I find myself running mostly solo these days. As I described in an earlier post, my husband and running partner Bill is temporarily sidelined, instructed by his doctor to keep his runs short, infrequent, and easy.
One day shortly before Christmas I decided to do a short, hilly run on country roads close to home, following one of my original routes from half a lifetime ago.
Our household, which this morning included two sons, one daughter-in-law, and two grandsons, as well as Bill and me, was still sleeping when I quietly slipped on my running shoes and unlocked the front door.
Pleased with myself for exiting the house without waking our dog Benji, I began a determined climb up the ridge that lies at the north end of town.
The route I took first climbed the ridge, then ran along the top of it for a distance, before plunging down the other side. On this run, I take the first opportunity to circle back again to the top of the ridge, then finish by flying downhill back home.
Running this route again after so many years brought a feeling of nostalgia; I ran it most often when I was a young mother with three little boys at home.
In those days, I would sometimes practically throw the baby at my husband so I could escape for 30 blessed minutes of alone-time. “WillyoupleasewatchthekidssoIcanrun?” I used to ask as he walked through the door at the end of the day, already wearing my running gear and starting my watch as I made my escape.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my kids and I loved being at home with them. I remember having adventures together, taking bike rides and nature hikes, cooking, doing crafts, and socializing with other young families during the day.
I also remember having to lock the bathroom door so I could have 30 seconds alone to pee.
As I ran, I thought about a book I was reading by the renowned Buddhist scholar and clinical psychologist Tara Brach. I have to admit, it was a tough read for me.
I am glad I stuck with it. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, some of which I have already put into practice in my own life with good results.
The main theme, however, along with the title of the book, “Radical Acceptance“, remains a puzzle to me, I must admit.
Here is an example of one section I found perplexing:
Our being resides in both the unmanifest and the manifest, the absolute and the relative. This truth, embodied in the Heart Sutra, is considered the gem of Mahayana teachings. As the sutra says: ‘Form is emptiness, emptiness is also form. Emptiness is not other than form, form is not other than emptiness.’
The sections of the book I found most refreshing and enlightening were the many honest personal vignettes Ms. Brach used to illustrate her points.
In one story she wrote about experiencing an especially freeing, beautiful, and vibrant meditation session alone in her room one morning before her young teenage son barged in, interrupting the session. He had missed his school bus and needed a ride to school.
Irritated with the intrusion and frustrated by the morning rush hour traffic, she snapped at the boy through clenched teeth on the drive to school. The peaceful expansiveness she had so carefully cultivated earlier evaporated, her equanimity shattered.
Siddhartha Gautama, after all, had to leave behind his wife and family to achieve Enlightenment as the Buddha.
That’s the way it is when you love flesh-and-blood people. You couldn’t imagine your life without them, but they drive you a little bit crazy sometimes.
Loving other humans may cause us to roll our eyes, bite our tongues, grumble, fidget, and at times employ selective hearing. It’s tough to not show impatience when the people we love dearly are just so, well…annoying.
The people we love don’t let us finish our sentences. They are opinionated, they laugh with spinach stuck between their teeth, they leave the bathroom a mess, they vote for the wrong political party, and worst of all they write “your” when they mean “you’re“.
When you love real people, however, you show up for them. They are flawed and so are you, but there you are, imperfect, blemished, with feet of clay, yet undeniably there nevertheless, hoping fervently that the warm light of love in your eyes is evident behind the irritation.
We all need people to look out for us, to think about us, to accept us unconditionally, and “like” the goofy cat videos we post because we are all damaged in some way.
I count on my tribe to love me even when I am acting badly, when I airly dismiss their feelings as invalid, when I am awkward and uncomfortable and can’t think of the right words to say, when I pay more attention to my phone than to the person standing right in front of me.
Because you know what? I will do the same for them. I promise.
I promise to accept each one for the amazing individual they are, to forgive often and with no lingering resentment, to be generous with my time, money, and possessions, and most of all to love them anyway.
If they are capricious and critical and mopey, I promise to love them anyway, because someday I will be capricious and critical and mopey and I will want them to love me anyway too.
We are all good, imperfect people who sometimes need a break.
I finished my run and opened the door of my house to find the Christmas tree lights sparkling, soft music playing, and a wonderful smell emanating from the kitchen.
My youngest grandson had awoken. He and his grandfather were in the process of mixing up a big batch of waffles for breakfast.
Sometimes the people you love can be exasperating, true, but sometimes, like this morning, they get it exactly right. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We love because God first loved us. – 1 John 4:19
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