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Monday, November 1, 2010

A case of pot vs. kettle

I blog, therefore...I read other blogs.

It's good to see what other "bloggers" are up to.  There is one in particular that I enjoy reading on a regular basis.  The writing style appeals to me, as does the predominant topic (running).  When I come across something that I find interesting and entertaining, I'm compelled to share it with other people, so I do my fair share of forwarding.

Which is exactly what I did with one of this person's particular blog entries.  Since I didn't ask permission, I won't share the link or the author's name.  But, I can say the subject matter was about the Boston Marathon filling up in eight short hours.  The author, with a humorous twist, compared the difference between men's and women's qualifying times and explored the possibilities of expanding the size of the field or tightening up the standards so that it wouldn't be so "easy" to qualify.

Interesting.  And entertaining.

So, I copied and pasted the link into an email message and sent it on to other runner folks.  And I'm fairly certain that all the runner folks shared my opinion of the post being interesting and entertaining.

That is, except for one.

And it was a really BIG one.

(cue the dramatic musical intro)

"The story you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

I received an email reply (rebuttal? refusal? retort?) from an older gentleman I'm associated with on a professional level. I didn't ask for his permission either, so I'll refer to him as BM (which doesn't stand for Boston Marathon or Bowel Movement, although I was tempted to draw a parallel).  BM was a pretty good runner back in his day, running marathons in around three hours.  Pretty great, if you ask me.  He still gets out there on a daily basis, but doesn't run 26.2's anymore.  He is still very much involved in the sport, however, by volunteering at events.  I'm also fairly certain that he reads and/or subscribes to every running periodical that's out there.

Which is why I included him on the forward.  How could someone like that NOT appreciate reading about the Boston Marathon?

Well, let me just say that "not appreciating" doesn't even begin to cover it.

He started off by saying he was sorry, but he totally disagreed with the article.  That in and of itself would have been fine because, let's face it, we're all different.  He went on to state that the Boston Athletic Association had basically stripped the Boston Marathon of it's "glamor and prestige" by opening up the qualifying times and accused today's runners of not training hard and only running fast enough to qualify.  Finally, he said that these "perrier and yogurt" runners only had to be fast on the computer in order to get in, which was not fair to the "real runners" who are qualified.

I guess real runners don't know how to use a computer.

I won't even say what he suggested they do with the charity runners.  Trust me, you don't want to know.

In closing, he asserted that this was "his opinion" and that he "stood by it."

After reading his email, I must say I was quite taken aback by the angry tone.  Obviously, this was a touchy subject for him.  However, he has the right to think whatever he wants and I responded to him saying, "that is what makes life so interesting.  We are all different and have different opinions and views."

I hit "send" and I was done with it.

But, alas, he was not.

When I saw him later on that day, he immediately brought up the subject of the article.  I assured him that he didn't need to apologize for disagreeing because, first of all, I didn't write the darn thing, and secondly, I had already read his email, which told me all that I needed to know about where he stood.  But, he just kept going.  And going.  And going.  It was like verbal diarrhea.  The more he talked, the angrier he got, it seemed.

Which STILL would have been fine.

Until he singled me out.

In the middle of his tirade, he challenged me to take all of my marathon finishing times and divide them by the number I had started.  He bet me that if I did that, I would get a time that didn't come CLOSE to qualifying me for Boston.  The icing on the cake was when he said, in order to do this correctly, I had to add my DNF at the 2009 Hartford Marathon too.

I felt like someone just kicked me in the abdomen.  All I did was send him a link to a blog post and this is what I get?  How did it come to this?  In a desperate attempt to end the conversation, I basically told him that all I had to say was it wasn't my fault that the BAA changed the qualifying times, allowing me to run a 3:45 or better.  And then, I did my best to disengage.

But, the damage had already been inflicted.

The next day, he tried to initiate a discussion about something I had printed out for him regarding the NYC marathon.  He approached me with it, all marked up and highlighted, with the intention to point out more of his rightness and even more of my wrongness.  I turned to him, put my hand up in the universal "STOP" symbol, and forcefully said, "Okay!  Okay, I get it!"  He stopped mid-sentence and retreated with his tail between his legs.

It was not a pretty sight.

Needless to say, he got a whole lot of the silent treatment from me for the remainder of the day.  I was fed up with his narrow minded, critical attitude and proceeded to vent to all who would listen.  I mean, really?  How DARE he???   Just who does he think he is anyway???

This went on for a couple of days.  I kept telling the story.  I kept beating the drum.  And I felt even worse as a result.  

I mean, I was the injured party in all of this, wasn't I?  He's obviously a miserable person to have said the things that he did.  His fault, his fault, his fault.

Then why am I the one that's feeling so crappy?

There were two phrases that popped into my head around this time:

"That which offends you, weakens you" and "Being right and being happy are not the same thing".

I began to realize that I didn't HAVE to take offense to what he said.  I am in control of my own emotions and thoughts, after all.  Here I was saying, "why me?" and blaming him for the way I felt.  Talk about giving your power away!  My own insecurity was the only thing that gave his words any truth.  If I really believed the best about myself and felt 100% comfortable with my own abilities, it wouldn't matter what he said.  I could continue to take it personally or I could choose to see it for what it was, cut myself some slack in the process and, simply, let it go.

BM thought he was right.  And I, in my righteous indignation, held the same assertion.  Clearly, neither one of us were happy in our rightness.  People who are happy don't try to knock other people down just so they can be "right".  Yes, he said things that anyone could construe as hurtful and insulting.  There is no arguing that point.  I was appalled and chose to fought back in order to justify my position.

But, doesn't intolerance of intolerance make you, well, intolerant too?

Hello Pot?  Meet Kettle.

It's not my job to change his mind.  But, it's my job to get my mind right.  In other words, I needed to mind my own business and get myself in alignment with who I wanted to be.  My work here was not to be judge, jury and executioner.  Instead, it is my duty to see past the angry words and opinions and to treat him with love and compassion.  It's my responsibility to see the best in people and to believe in their inherent goodness, even if they don't always show me that side of themselves.

So, you see, this was more about me than it was about him, which is why I chose to write about it.  This was my wake up call.  The Dalai Lama said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion."  I didn't need to agree with or understand why BM said the things he said.  I only had to be compassionate.  I can't control the uncontrollable.  He is going to be who he's going to be and that's all there is to it.  I don't need him to change in order for me to feel better.  I can either curse or bless the contrast that brought me to this understanding.  I can thank him for reminding me that I am the only one responsible for my happiness.

I will do that by forgiving, forgetting, letting go and moving on.

And taking him off of my email distribution list might help too.


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