I am not a runner.
I have proclaimed this many times.
I had knee surgery on my right knee twice.
I am short and somewhat stocky. People like me are better for, say, the shot put than running.
I do not run.
Except, apparently, I do not know the first thing about myself and what I do or don’t do.
Let me explain.
There is a running club in our neighborhood organized by Jabe, a totally wonderful person. I went out with the club one night six weeks ago, into the summer twilight beneath the crooked nose of Long’s Peak, thinking I would walk. They said it was a running/walking club. I like to walk.
Because I do not run.
There was only one other walker that night and she was lovely to talk to but slow. I am a fast walker (but not a runner) so, after a half mile or so of strolling, I heard the strangest words come out of my mouth.
I said, “I think I will run.”
And run I did. Gasping for air (we live at 5000 feet), stopping several times to wonder if I was dying and then to stare at the sunlight fading against the Front Range, shocked by the beauty.
Now the story would end here if not for Jabe and her ability to see people. Stretching after that first run, Jabe said to me, “You are a natural runner.”
I said, “But I don’t run.”
She shrugged. “You’re just getting started.”
This is not a story about me becoming a runner; this is a story of the power of being seen. This is a story about how you can let yourself be seen and how you can see others.
It is in your power to change and be changed through the act of seeing and being seen.
Only… most of us are afraid to be seen. We are so absolutely certain that what the other person will see in us is insufficient in some fundamental way. Oh sure, you might be willing to have somebody “see” your pecan maple bars or the seafoam mohair shawl you knitted for your best friend, but seeing your writing or your heart’s desire to work for climate change justice? Maybe, maybe not.
(Now I also know many of us have experienced trauma and that often requires a specialized form of being seen, and yet I have found that, by letting ourselves be seen in another domain of our lives, the healing can spill sometimes over into the more painful, scary part.)
For most of my life, I hated to be seen. My friend Laurie Wagner once demonstrated what I did to hide by fluttering her arms in front of herself like a drunk octopus. “I really love you but you do this thing,” Laurie said and her arms went flutter flutter. “You distract people from you – sometimes you talk really fast or put yourself down. It’s funny and cute but it makes it really hard to see you.”
We each flutter in our own way. We hide, we obscure, we occlude. We chatter, we caretake, we swallow our stories and brood in loneliness.
But when you allow yourself to be seen by someone who makes the effort to really see you? What a grace. You flourish, in ways you can’t even imagine.
And when you do the same thing for another person, without agenda? You liberate their gifts, again in ways you can’t even imagine.
Being seen by Jabe as someone who has physical talent has changed how I see myself, somewhat dramatically. Being seen in this way is creating greater determination in me: to write my memoir, to teach what I really want to teach, to love more boldly, to say yes to so much. Every time I want to quit something because it’s scary or hard (which happens every day), I think of running five and a half miles or doing wind sprints, and I shrug and keep going.
Jabe sees something in me that I didn’t see in myself and so I have to ask myself, “What else might I be capable of?”
Please, seek out friends and mentors and teachers who can see you and allow them to do so. Those people are everywhere! (If you tell yourself they are hard to find, that’s another way to hide.)
Being seen fuels your greatness. It fuels the greatness of others.
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And we need all the greatness we can get.