The power of a pity party

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When my youngest daughter was growing up, she had the usual amount of teenage angst and drama (although it seemed at the time it was more than the usual amount).  I didn’t have a lot of patience with self pity then, and still don’t.

I’ve always encouraged her to remember that we are embarrassingly blessed.  Not just our family, but most of us in the western world. We have more materially, but we also have the freedom to do things, to be who we are or want to be, to pursue things that interest us and ignite our passions, to worship as we like. We can choose our careers, our friends, how hard or how little we work, and we have a nearly unlimited ability to get food and soothe our creature comforts.  (I could go on in this vein, but this isn’t a political post, so I’m sure you get the picture).

What all that meant to her was that I didn’t allow her to have extended self pity sessions.  I would remind her of all that she has and all that she is, I might agree with her anger (or depression, or whatever she was experiencing), or I might tell her how silly she was being;  then, I put a time limit on it.  I told her I would give her XX amount of time to be sad, depending on the situation, then I would drag her out of bed, if needed,  and make her face the world again.  Head on. I only had to drag her out a couple of times.

It’s always been my philosophy that we need to remind ourselves of the silver linings.  To see the world in a positive light, even when the world doesn’t really deserve it.

I’ll admit that’s not really my nature.  My lineage is filled with  “Woe is me, the sky is falling, nobody likes me, I can’t catch a break” characters, including my own mother.  But, I determined early not to be that person; that I would always find the silver lining, and, for the most part, I’ve been successful.  I have to dig really deep sometimes, but it’s always there to be found, and I want to live a life of joy and hope, not one of despair and fear.

Running has been a lifeline to that for me for many, many years.  So, the struggles I’ve had for the last couple of years with injury and illness have subdued that spirit more than I’ve wanted to admit, even to myself.  My inner dialogues go something like, “I know this hurts, but remember that not everyone is able to run,” or, “Get over yourself, you have a life most people never even dream of,” or some variation on that theme.  And, all that is true.  I’m thankful each day that I have been able to have running as a part of my life; for every slow, painful mile; for every sunrise I’ve seen on the run; for every city I’ve explored on my feet; for every trail I’ve stumbled down; for every beautiful moment running has brought to my life, and there have been many.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken a run for granted.

Which brings me to now.  Because, as you’ve guessed if you’ve stayed with me this long, I am injured.  Again.

A few weeks ago, I went for a short, easy 4 miler, and somehow came away with a pulled hamstring.  I thought, okay, no worries, I’ll stretch, get a massage and take a week or so off, and be back to normal in no time.  Tried to run a week or so later, and limped for the next two days.  More days off, another massage, essential oil applications, diligent stretching and it was time to try again.  No dice.  A week of chiropractics, more of the above, and yesterday’s test run ended in tears.  I mean The Ugly Cry.  You know the one.

Drove straight to the doctor, went through my treatment, was short and cross with him, and left with more tears. It felt like the end.  No one said that to me; in fact, he (the doctor) told me he sees no reason that I can’t get back to running.  But, yesterday, I was afraid that my body was saying something entirely different.

Now, if you’re not a runner, you won’t understand this.  I don’t mean that to be condescending, I just know that before I was a runner, I didn’t get it either.  I never understood my husband’s need for motorcycles, never understood the pleasure people derived form hunting or fishing or whatever their passion was, how doing those things fed their souls.  I just never got it.

I had passions, sure, but they involved my faith, my family, my friends.  I never knew that the passion I felt in those areas could be intensified and fanned into flame by simply moving my body forward through time and space and allowing God to use that simple pleasure to make me whole.

I get it now.  And, yesterday, I thought that was over for me.  So, I threw myself a good old fashioned pity party.  Sorry I didn’t invite you, but I really didn’t want company.

After the doctor’s visit, I decided a pedicure would help, so headed to my favorite salon.  Who should plop into the chair beside me but a bubbly young mother donned in running clothes, gushing about the nine half marathons (yes, NINE) she completed last year, and how much she is looking forward to the Dopey challenge at Disney next year (Google it, it’s ridiculous – I’m not even going to give you a link).  I’m pretty sure I didn’t curse or throw lightening bolts from my eyes, but I wasn’t my usual chatty self.  The pedicure was a bust.

My toes look pretty, though.  (See?  Silver linings.)

I thought a little shopping would help, so I tried on a few things for the summer.   You know how that went, right?

I finally got home to get a little work done.  After completing the most urgent of my tasks, I gave in to it and had a good cry.  I didn’t try to tell myself how lucky I am, how blessed I’ve been, or how many people have issues much more serious than mine.  All true. Not helpful.

I could only think, if I’m not a runner, then who exactly am I?  I let the tears flow, I soaked in a lavender bath, then I let the tears flow some more.  I had a date with one of my best friends, and while I thoroughly enjoyed her company and the theater production we went to see, the two+ hours spent seated in the theater made my bottom/leg/groin hurt even more, and tears flowed freely on the journey home.  I stayed up much later than my typical 9:30 bedtime and used that time to wallow in self pity like a pig in slop.

Then, came the morning.  A beautiful, cool, sunny, spring morning as only my Mississippi can throw at you.  A perfect day for a run.  Sigh.

Oddly enough, I met the morning with a smile.  My heart and mind were clear, my joy and hope had returned, and I no longer had that dark little cloud attached to my back end.  I went to my doctor’s visit, where I was much nicer and he very diplomatically didn’t call me out on what a b**** I was yesterday.  We did some different therapies, and I left with much less pain, and in a more hopeful frame of mind. I realize I was being overly dramatic (who knew I could still be that at my age?), and that, of course I will run again.  It’s not like I’m trying to make the Olympic team or qualify for Boston, I just run to stay sane.

Making a plan always makes me feel better, so I’m working on that now.  It involves some time off running, but I’ll be filling that time with other good things.

The point of this post is that sometimes it’s okay to have a little pity party.  Limit it, don’t let it go on and on, and if it does, it’s not a pity party. It may be something more serious for which you need to seek help.  Don’t be afraid to do that.

This is one of my favorite quotes, and the truth of it is huge for me today:

I’ve have my tears, next week I have a short beach vacay with one of my dearest friends, and the week after I’m headed for a dive trip in the Dry Tortugas with my favorite person in the world, my man.

Life is good, salt is healing, God is full of grace and mercy.  I’m truly thankful.

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