People often say, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “When one door closes another opens,” or “It wasn’t meant to be,” or some other version of the same idea. I wonder if that‘s all really true, or if humans say things like that as a coping mechanism to make ourselves feel better when bad things happen or in response to failure and rejection. Does everything really happen for a reason, or are some things just random? When you get turned down for a job or for a date, is it really not meant to be, or did that happen because someone else made a choice? When people make a choice that is different from what you want them to make, which results in not getting what you want, do you say that it wasn’t meant to be as a way to cope with the disappointment? Do humans try to convince themselves of something that may not be true?
One of the things that running has taught me is that we have control over some things, but not all things. We have control over whether or not we lace up our shoes and run out the door, and we have control over how many miles we run before we get back to the door. We have control, albeit sometimes just slight, to go with a runner next to us in a race when he or she picks up the pace. We have control over our training to become a better runner. But we don’t have control over many illnesses or injuries that take running away from us. We don’t have control over the limit of our running performance that depends on our DNA.
When we lose our ability to run out the door because of illness or injury, it’s easy to feel helpless and vulnerable and even scared. Because the fitness and vibrancy that running gives us is taken away.
When something happens that prevents me from running, even for one day that wasn’t planned as a rest day, that identity is taken away. I get antsy, irritable, guilty and, yes, I even feel fat and out of shape. When what’s preventing me from running is health related, I feel vulnerable, scared, weak. I feel like the illness has taken away all of my power and vibrancy. It may sound silly and irrational, but I feel like something is wrong with my life if I can’t run. Things just don’t feel right. I’m not the same person. And everything else suffers.
In my next book, The Inner Runner that I’m writing now, I talk about how you don’t become a runner and then run. You run and run and run and then begin to understand what it means to be a runner. Part of being a runner is being able to let go of the things you can’t control and focus on what you can. The truth is that we don’t really know if something is meant to be or not. There is no way for us to know. But running has a way of centering us, of keeping us focused, of getting down to the bottom of what really matters.