A Little Perspective
One and two and three and four and five, and one and two and three and four and ten, and one and two and three and four and fifteen. Breathe. Breathe. One and two and three and four and five, and one and two and three and four and ten, and one and two and three and four and fifteen. Breathe. Breathe.
I could feel my heart pounding as my feet hit the path. My mind running through the mantra over and over again, pushing me forward. It did not escape me that, as I was running, my head kept replaying a CPR soundtrack. A bit strange, but for some reason it helped. Whatever works. Maybe, subconsciously, I was trying to revive myself. One and two and three and four and five, and one and two and three and four and ten, and…
In my head, the voice always had a Kentucky accent. My mom had been a CPR instructor when I was a kid, so it was her southern lilt whispering in my ear as I ran. “Don’t’ make fun of your mother!” I can hear her say, as I laugh, recognizing the tapes in my head. Breaking stride, I shake the thought away to concentrate. One and two and three and four and five, and one and two and three and four and ten, and one and two and three and four and fifteen. Breathe. Breath.
I started running around Greenlake to prove to myself I could do it. I had never considered myself “athletic” and I knew better than to just throw on some running shoes and give it a go, so I started small. I’d run a block and walk back. Then I’d run the block and run back. The next day it was two blocks. The next day three. I think it took me about a two months before I got up the nerve to run “the lake” – three miles of see-and-be-seen for the social-fitness-crowd in Seattle. I felt like I was playing a character in a movie. The athlete. Would they know that I wasn’t the real deal? Could they see it on my face? In my stride?
It was there, during my brief stint as a runner, that I first felt it – that sense of perspective. I would pass a couple talking and hear a snippet of an argument, or two friends deep in discussion about what was happening at work, or see a woman walking by herself wiping away tears. If the lake could talk, I would think. The stories it could share.
The more often I ran, the more familiar the faces became. I could identify “the regulars” – people who followed the same routine. The woman with the longest legs I had ever seen who always had a fierce, far-away gaze in her eyes. The two guys sweating up a storm who ran past me every morning without even noticing I was alive. The old man who sat on the same bench every morning talking to his dog. Seeing them every day was somehow soothing – part of the rhythm of my life.
I’d run and wonder. What are they talking about? What are they feeling? Why does she look so angry? How far had the guys run to be sweating so profusely? Was the dog-man always alone or was there someone he once loved? Someone who shared his bench? I’d imagine the stories of their lives.
And then one day the cacophony of the lake stopped me in my tracks. I had to sit down, dizzied by overwhelm. I remember sitting in the grass, by the side of the lake feeling so small. Recognizing, perhaps for the first time in my life, that my story was just one of the hundreds of other stories unfolding around the lake that day. And that every person there had insecurities, and worries, and people they loved. That we all had passions and fears and dreams. A hunger to do more, have more, feel more, be more. That we were all so focused on our own stuff that we couldn’t see that everyone else has stuff going on too.
Years have passed since that day at Greenlake. I’ve long since turned in my running shoes, but the “Ah ha” I experienced during my laps around the lake has stayed with me. It’s helped me find patience when it was lacking, and empathy when I’ve been disappointed or angry. It’s helped me step back from judgment and cut others a break when I needed to most.
The reminder that we’ve all got our own “something” going on.
And maybe that’s one of the greatest gifts we can give one another – to recognize that our “something” important isn’t the only “something” important. That, as Facebook reminds us, “everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about”.
And, as leaders, a little perspective can go a long way.
©OnStage Leadership, 2013; Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share. It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.