I am not a number

When we face our fears we learn something about ourselves. It may take countless tries to overcome those fears and each time is not necessarily easier. The process teaches us where we are at. It teaches us how (if?) we can stay in the present moment without judgement or trying to change it.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be. – Fred Rogers

For me, being in the present moment is the most useful -and the hardest- state of being. Buddhist philosophy and anxiety coping techniques both support the idea that being as present as possible to a moment is how the mind works best. Trying to change what has been, or hoping to control future outcomes will not change this moment. This moment is all we have. Being as fully engaged in the here-and-now as possible gives this moment, and you, its worth. It allows freedom and release from expectations.

I have tried to stay in the present moment as much as possible and deal with the Now.  I really enjoy running, but I am angst-ridden at races. Racing and results, in my mind, reflect my self-worth. I have spent the last two weeks balancing all-out panic and trying to conjure a level of self-acceptance.


How could you not feel content and inspired with company like this?

Comparisons kill the joy. I know this, I get this, and yet I still do it. I measure my worth against someone else’s results and the time on the clock. I am the first to admit I have zero natural talent when it comes to running, but I do have determination: I will persist. My biggest fear and obstacle is within me: will I be ‘good enough’?

This weekend I ran a half marathon. I was really resistant to the idea, even convincing myself that since I had won free entry I could still get the souvenir shirt and not have to bother doing the race at all — I wasn’t throwing away money by not going.  It was a beautiful sunny day — perfect running weather — and I was supported. No one had any expectations of me.

It was hard, and I did it. My legs cramped most of the run, I had to pee, and around 17 km my back seized so badly I had to walk to stretch it out. I never ever looked at my watch. The stupid lady who asked how long and far we had run — as we were passing by the 10km flag — was told we’d run 50 min. I misunderstood this as 60 min and thought “so this is what a pace of 6 min / km feels like. It’s going to be a long morning.” But I didn’t panic. I was so far removed from the time on the clock I didn’t care what was going on. I knew I wanted to finish and running was faster than walking.

On Friday I watched the video “Mister Rogers and me” about everyone’s favorite neighbour. It was a film by someone who had rented a cabin in Nantucket, right next door to the Mister Rogers’ cabin.  The film was about the kind of person (and neighbour) Mister Rogers had been. He was genuine, he was grateful for who you were, and he was always in the moment. He was present where he was at, and who he was with.

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. – Fred Rogers

It reminded me to be grateful for now. I don’t have to be good at anything. I don’t have to be a fast runner. I run and I have a coach because it is good for me. I get the sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line and have a medal around my neck, but I’m slowly learning more about me — and that I am enough.

Maybe next time will be easier.


12 thoughts on “I am not a number

    • Hi Andy
      We won’t know what we are capable of unless we try. It’s a fine line between breaking down and rebuilding and breaking down and feeling defeated. I think that’s what makes the human condition so fascinating — that we can learn and overcome emotionally.
      Running is great for me — so many lessons for me to learn.
      Enjoy your runs along the ocean,

    • It’s so true that we are not good enough. We compare, compare, compare in so many ways to set ridiculous standards on our abilities, our personalities, and our happiness. And again, while I understand all of this– part of me still buys into it. Thanks for your comments. They were good ones to hear.

  1. I struggle with living in the moment; I’m always looking ahead. What comes next, I want to know. I’m getting better, but it’s still something I have to work at.

    Congrats on finishing the half marathon!

    • Hi Carrie,
      I also struggle with staying present because of my need to *control* what is going on around me. If I know what’s happening next I can plan accordingly. If I don’t know — I feel unstable. Still, I working on allowing things to unfold naturally. Because really, we are always in the Present.

  2. T!
    Reading this post makes me a little more grounded.
    We live in a culture of measurements and expectations. With a clear head we can choose what’s important to us and what brings us to our own equilibrium. During another phase of my life I let anger and frustration guide my path. I remember realizing one day that people don’t make me angry, I let people make me angry. I have a choice to let that happen or not. That’s not to say I’ve reached the level of peace that Fred Rogers did; but at least I understand the process. What you’ve written here shows that you know the process too. You understand what’s important. Equally important is having the patience to allow ourselves to move forward and not embrace someone else’s idea of disappointment.
    Fred Rogers is one of my heroes and I can’t believe I haven’t heard of that movie. I will be looking for it.
    Thank you for this post and reminding me what’s important.

    • John,
      Thanks for these great words – I found them really uplifting. Understanding a process is the first step, putting it into action is another, and applying it to all aspects of our lives is the finale. I’m getting better at dealing with me – my kids’ tantrums could something use “improvement” on my part. I have a hard time detaching from the anger and frustration to just BE in my son’s moment. Fred Rogers was a really good example of how to just be.
      There are also some really great books about Mr Rogers written by the film producer if you are interested. I can FB them to you — let me know.

  3. I think it’s so awesome that you are runner and that you keep going with it. That takes such determination and discipline. Brava!! You speak wisely. All we have is this moment. Why waste it thinking about the future and trying to manage expectations. You end up the killing the moment you’re living in. I think since I’ve had kids I’ve actually been better about letting go and just trying to live in the moment. It’s a still a challenge though. It does look like a great of group of women to train and run with. Great quotes from Mr. Rogers.

    • Amy,
      I think you totally got this: we kill the moment we are living in by trying to make it something else. It’s funny how things can make sense and we can understand them, but when it gets to actually applying something and being it, we can put up such resistance. Our minds our fickle and play such tricks on us. I think when we really limit our sense of focus (one moment at a time) then we actually get to experience life more fully.
      I found having kids has forced me to live more in the moment as well, but it took me a good few years of resistance to get there.
      Thanks for writing!

  4. First, I want to say thank you for posting this. This is by far one of the best posts I have read since I have joined this whole blog world. Thank you so very much, I really appreciate all that you had to say. Second, there isn’t one thing that I didn’t feel like I could relate to when I read your post. I feel the same way about myself. I am in this transition period of my life and it is by far the hardest time I’ve had in my life to discover just who I am, what I feel like I’m worth and all that jazz and it’s a hard thing to go through. I am comforted to know that it’s not just me that can be my own worst critic and feel like I am not enough or good enough.

    I also really enjoyed your comments about being present because that has got to be one of the hardest things to do and especially without judgment. Another thing I am definitely trying to learn because you said it perfectly about how we cannot change what has already happened nor can we control what is going to happen. I loved that.

    Again, thank you very much 🙂

    • Dear Sweetchikn,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave YOUR comments. I think we all go through various degrees of self-worth and self-doubt. Running really brings this out in me — more so than anything else. I once had a counsellor tell me to stop running, but it felt like I would be running (excuse the pun) away from the problem. Sure, sometimes we can avoid things that cause us more stress, but overall I really do enjoy running.
      I think when we take the time to pay attention to ourselves, not in comparison to the rest of the world or to our fears, we can be in the Present. When we stop and slow down and listen to what is around us, acceptance of where we are at is much easier.
      Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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