running thoughts

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted a link to a facebook post that started with “To the fatty running on the track this afternoon:” and went on to actually be an awesome encouragement to said “fatty”… encouraging her effort and persistence. It sounded a lot like the pep talks I give myself when I run… “fatty” included, sometimes.

So fast forward to tonight. I got my first run of the season here. It was chilly, and I accidentally went farther than I probably should have, but it was good.

(From the middle of my run. Not so bad, especially for 8:30 at night.)

Because I’d just read this post that was somehow both a bit offensive- hard to read “fatty” when you’re overweight (or even just feel you are) without cringing a bit- and fairly encouraging, I was really paying attention to the stuff going on in my head.

Of course, while I was running there was the usual mundane…

“Dang, my hands are cold.” 

“It’s a lot harder to breathe when it’s cold.”
“I will make it to the next telephone pole before I slow down.” 

(I’m not especially clever when I’m burning so much energy.)

But then when I’d get to that one telephone pole and walk (until the next telephone pole), something kind of cool happened:

“You’re doing really good.”
“You like this. My body needed it.” 
(Does anyone else switch between first, second, and sometimes third person when talking to yourself?) 
“I can’t believe how well you’re handling cold weather issues. This is hard and you’ve got it.” 
“I love long Alaska sunsets.”

Not a single “fatty.” 

Now, this isn’t really about weight loss or exercise, and it’s not even really about body image. I haven’t lost any weight in months, and really not even so much since Katherine was born. (Alarmingly little, in fact, given the number of workouts I’ve put in… Good thing that weight loss is not really a primary goal of mine anymore!) 

This is bigger than that. It’s about the things I tell myself. It wasn’t long ago that if I made it out to run, I’d have spent all of my mental energy on stuff like:

“You look ridiculous.”
“What are you even doing here?”
“This sucks. I hate it.”

And, granted, because I read that thing earlier today, I was paying attention to the things going through my head, which automatically improves them. Kind of like driving in front of a cop makes you pay attention to obeying the speed limit. But still, it was neat to see the change. 

Wait. What changed?

I’m a little bit fitter than I was then (when I was doing all the berating), but not that much. It’s not like I’m a runner runner or anything. I still look like an overweight person slogging down Chena Pump. Slowly. (My form is now better, thanks to my running coach sister, though!) 

So something’s different in my head. Do I perhaps, in this one little area, have a little more grace for myself? Because the things I was thinking today were things I always would have said to a friend in the same situation, but never, not EVER would I have extended that kindness to me. 

Seeing the progress, not just how imperfect the effort is.

Noticing the gifts.

Seeing the person God made me and who I’m becoming, not just the person I spitefully think myself to be.

So… that’s cool. And I’m all about finding stuff to be grateful for, and the gift of seeing my own progress is not a small one. But while I’m here, what else can I find?

What if I took that same grace and applied it in some other areas? 

Say… my housekeeping? 


Spousing? (Sweet! Google didn’t even underline that as a non-word!)

When I was prone to berate myself constantly throughout my run, I didn’t try very often. (And why would I? That wasn’t very fun.) Somehow, I’ve transitioned to more positive thoughts and also more and better exercise. The first didn’t totally precede the second, and I can’t really tell you, outside of a lot of grace (God’s to me), how that all went, but it’s definitely an upward spiral now. 

So if I replaced the “You can’t even keep your toilet clean! That takes like 90 seconds. Why can’t you get it together?!?” (just to pick an example from the last hour) with “Yay! I folded the laundry! Now let’s see if I can get it put away before I go to sleep,” perhaps I would make some actual progress in my housekeeping? 

If I replaced, “I can’t believe you just snapped at that beautiful child of yours” with “This is a hard day, the kids are apparently pushing ALL your buttons. Maybe go get a sip of water and come back and try again?” maybe I could become a more calm, consistent, compassionate mom. 

If “I’m being so bitchy today, it’s no wonder he doesn’t want to stop looking up random stuff on Wikipedia” became “We both had a long day… If we each get some time to decompress, we’ll connect better later this evening,” I’d probably spend less time being crabby with my husband. 

If I started giving myself the grace I give to dear friends, not only would I have a better time in general, I’d actually do better at all the stuff that matters. 

And so would you. 

Where are you prone to be cruel to yourself? Those things you say… would you say that to a friend (or anyone, for that matter) in a similar situation? I suspect no. So… what would you say? Something kinder? Good. Try it out on YOU now. 

I know it’s not that easy. It’s not easy to appropriate grace for yourself. It’s not even easy to catch yourself being mean to you. And when you do, and you consciously step back and offer grace instead, sometimes you come back with “yeah, but…” and just keep going. 

I know. 

But maybe it’s worth practicing anyway. 

As circular as it sounds, sometimes giving grace to myself is something I need to be gracious to me about. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Not all the time. Not yet. And sometimes (and I know this sounds really silly), I get down on myself about that. (Ok, I just realized how crazy this is: “Why can’t you control your thoughts? If you’d just be kinder to yourself, things would go better. You’re never going to get this figured out. Geez.” But still, various iterations of that have played out in my head. Recently.) 

And I don’t think this is just a nice thing to do, good for both mood and productivity. I’m pretty sure it’s something God wants for us. You know why? I picture my kids saying the kind of things I say to myself, to themselves, and it breaks my heart. And I’m a pretty lame parent when compared to God. He loves you. And me. He has our good and His glory as part of his plans for us, and I doubt grousing about how much we suck does much to advance any of that. 

So give it a try. Pick some area. Try to notice your thoughts. Then try to replace one with something you might actually say to a person you love. I will, too. We’ll stumble toward grace together. 

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. You hit the nail on the head, again! Seriously, I'm loving that you're blogging about all the random things in your head. I resonate a lot with the “voices” (insert wisecrack here) or the things we tell ourselves that you mentioned and it's so easy to beat ourselves up. I love your point that we would most likely NEVER say the things in our head to a friend (or even acquaintance)! Yay that your “self talk” or whatever you want to call it is transforming and being encouraging! I think you're pretty great and it's cool that you can tell yourself that too!

    Oh, I'm not sure if it's intentional, but I think it's cool that your verifying code is always in numbers. It just sorta fits with you and your major!


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