It’s easy to feel helpless in this life.
I’ve been stuck off and on in cycles of feeling powerless, unable to change the things I care about most. This week, I was reminded again how little I matter. Many of us watched state after state turn either blue or red on an electoral map. While each American of age has a say in the process, an individual vote is such a small percentage. It made me feel small and unimportant. Swept out to sea with no rudder or sails.
I avoid talking politics in social media spheres. All of the fighting back and forth I’ve seen lately hasn’t convinced me to change. Has a political Facebook argument ever resulted with someone changing his or her mind? Still, all of the divisiveness I’m seeing has made me feel even more helpless.
I also felt helpless during the summer months as I tried desperately to return to top running form.
Doubt and fear about my future are always in the back of my mind.
On runs, I wonder if I will ever run another PR. “Maybe everything is one long dive into the black depths from here.” I battle those dark thoughts constantly.
But right in the middle of the helpless descent this week, I returned to a hopeful song I clung to years ago.
I didn’t know what to do when I started training. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a tempo run and a fartlek. No clue about the benefit of multi-pace workouts or how to safely increase pace or mileage. So I tried to run everything as hard as I could (which was slow and painful). I stumbled many times with injuries and other setbacks.
I also listened to music while trying to become a runner (I no longer use earphones for safety reasons).
One song grabbed my heart: “Head full of doubt/road full of promise” by the Avett Brothers. Even the title described exactly what I felt. Even though my head was full of doubt and fear, the road does have promise.
“There’s a darkness inside me that’s flooded in light. In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right. And it comes in black, and it comes in white, and I’m frightened by those who don’t see it. When nothing is owed, deserved or respected. And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected. If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.”
That became my theme.
“Decide what to be and go be it.”
I return to those words when I feel helpless. Because I have a daily choice. Either I can allow my doubt and fear to bring me down and render me paralyzed, or I can take a small, positive step.
I don’t always win the battle inside my head, but this week I did.
I watched vitriol spewed during pre-election rhetoric. After the election, protests erupted. Each political side is still vilifying the other and refusing to budge an inch on inflammatory statements. It’s like the nation and world are spinning off axis, and there is nothing a single one of us can do.
Except we can. We all have a daily choice about how we will treat others and how we live this life.
About six years ago, I reached a point in my life where I needed to change. I was out of shape, and I was depressed. And then I decided what I wanted to be, and I went out and became it. It wasn’t easy, and many times it wasn’t fun, but I turned many things about my life around.
Now, with so much hatred and a divide splitting many of us apart, I’m making another decision about who I want to be. I want to treat others with compassion and love.
I’m fortunate to have many people who love me and care about me, a supportive safety net.
But what about all of the other people I come in contact with daily? Am I friendly and disarming? Or do I rush through interactions without engaging with all the people I don’t know on a first name basis?
Think back to a time when a stranger was kind to you. It probably made your day. Even a small smile from a stranger or someone with a drastically different background than me can brighten my life just a little bit.
Runners are the best about this. We smile and wave to each other constantly. If you are out on the roads putting in a workout and logging a few miles, even if I have never seen you before, you are my friend.
I’m trying to extend that openness into all areas of my life. No more feeling helpless watching the news feed as hate pours in with ever increasing bile.
If you felt helpless along with me, remember that only you can determine how you will attack your day. The sun rose today, and it’s going to set tonight. It will repeat the process tomorrow. And the day after. I am in control of the things I do and say during each of those hours, and even a little shard of positivity and decency can make a difference.
Decide what to be and go be it.