Thursday, July 25, 2019
The Man in the Arena (and the Trenches)
Last weekend, I took the Road Runners Club of America Level I Coaching Certification Course. Thirty five or so of us attended, and really the only thing we had in common was that we all loved to run. I was a stand out at the training, but not in the way you might think. I am a run/walker, which means I combine intervals of running and walking into all of my runs. It has kept me injury free for years, so I'm sticking with it. Many "serious" runners don't consider me to be a real runner, because to them, real runners run the entire run; only beginners walk part of the run. I wish I could say that their attitude didn't bother me, but it did. I could feel the judgment. No one who knows me would say I'm not a runner. I may not be the fastest person in the world, but I am a solid middle of the pack runner. I was also the only person in the room who warms up before each and every run, no exceptions. The instructors didn't believe me; then when they did, they looked at me like I had three heads. I shouldn't have cared, but I did. Finally, I just said it was because I'm injury-prone, and that seemed to satisfy them.. I'm not changing how I run, but I sure felt uncomfortable so I made an excuse to make my choices seem more palatable to others. .
Daughter is getting married. She and her fiancé are doing it their way. We're going to have a taco bar, and lawn games. They are not, at this point, making this a state-sanctioned union. Their wedding is going to be a ceremony of commitment between them, in front of their closest family and friends. Their union is no less committed (and maybe even more so) than a lot of "legal" marriages. What's more, they are comfortable with their choice. The problem is that other people are not, and are voicing their judgments on their choice. They feel the judgment and it doesn't feel good. They know what others think shouldn't bother them, but it does. They're not changing what's right for them.
Here in the Trenches, divorce comes with lots of judgments. You're judged if you had an affair. You're judged if your spouse has an affair. You're judged if you leave your spouse. You're judged if your spouse leaves you. You're judged if you have custody of your children; you're judged if you don't. People who used to be your friends aren't any more. Some people even stop talking to you. Some people start talking to you because you're divorced. Unlike me with my running, and Daughter with her wedding, a divorce isn't something most people would choose to do if they had a chance. That doesn't make all of those judgments feel any more or less awful. When you're in the Trenches, however, you are already under stress, so your ability to handle the judgments is decreased. It's hard to say you don't give a fig when your entire life is shifting and changing. You start to second guess yourself and your actions. You wonder if all those people on the periphery are actually right. I can't answer that for you; I can't know whether their judgments are correct. What I do know is that Theodore Roosevelt was right, when he said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Here in the Trenches.