There was a time, not too long ago, where I was just an absolute prick when it came to running. I had a sense of entitlement, and the streets of Portland were my domain. I ruled them ruthlessly, stopping for no one and no thing.
If anyone from Lake Oswego ever reads this, and you were angrily flipped the bird by a young man running, it was likely me, and I’m sorry. And yes, you read that correctly. Flipped the bird. Now to be fair to myself, I do think some of us driving are living in our own fantasy world. Mindlessly flipping through our phones, or spacing out thinking about whatever it is we are thinking about, which does lead to countless accidents between motorists and pedestrians that shouldn’t happen. But I also think this line of thinking created an expectation in my mind that I would be that next victim. This created some tension between me and the road, and if anyone came rolling up too quickly to a stop sign, it lit a fire in my belly to feel some real rage.
I specifically remember countless times crossing one particular street in Lake Oswego. If anyone has driven through, you know exactly which intersection I am talking about. The famous 5-way stop sign that makes everyone driving look like they’re trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. It’s an interesting social experiment, IMO. This 5-way stop happened to be at the entrance to our neighborhood, so I would need to cross it to get home. Which meant I crossed it, A LOT. Now I mentioned Rubik’s cube, and this was the case when no pedestrians were trying to cross. Add in a pedestrian and now we’ve got full blown chaos. There would be many times I would cross, and a car would come up and stop right in front of me. I would feel angry and frustrated, and you guessed it, either flip them the bird or stop and stare. Maybe not the best move going up against a hunk of metal traveling at 40 mph.
What I have had time to reflect on is that my expectations created a false perception that I controlled the roads. And while yes, pedestrians do have the right away, they don’t have a right be assholes. And asshole I was. With mindfulness I have been able to reframe my relationship with running and the roads. Although I much prefer trail now funnily enough, I still get out on the road a fair amount. And rather than a level of expectation for the motorist, I have now gently let go of those expectations and false perceptions I had created in my mind. Doing this has also made me more present with my runs, which is an added bonus to all of this.
Now I bring up this scenario not because I think there are a lot of bird flippers out there on the road, but because we can apply this awareness to many events in life. When we place expectations on ourselves, we are creating a false narrative before it even happens. This builds unnecessary tension in the body, and if the event doesn’t manifest like we think it will (which happens more often than not), ultimately this will lead to feelings of disappointment, anger, and frustration.
With mindfulness, we can gently let go of those expectations, find ourselves more present in the moment, and ultimately feeling more joy and peace within ourselves and our environment.