Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Running "Willy Nilly"

One of my favorite episodes of Friends is the one where Phoebe and Rachel decide to go jogging together. But, Rachel finds herself totally embarrassed at Phoebe's wild-and-free running style. Phoebe explains later that when she runs, she runs for fun, like she did as a kid and it doesn't matter to her what people think because she is already gone--never to see them again. So, she lets her arms and legs fly and she screams while she runs "willy nilly." Rachel thinks this is bizarre until one day, when no one is looking, she tries it and loves the feeling.

Why is it that we worry so much about what others think of us? And, when does this behavior start? When do we move from being a free soul enjoying life in the way we like best, to someone who worries about what he/she looks like or thinks about things like "keeping up appearances?"

Unfortunately, I think that even young children feel a pressure to conform or to be a certain way. Recently, I was nearly brought to tears when I saw a picture my son had drawn in art class and brought home. It was a picture of two kids running and at the top it said "I can run, but not very fast."

My son is in kindergarten this year, and every Tuesday is "Run Club" in P.E. class at his school. Run Club basically involves jogging laps around a track. There are incentives for however many laps you finish. I have a feeling this has been hard for him. My son suffers from the dreaded "long-leg"itis. As a child, I had the same problem. When you finally get your lanky and awkward legs unwound enough to run, you find yourself tripping and falling down over them.

I have taken notice of him running on the soccer field. He starts his usual crazy chase of the ball like all the other kids. But, after a few seconds running down the field, I can see him physically tense up and he starts concentrating on his arms and legs and their movement. Inevitably, one of two things then happens. He either purposely falls in a silly manner, perhaps to distract from his getting behind the others' chasing the ball, or he trips and falls quite accidentally.

He has talked to me about how he's slow before this. I tried to tell him that I was not the fastest kid either and that maybe he could try to go the longest, instead of being the fastest. But, to a six-year-old little boy, endurance means nothing--and speed means everything. Unfortunately, for my son, it is not in his genes to be the fastest kid on the track.

I hate that he's already started to compare himself and feel down on himself because he doesn't feel "up to par." But, if I acted surprised or condemning of this, I would be the ultimate hypocrite. You see, I have spent much of my life worrying too much about what others think of me, and too little time letting myself run "willy-nilly" as well.

We live on a street full of people concerned with those darn Joneses and keeping up with them. My husband and I talked about this recently--how it feels frustrating to feel so different from everyone around you. I love my neighborhood and my home. The neighbors are fine, and we do have lots of friends here, but we both feel we'll never have a really close friendship with anyone around us. We are the only people on our street who mow our own yard and don't have a maid, one of the few who do not have a pool, and we do things at the pace that fits our budget--not to keep up with everyone else. (After seven years on one income, sometimes that pace has to be at a snail's crawl, I'll admit.) For a long time, this bugged me. But, more than that, I wondered I didn't feel a big connection to any of my neighbors when a lot of them seemed to be close friends. I'm a friendly girl who usually has a smile on my face, after all!

Lately, I have realized that I don't think I really want to be that close with those around me. I am not judging my neighbors, but I recognize that the lifestyle that I see them living does not fit me or my family. I half-jokingly told my husband that we needed to sell our house and go buy a tiny one in a run-down neighborhood or a small town. I'd feel comfortable there...that's how I grew up!

And so, my mind has been letting all of this go this week. I refuse to feel pressured to keep up with an image that doesn't fit me or make me feel comfortable. And, if that means I don't have close friends who live just three doors down, then that is the way it will be. If everyone else is wearing designer shoes and carrying designer purses, and I'm happy with my department store bargain ones, then so be it!

Most of all, I hope that in all of this, I am somehow showing my son something very important. And, maybe the next time he takes off to play tag or chase a ball, he will let his arms and legs fly about him crazily. I hope he'll scream loudly and run and play freely, without worrying about how he looks, who is judging him or where he's ending up in the pack. After almost thirty-six years, I may have finally learned that letting yourself dance through life to your own tune is the only way to really be happy and free.


Blogger Carol said...

that was a great post! you made a great are starting to not even want to be friends with some of your neighbors. isn't is amazing how much stock we put in other people's opinions? why does it take so long to get to the point where you seem to be? to accept ourselves for who and what we are. I think i have that with money and body image - guess that's why god created therapists! :0

3:12 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

Amen sister! How I wish we could be neighbors! I, too have been trying to remind myself that I turned out okay even without "having it all" as a kid. And some of the people I know who did ended up filing bankruptcy before age 30!

Anyway, one of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Phil: You wouldn't care so much about what people thought of you if you realized how little they did...

3:13 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Hey, Carol...I have to admit, the body image thing I have far from conquered. I'm still workin on that.

My goal, "friendly acquaintances" but I no longer need those to be close friends. I'm happy with the ones I have already made and online friends like you all!

Nicole, OK. Convince my husband to move there and I will be your neighbor. I alread have another close friend who lives in Denver. We can get Lisa to move too and it'll be one big happy neighborhood. Tee hee!

4:10 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Hey, you read my post today on neighbors. I now have a whole different motto towards 'em. I am friendly but I don't want to get to know them all that well because they start to think they can get in your business.

I wish I had a little long-leg-itis.

5:38 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

You can't see me...but I'm applauding my ass off.
What an excellent post! And, I love the Dr. Phil quote Nicole shared.

9:40 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

In our society today, it's quite difficult not to think what others may say. But indeed you're right there. We should always think first of ourselves before others thinking of us.

3:59 AM, March 31, 2006  
Anonymous Theresa said...

You are indeed teaching him a valuable lesson! One day he will grow into those legs of his, and he'll carry himself with pride, thanks to his mom. :)

8:07 AM, March 31, 2006  
Blogger Shelli said...

You know those people around you who are keeping up with the Joneses? They are maxed out, over spent and fake. You just don't know that part about them. It is probably all on credit. I would be willing to bet on it. We live in a similar neighborhood. Our house is only 15 years old and is a nicer home, but there are homes in our neighborhood that are valued at half a million and more. I love my house. I worked hard to be able to move here. My dad helped us build it so we would have the sweat equity as a down payment. And yes, I look at those other homes and dream, but I know that they have their problems, too. So perhaps the lesson is that your son may not run as fast as Joe Schmoe, but Joe Schmoe may not sing as well, write as well, read as well or whatever other talents your son may have as well as your son does. It is all about realizing we have differences and that is OKAY!

Sorry for the blovel!

1:07 AM, April 01, 2006  

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