run your own fucking marathon: how to deal with jealousy

April 11, 2013 | 117 Comments


I’ve spent almost 38 years jealous of anything that breathes.

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. —Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Eight years ago I trained for a half marathon with a runner who was faster than me. What was an easy pace for her, left me barely able to manage my end of the conversation during our long Sunday runs. But every Sunday she ran with me and every Sunday I ignored my program pace to keep up.

On race day I ran with her until she had to use the washroom at kilometer eight. While she shuffled ahead to the port-o-potty, I took a walk break. I fired back up when I passed the port-o-potty, knowing she’d catch up. I spent the next two kilometers waiting for her to reappear, puzzled—and somewhat smug—she hadn’t yet.

And then the course merged onto a wee island. I saw her coming towards me having completed the loop I still needed to run.

She was two kilometers ahead at a faster pace. We exchanged breathy hellos while shame got to work cocooning me like something from a comic book. Thick and black.

Eleven kilometers to run and 29 years worth of hateful thoughts showed up to neener-neener my ass to the finish line. You ridiculous piece of shit. You thought you could do this? Hilarious! You’re a joke.

And if you think I’m dysfunctional now? Eight years ago I had roughly zero in my toolbox to work my way out of that hostile darkness.

I finished the race eight minutes after my goal time. Which maybe sounds great to a non-runner’s ear, but it was a fail in my books.

It was days until I could appreciate what I’d accomplished. I ran 21 kilometers in 2:08 minutes, you guys. I ran the race. A long, hard racy race. I did that. I showed up and I ran.

Lesson learned, right?

HA. You’re funny.

To be depressed is to constantly have his very calm, very rational voice whispering in your ear, telling you how awful and worthless you are. It’s being trapped inside an airless glass room, watching everyone around you pile up success after success while you can barely button your shirt or tie your shoes. It’s knowing that you are not capable of doing anything, not one single thing, of value. —Anne Thériault

Anne and her writting burrowed into my heart like that tic at summer camp on my cabin-mate’s back. With less horror and more squealing.

We both struggle with depression, are often overwhelmed by parenting, love writing, and both like jam and cheese on our toast. (If you haven’t tried jam and cheese on your toast, could you, Anne? You’ll love it and then I won’t be a liar. Thanks. You’re a pal.)

It’s probably best we live on oposite ends of the country, because I’d frequently stop in to borrow cups of sugar and milk for my pretend baking just so I could soak in her goodness. Her husband and son would hate me and my husband and daughter would miss me and my pretend baking.

Anne challenges my thinking, opens my already wide open heart, makes me giggle and cry, and writes away some of my shame and loneliness. She’s brilliant, charming, generous and intensely talented.

I love Anne. Like, I really, really love her!

So imagine my shame when jealousy replaced the oxygen in my blood and I could taste it with every swallow, sharp and hot like stray wasabi. Her world imploded with writerly love and recognition. Viral posts, famous-people retweets, all the Facebook fan page likes. (Oh, that’s where they went!) My response was ugly, covetous, jealous, gremlin yuck.

You ridiculous piece of shit. You thought you could do this? Hilarious! You’re a joke. Oh, and PS—you’re an ugly friend.

Anne has gone ahead and I still have the whole island loop to run at my slower pace. I was swallowed up, wondering what the point might be. Why bother? No one cares if I finish this fucking marathon. No one cares if I write another word.

I’ll never be as good as Anne. I’ll never be as good as running maven McFasty Pants. I’ll never be as good as you or you or you. Nope. Not you either.

Shannon, stop! Right, right. I don’t need to be as good as you or you or you. Nope not even you. I need to be as good as me.

This year is the first time I’ve begun to untangle myself from the belief that I am fundamentally flawed. Unloveable. Made wrong. Damaged. Fucked up. Broken.

You’re not broken (and you don’t need to be fixed): We all develop our own ways of coping with the world we grow up in. Some of these ways are more beneficial than others but at the core of these behaviours is a need for self-protection, not broken-ness. There isn’t going to be a time when you are “fixed” or an “ideal” version of yourself: living authentically involves continuing to grow. —Hanna Braime

Last week I subbed in a grade two classroom. I read the kids a book called Nightsong about a bat who leaves his mother for the first time to find his way in the darkness. Students had to write what they thought the author’s message might be. One little dude brought me his paper and it said, “Don’t be afraid!” And I was all “Yeah, good job, little dude.”

And before he reached his desk, I called out, “Wait a minute! Sometimes we’re afraid and jealous and discouraged and anxious and sad and lonely. The message shouldn’t be: don’t feel your feelings, but feel them with courage!” Best. Sub. Ever.

Icky thoughts and feelings don’t prove I’m an asshole; they prove I’m human. They prove I’m alive. The more I tried to stop feeling jealous of McFasty Pants and Anne, the more clingy my shame became and the deeper I spiraled.

I was trying to suppress and control my feelings, because I was afraid thinking or feeling xyz equaled Shannon is bad. If I could have acknowledge it, named it, and observed it like a scientist, maybe there would have been less panicky arm flailing. I wouldn’t have gotten so tangled, blurring the line between what I think and feel and who I am.

It’s kneejerk for us to shoo bad feelings away—even ones that don’t belong to us. This morning Steve called on his way to work. After sharing some bummed-out thoughts, he responded, “Don’t be discouraged!” Steve’s a super thoughtful, compassionate dude, but this habit is not helpful!

So, I’m gonna allow myself to sit with Discouraged. Oh hai, Discouraged! I didn’t hear you come in. Need a hug? I’m gonna be over here breathing and crossing things off my to-do list, okay? You’re a feeling, and my new policy is feelings don’t get leadership roles. Yes, I know, but I reassigned jealousy last week, too. She still checks in (more than she needs to), but she’s not in charge. But I see you, okay?

Steve is terrified of spiders. Terrified. During the unpacking stage of our last two moves, I heard squeals and crashing from the basement, followed by a squeaky, high-pitched, “SPIDER!”

Well, that’s me and less-desirable feelings. “JEALOUSY! Cancelling all friendships with a full refund! Doomed! Doooooomed!”

Everyone. Calm. Down. It’s a spider feeling.

A feeling I’ll likely always feel to some degree. So, acceptance and patience it is!

Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. —Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Oh look—Anne has 42,548 new followers on Twitter this morning! Okay. Oh, yep. Here she comes. Hi, Jealousy! Oh, we’re hugging? Okay. Yes. Oh you’re so excited to see me again even though it’s only been 4.5 nanoseconds. Okay, more hugging! It’s not that I don’t want to schlep you and Kleenex around the house again today, but I’ve got some doing to do. Sure, you can stay if that’s what you need, but check your updated roles and responsibilities on the fridge, mmk? 

I’ll be the crazy lady on the West Coast taking her shadow for coffee in between all the things I do that I’m really great at. Like loving my friends and running my own marathons.

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