Thursday, February 11, 2016

Playing hookie on a Thursday night

Shhh! Don't tell! I'm not at Breakaway tonight. I'm skipping because my social muscles are still tired from Tuesday's Mardi Gras pub run.

Earlier, I was sitting here, right where I am now, and I wrote a post about Valentine's Day. It was pretty damning, which was fine, but it was also out of character, which was not fine. I started to upset myself as I was writing it, because the things that I was writing were not me. There's no good that doesn't come with a little bad, so allow me to share a couple of downsides related to my job:
  1. I'm around people all day, which means my introverted self does not have enough time between a Tuesday pub run and a Thursday regular run to fully recharge.
  2. Most of those people that I'm around, all day and every day, have lived, and continue to live, much more "normal" lives than me. Far from being immune to social pressure (which is how I like to portray myself - don't buy into my bullshit because it's bullshit), I'm very susceptible to it. When I was younger, it wasn't so much that I succumbed to that pressure as I masked my insecurities through defensiveness and complaint (here is an excellent example of that). I assumed I had grown out of that aspect of my personality...but alas, no. All I needed was to insert myself into a new group of people to fruitlessly compare myself to.  
So instead of sharing the mess that came out of my fingertips tonight, I'm going to share something much nicer that I wrote about Valentine's Day a few years back, on a night when I didn't skip the Thursday run...

I wasn’t sure who all would show up when Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday in 2013. There were several couples, and yes, several lonely hearts, but overall, it wasn’t all that different from any other Thursday night. And yet the occasion seemed to instill in us all an extra push to express our appreciation for being in each others’ lives.  

The first Valentine’s Day I was with Breakaway was 2011; it fell on a Monday and the Salty Dogs hosted a run/social. Initially, it was conceived as a simple group run followed by a meet-up at Bardog (no different from any other Monday). Then a scavenger hunt – done in teams – was thrown into the mix. And then somehow it turned into everyone showing up in their underwear.

I did not attend. (Running around in your underwear and then drinking afterward did not sound like Valentine's Day to me. It sounded like the month of August.)

A year later, in 2012, it was a Tuesday; I went to the track workout and it was a light crowd. I wound up at a bar around the corner with two guys, chugging pitchers of beer, and left feeling bereft in a way I never would have had I gone directly home.  

But 2013 was a night I needed, filling me with a calm appreciation that this truly was a secondary family for me. Sometimes we fought and sometimes we got sick of each other and sometimes we needed a break, but we also looked out for each other and were pleased to see each other and legitimately wished each other well in our respective metaphorical and literal journeys.  

The psychologists were right. It really is wonderful to feel part of a group. And that night, I did. I felt as if whatever else in my life was going on, there was at least consistency here, in this cluster of like-minded people. Sometimes it’s enough just to show up, just to do the same thing that other people are doing, and to be able to smile at the end of it because you belonged.

As I stood surveying the room, [a friend] walked in from his run, stopping to give me shit about politics, and as I did my duty in refuting him, I thought back to the days when I first started coming here, wondering if I could have ever envisioned that I would be here now. That I would have such affection for these people. That I would stand next to [this guy] and talk about politics on Valentine’s Day. He reached over and grabbed my arm as he made his way to leave.  

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” he said, and I smiled at the purity of it all. It was okay. Everything was okay.  On this day when no one was supposed to be alone, none of us were.

There was peace in that.

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