It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green is my favorite color.

As a poetic type, I really adore imagery and symbolism. I love the way that in literature, for instance, inanimate entities represent much larger ideas. So, naturally, the fact that I am drawn to the color green intrigues me. So, I sat down and thought about what the color green might symbolize. First, I began with the positive, naturally. There are many positive associations to the color green. Green leaves on plants signal that the plant is growing; therefore green symbolizes growth. Green leaves are the anticipation of things to come; green symbolizes hope. Plants need great care; green symbolizes nurture. In the Spring, plants begin to turn from brown to green; green symbolizes resurrection. In short, green renews and restores depleted energy. Well that all sounds really good, and while it’s just so much fun to concentrate on the pretty stuff, this little dreamer must consider the negative now.

Upon careful consideration, I have discovered that there are some pretty negative associations to the color green, unfortunately. The phrases “green with envy” and the “green-eyed monster” immediately jump to mind, meaning jealousy and envy. Green is associated with money, and therefore symbolizes greed, materialism, possesiveness, and selfishness.

Now, pause. You might be asking yourself, “why this sudden fixation on green and its meaning?” Well, that, naturally, has a little something to do with running, as everything in my life finds its way back to my running. You see, this past week, Boston Marathon applications were accepted. I, by a 21 second cushion, earned the right to submit my application, but it will most certainly be rejected, and I am completely prepared for this. Many of my hard working friends have been accepted, and I am thrilled for them. I am truly thrilled, but I am also dealing with this conflicting feeling of envy. I am, as it were, green with envy at the moment, and while it is uncomfortable to admit that, it is the honest truth.

So, lets back up a little here. If you’ve followed my story, you know that gaining entry into the Boston Marathon is most certainly on my list of long-term goals. This past year, my goal was to run a 3:45 marathon, period. I had no Boston Marathon goal set. I met my 3:45 goal with 21 seconds to spare. Success! The fact that this earned me the right to submit an application to run the Boston Marathon was simply an added perk. So, if applying for 2019 wasn’t even a goal, why am I suddenly saddened by the fact that I won’t be accepted?

Well, that is due to envy. Plain and simple. I look around and all I see are little Pacmen bolting around gobbling up PRs, age group wins, and BQs. These little yellow circles are constantly gobbling them up before looking for more. As soon as one is gobbled up, another target is thrown out instantly. It is very easy to get swept up in the ego of it all. Essentially, it sucks the joy out of running. With the help of writing and a good friend, I am starting to reconcile it all in my mind. I am reminding myself that I have a plan. A very systematic plan that I have been honing since 2013. I have gotten stronger each year and learned more, and I simply refuse to compromise my original intent: to use my passion for running to inspire and motivate others, and through this, become a better person myself. This small rejection is an excellent opportunity for me to motivate others. To let others know that it is normal to feel inferior and inadequate at times. While it’s a secret feeling that is impolite to admit, envy happens to everyone.

I mean, who hasn’t been touched by envy, right? The key is to allow the envy to be used as motivation and not as competition with another. The positive in envy is that it spurns ambition, enthusiasm, desire, and initiative. So I will use this envy to celebrate those that have been accepted to run Boston. I will celebrate them like no other; for, while I hope to one day join their ranks, that simply won’t be in 2019. It will happen, but I’m not sure when it will happen. I will wait in gleeful anticipation and know that my success will be counted sweetest after much hard work, dedication, and patience.

In Chinese philosophy, the yin and yang symbol represents two seemingly opposite or contrary forces and how they attract and complement each other. Neither side is superior to the other, as evidenced by the equal parts and small dots in the opposite colors. The idea here is that when one side increases, the other decreases, and the goal is for a balance between the two in order to achieve harmony.

So, yes, while green means envy, greed, selfishness, etc., (yin) green is also a positive color. It gives us the ability to love and nurture ourselves and others unconditionally (yang). It is the blanket of soft grass beneath our feet. It is the leaves on the beautiful, fragrant flowers we enjoy. Nature wears the colors of the spirit, and green is the color of nature. Perhaps green is the great balancer of the heart and emotions.

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Discipline is the Bridge Between Goals and Accomplishment

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I’m racing a 10K this weekend across a bridge. Now, it is important to note that this will not be my first experience with this race, nor this bridge. Oh no. This bridge and I know each other pretty well at this point. You see, I toed the line of this race five years ago when I was a beginning runner. At that point, I had about a year under my belt of running experience and I had consistently run 10K races at a pretty competitive pace. I was pretty confident going into the race. Definitely way too confident.

Eager to race hard and win my medal, I took off like a rocket on that race course that Sunday morning in September. Silly, silly little runner girl, for fast starts are for fools! Lacking experience and knowledge, I was foolish. About halfway into the race, I realized just how bad that finish time was going to be and I completely bailed on myself. I allowed myself to walk. I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself. I allowed myself to feel hopeless. I begrudgingly collected my race medal after I crossed the finish line and had a sour attitude driving home. In the following days, I questioned my abilities as a runner. I seriously considered quitting. For, as a girl who struggles with confidence, I’d almost rather save face and not try over trying with all of my heart and failing.

Obviously, if you know me at all, you know that I did not quit running after that less than stellar experience. No, I tucked my tail between my legs, licked my wounds, kept my head down, and continued to work on my running. I consulted training manuals and read running biographies. I asked for advice from experienced runners, and I pored over all of the data my running app afforded me. I wrote about my individual runs, and every few weeks I’d go back and read what I had written and compare those earlier runs to my current runs. In short, I became a student of the sport. I rather like being a student. I’m the girl that went to graduate school twice after undergraduate school, and my life’s work has been at a high school. I love to learn and I enjoy being tested … but it really crushes my confidence when I fail a test. This 10K bridge run from five years ago was a test I failed. The reason I failed is simple: I did not study. I did not prepare for the test. I had no bridge experience. I went into the race with a bravado I had no business possessing. So, once I regrouped, I did what every good student does: I studied my ass off and I practiced. But, I have been a coward. I have been a coward because I have stayed away from this race that left such a bad taste in my mouth. The reason is simple: I have felt too vulnerable to try this race again. I have been hedging my bets. I have not wanted to commit myself to trying this race again, for fear of the outcome, but it’s time to try again.

All these years this bridge run has been in the back of my mind. This bridge has been my albatross. Certainly, the metaphor of the bridge is not lost on me. I truly believe that the metaphor of running is one of the largest factors in my running obsession, so the fact that it is a bridge run that has me all out of sorts is really quite appropriate.

Let’s break down the bridge metaphor, shall we? A bridge offers a connection. The phrase “bridge the gap” comes to mind. So, the bridge is a connection, but it’s also a sort of obstacle. What a conundrum. During difficult times we find solace in knowing that once we “just get over that bridge” we will be in a better place on the other side, with all that trouble being mere “water under the bridge,” but we have to go through that difficult time before we can truly put it behind us.  We often say “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” meaning, let’s not focus on that difficult obstacle at this point, let’s focus on our current situation, but alas, at some point we must face the issue. The bridge allows us the stability to overcome an obstacle and transition from a difficult situation to a better outcome, but it’s really freaking hard sometimes to cross the bridge!

I have avoided this race for many years and it’s finally time for me to face this challenge. I must cross this bridge. In life, facing challenges is how we grow, and regardless of the outcome, I’m ready to face this challenge.