For Me and For You

I ran a ten-mile race last weekend. I didn’t win the race, but I did win.

I’m reasonably new to running, I started running at the age of 48, just four years ago. I’ve run a few half-marathons and one full marathon, so far. I didn’t win any of them. I’m registered for a couple of half-marathons and four full marathons over the next year. I won’t win any of them. But I still win.

Scarlette Begonia

Why run in races if you’re never going to win?

Running, for me, fulfills a couple of very primal needs I discovered I have rather late in life; it makes me feel free and it fulfills my competitive spirit. If I’m not in it to win it, how does it fulfill my competitive spirit? I compete with myself, I strive for continual improvement.

Fitness is a lifestyle I believe in, it is a lifestyle I foster, it is a lifestyle I create for myself. Let me clarify fitness and what it means to me:

Fitness is a lifestyle that facilitates good health, well-being, continual self-improvement, self-confidence, and self-worth. Joy.

Fitness is not getting skinny enough to wear that dress to the high school reunion. Fitness is not losing weight to look good, to catch that guy, to attract that girl, to get the engagement ring, to fit into the wedding dress. Fitness is not bulking up enough to win a body-building competition. Fitness is not racing once to prove it can be done. Fitness is not about doing it for someone else.

Fitness, your health, your well-being, are only ever about you. It is a choice and one you choose because it brings you joy.

Scarlette Begonia

I run as part of my fitness-focused lifestyle. It is hard, but it brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. I race because it’s fun, I enjoy the fanfare, I enjoy the people, I enjoy having a measure of my personal improvement.

In this past weekend’s race, there were 540 finishers. I came in 309th. Clearly, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t even in the top 50%, but I’m still a winner. I finished. I ran ten miles. I did, however, run at a faster pace than any of my previous races, though this was the shortest race I ever ran.

I poured over the results, the results of others, knowing everyone runs, and races, for different reasons, for very personal and individual reasons. Some folks do run to compete, to win, to be the fastest. Others run for the sheer pleasure. Other folks run because they can. Sadly, some folks run to please someone else.

Scarlette Begonia

The fastest finishers, the winners of the race, the folks who took home the purse and the prizes, ran a full five minutes faster per mile than I. One such man was 72 years old. Winning. I reviewed the field of finishers near my finish time, I came in a couple of seconds behind a woman who was 74 years old.

Scarlette Begonia

I looked at the people who came in last, and these folks were, in my perception, the true winners of the race and should be awarded the highest purse, the biggest medal, and the most recognition. In the last ten finishers was a woman, 99 years old. Winning. Finisher 540 of 540; a woman of 83. Winning. How blessed to be of such good health at that age to complete a ten mile running race, and, judging from their pace, they were moving along fairly well. They eclipsed my rather ridiculous hiking pace. My rather ridiculous hiking pace elevates my heart rate to an aerobic level, it causes me to sweat profusely, it makes my muscles all wonderfully sore for the next couple of days. A 99 year old woman and an 83 year old woman and a smattering of other octogenarians maintained that pace for ten full miles. Think about it; many folks that age aren’t able to drive ten miles, or walk ten feet. When I grow up I want to be 99 years old and finish a ten mile running race! Run because you can.

Scarlette Begonia

I am speculating, but I’m pretty sure those elderly runners aren’t running that race for anyone but themselves. To live to be 99, or 83, is accomplishment in itself. To be able to run ten miles at that age obviates a commitment to fitness, a personal desire for a fit lifestyle. They aren’t running to get in shape to fit into that dress, to get the proposal, to find a date, to please someone else. They run because they can and because it is their choice, their lifestyle, and, I’m guessing it brings them an incredible amount of joy, confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.

And that, my friends, is truly winning.

I do it for me. Do it if you want, but do it for you.

Scarlette Begonia

Notification! Important!

I think I’m gonna go cold turkey. I have an addiction, an unhealthy addiction. I’m Scarlette Begonia, and I’m addicted to notifications.

I ran a ten mile race today and fully, and rightfully, expected to experience an endorphin high for the rest of the day, or for at least a few hours. I was bummed. Completely bummed. I was bummed from the moment I finished the race until I had the sense to figure out what was going on. I was bummed because I sort of expected certain folks to respond to certain posts and certain text messages, and they didn’t. Never mind they have full and consuming lives of their own, but I had an expectation, an unfulfilled expectation.

There are two things wrong with this picture; expectations, one, and looking to external stimuli for validation, for happiness, for gratification. I wholly and completely realize this, and have, according to some, “preached” on this before.

Preacher, now disciple.

Lately, I find myself grasping my phone, checking every few minutes for notifications. I have notifications turned on for absolutely every app, social media, text messages, phone calls, “Map My Run”, and even “All Trails”.

I have even begun to “measure”, or try to quantify how much someone likes me, or loves me, by how quickly they respond to texts, or if, and how rapidly they “like” a picture, a comment, a check-in. And especially a new profile picture. This, my friends, is no way to live. This is not how friendships or relationships or love, or anything else, is measured. Ever.

Extremist that I am, I spent the afternoon on the deck, lounging in my cheap, faded, PVC Adirondack chair, contemplating all of this, and then, systematically turning off notification services for everything except phone calls. And even that I really wanted to turn off, because 99% of the time, I don’t want to talk to whomever is calling. But, as my mom is 91 years old and couldn’t text to save her life, and may require assistance when I am away, I left that one notification active.

This strategy, I’ll admit, failed miserably and instantly. I just picked up my phone and opened every app, one by one, to see if anyone was talking to me, validating me, “liking” me, loving me. Nope. More dismal despair and disappointment. My solution, and I’m only two hours in; I’ve set an alarm for every three or four hours, and, when it sounds, I am allowed to check my apps. Until then, the phone remains untouched, the only app open is Spotify. I do require a little external stimuli, and music seems benign. I’m hoping to wean my “app checking” down to three times a day. Eventually. Baby steps. It’s like heroine, I’ll require methadone, on a long-term, tapered schedule, before I am, at last, free from this monkey on by back.

In the hour and a half I’ve been abiding by this new plan, I’ve drafted three articles, I’ve observed fascinating nature in my own backyard, I’ve eaten a pizza, four samosas and had a couple of beers. I’ll get better, I am certain.

Why am I taking such extreme measures?

Our sense of worth, our value as a human being, the measure of how lovable, or likable we are, never, ever, ever, is dependent on what others think, of how others act, or even of how others regard us. We are our only judge, and to rely so completely on external stimuli for validation is in complete juxtaposition.

Our self-worth, our self-confidence, our value, only ever comes from within, and unless we’re going to sit there and like all our own social media posts, respond to all our own texts in precisely the manner, and period of time, we deem appropriate, we’ve set ourselves up for utter disappointment.

Expectations, generally, are the device of misery. By expecting certain behaviors or actions from anyone is the most expeditious route to disappointment ever. We are only, and with effort, in control of ourselves. We cannot control anyone else, in thought, action, or deed. To think we can coerce, beg, plead, ask, request anyone to change, or to behave according to our desire, is futile. Live your life and coexist with others.

You know that religious “coexist” bumper sticker you see on the back of every third Prius on the highway? Repurpose the message; live your own life, set and strive for your own expectations, and respect others for their efforts in setting and striving for their own expectations. If their self-expectations align well enough with yours, then, super. If not, let go, and find folks whose journey, and expectations, coexist more with yours.

So, yes, please, like my article. Follow me, like me on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, just know, I’ll be appreciative, but I may not realize your appreciation as instantly as you may expect!

I’m Special

Have you ever felt taken for granted by loved ones in your life? Have you ever had one of those days where you just don’t feel very special? Where people you know love, cherish and adore you are indifferent, distant or distracted? Feels terrible, doesn’t it?

So you’re not being treated like you’re special from someone you think should be treating you like you’re special. Do you let it get to you? Like it’s all about you and it’s up to them to make you feel special? That’s the problem, there, not whether you are special or deserving, but that you are relying on someone else to make you feel that way. That is hard work, impossible work, and is unfair to ask of anyone.

Feeling special, just like everything else, is up to you. When you think you’re pretty special, the world will fall in line. Feeling special is an expression of confidence and self-worth, both of which come from within. True, people can acknowledge your specialness, in some way, but that in itself does not make you special. Neither does someone’s temporary lapse of acknowledgement of your specialness make you any less special. Confidence, self-worth, feeling special; it’s an energy, and like all energy, it attracts a corresponding energy. Feeling special is just like being likable; if you don’t like yourself much, it’s pretty silly to expect others to like you, too.

If you want to feel special, you need to develop that feeling about yourself, first. You need to decide what it is that you think is special about you. Make a list. I’m not kidding, sit down and make a list of all the special things about you. Pretty hard, isn’t it? If you’ve never taken time to document your special qualities, if you aren’t aware of your special qualities, then who the hell are you to think someone else is duty bound to make that list and remind you of the contents of that list, regularly, to your satisfaction?

Think about it. What makes you special, contemplate, deliberate, consider and then, write it down. Once you have a list, leave it in a handy place, you’re likely to think of more reasons why you are special, and those reasons should be added to your list, too. Keep a running list for however long it takes for you to figure out all your special qualities. Once your list is fairly complete, keep it close at hand, read it over, often. Daily, even. If you journal or repeat affirmations each day, add your special list to your daily practice, lest we ever forget what makes us so special. This practice, more than any other, will instill in you the confidence and the self-worth you need to feel special, all by yourself, without external reinforcement.

Are there special qualities you lack? When you made your list, are there some items you think should be on the list that aren’t? Here is a magic trick; add them to your list, too. Affirm them, acknowledge the desired qualities in your life as though they were true, and you will embody them, they will become true. By the power of suggestion, through persistent belief and affirmation, you can adopt the qualities you lack, the qualities you desire. Magic.

The wonderful thing about self-sufficient, self-sustained “specialness” is you never have to rely on anyone to supply you with it, to fill that void. Your belief in yourself, your own special qualities, can never be taken from you. You are the keeper, your special qualities are yours, you’ve discovered them, you’ve recognized them, they are yours, all yours. Cherish them. Foster them. Believe them. Become them. The confidence and self-worth that springs from this will carry you through life with more happiness and bliss than you’ve ever known. Trust me.

There is another little trick with feeling special, the golden rule applies. Exponentially. Congratulations, first of all, on finally figuring out that you’re special in so many ways. Have you noticed the people in your life? Aren’t they special, too? Oh. My. Are you taking them for granted? Or are you just indifferent, distant or distracted? True, it is up to them to fill their own specialness void, but there is certainly no harm in being attentive, caring or heedful. Truly, one of the special qualities you develop should be attentiveness, caring, heedfulness, and these traits will foster good relationships with the people in your life. To feel extra special, treat the people in your life special and they will likely reciprocate.

Strive to be attentive to everyone in your life; friends, family, lovers, co-workers, superiors at work, those you oversee at work, acquaintances, strangers on the street. Being attentive requires no special skill, just a general awareness and thoughtfulness. In a world where random acts of kindness are notable, and sadly, are treated like extraordinary acts, seek to adopt random kindness as one of your qualities. The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, two completely separate, autonomous organizations, share a slogan; “do a good turn daily”. Have you done a good turn today? And, is there a rule by which you can only do ONE good turn daily? Be attentive, make yourself special by becoming attentive to everyone you encounter.

Being attentive to your lover is particularly important. Make them feel as special today as you did when your love was new. Everyday. It is so easy to slip into a complacent pattern where you know you love each other, but the time has passed where you feel the need to “prove” your love, to have to remind the other of your love. Once the love is assumed without much expression, lovers begin to feel under-appreciated, taken for granted. Lovers begin to feel that the spark is dwindling, or, worse, gone. If there is love, the spark is there, no matter how long it has been, even if doubt and bitterness have crept in, there is still a spark that can usually be reignited. You’re special, remember? And there must be something you find special about your lover, or you wouldn’t have fallen in love in the first place. Remember. And become attentive to those special qualities. Acknowledge them, praise them. Be thoughtful, caring and heedful and what you have between you will become more special, again.

Life is special. If you’re alive, you possess life. Simply being in possession of life puts you in possession of something special. Foster your special qualities and your life will become more and more special. With the confidence and self-worth you uncover, your life will blossom into something greater, people in your life will regard you in a new manner, and you will make the world a better place by sharing your special qualities, by being attentive, thoughtful, careful and heedful. It is a cycle. The more special you believe you are, the more special your life becomes. You become special by believing you are special. Believe. I’m special. So are you.