me take you to the doctor, get the bands.” I got the bands so I could say I got them and found some exercises on YouTube specifically for what I believe is rotator cuff tendonitis with those bands, but I am reluctant to do anything right now. That’s a little too radical (and likely painful right now) … I am doing range-of-motion shoulder exercises: small circles to large circles – hurts, but I don’t feel that will do damage like a resistance band. I attended too many doctor appointments with my mom, coming away with no success, no relief of pain – so like you, I’ll do it my own way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Laurie – I know this could only be from how I have been sitting and prolonged sitting at this computer … I must rectify that first, but I should have been proactive when it began … that was my biggest fault and I am kicking myself for it. We’ll work this out – like you said yesterday, at least anyone you’ve consulted with says your hip injury is not permanent, so that is a plus.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. As usual Laurie, your articles are a complete breath of fresh air for the mind. I really admire your attitude – it looks like you are on the right track in every sense of the word! My husband found out last year that a large amount of the cartilage in his knees had worn away and he is only 33. He was absolutely devastated and very down for a couple of months. I had to work hard with him to redirect his thoughts and focus on the positives because all he felt at the time was doom and gloom. Now he is on the mend, seeing a physio and getting treatment and just a couple of weeks ago he started a little running on the treadmill which is a huge step forward for him. There is always light at the end of the tunnel! #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Gratitude does short-circuit our negative emotions. It is easy to get stuck in self-pity. And pain especially seems to bring it on. A thankful heart really makes a big difference in our whole outlook on life. Thanks for sharing. Your neighbor at Tune in Thursday link up.

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  14. I thought I commented yesterday, but I must have not have hit the “post” button ((oops)). Anyways, I love everything you mentioned about being grateful for what you (currently) can do rather than dwelling on the stuff that you (currently) cannot. I went through a very similar cathartic experience, in 2017, when I couldn’t run during my favorite time of the year (summer). I was able to get outside every morning and walk (and walk and walk some more), and it was so empowering.

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    • Yes, my dog Benji and I (and now my hubby) have been taking lots of long walks. I guess if you run long enough you go through a time like I am going through right now! πŸ™‚

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  15. Seems I missed this post, somehow! All good and wise words, as I’ve come to expect from you, Laurie. Although . . . I think that every once in awhile we can allow ourselves to indulge in a full-tilt pity party, just to get it out of our system. If we’re even halfway sane, we are certain to get tired of ourselves whinging and get back to what we’ve learned makes us happy, which as all the wise women commenting here note, is acceptance and gratitude.

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