Hop On This Train Of Thought: An Old Cross Country Shirt, A Corinthians Verse, And A Revelation

Today I feel like I woke up in zero gravity - surprised at how light I feel. I feel like my favorite color. I can smell fall everywhere and it’s beautiful. I try to imagine the crackle of leaves under my fall boots as I walk, but the city noise takes up that space in my mind. I try harder.

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Since yesterday’s post was a bit gloomy, I think it’s time to share a little revelation that I had recently that shows that I actually have grown over the past ten years.

Several weeks ago, I ended out my evening with an 8:45PM candlelit yoga class at my studio. I popped on an old shirt of mine from those cross country days, since it was neon yellow and offered good night visibility.

I got rid of most of my old race and team shirts a few years back, because I knew that the memories would always remain. Plus, I had the terrible habit of using them to work out and to sleep in, so I always associated them with those opposing energies. The fact that this neon shirt is so visible in the dark is what kept it in my drawer.

After class finished, I knelt on my mat and reached for my shirt to pop back on over my sweaty sports bra. And then I read what had always been there, printed on the back of it.

And I didn’t recognize myself in the words, that had resonated so much with me ten years back.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.
— 1 Corinthians 9:24

It's such an intense quote to have come from the bible, and it sent my train of thought on quite the journey. First:

I was, and still am very competitive.

I’ve always been a tenaciously competitive person, and I don’t believe it’s always been a healthy thing. Because that competitiveness gives way to comparison all too quickly and then I melt into a washed-up pile of “if only” and “I wish”.

When I wore that shirt, I was training to win, to beat as many young women around me as I could. Sure, I wanted that personal record, but it was always way nicer when I got that outward recognition of placing in a race.

That’s still very much a part of me, and it shows up in weird ways. I thrive on acknowledgement and praise to the point that I’ve spent the majority of my life dedicated to seeking some form of praise.

Good grades, placing in races, getting solos in band. I always worked just hard enough to get the praise, but I’m wondering if I ever truly stretched myself outside of my comfort zone to try something new (and risk not getting praised for it).

For example, blogging - I loved doing it when I knew I was getting traffic and attention from others. But when no new attention was coming in, I found it difficult.

This blog, even, has been the bane of my existence on and off for the past two years. I am so worried that since I'm not an "expert" on anything, that I won't get any attention.

That's why this thirty day challenge of writing every day is nice - I've decided to remove the "point" of it all and just write.

Ugh, I know it’s cliche, but I’m grateful to my yoga practice for teaching me a new way to look at life.

I sat in the dark, candlelit room holding this shirt in my hands and staring at it. Trying to think why the bible, of all books, would encourage such a singleminded view of this. Aren’t we all in this together?

I wondered why I felt so averse to this strange, capitalistic verse. And I finally realized that I wasn’t sitting in that sweaty hot room to win anything. As one of my teachers put it, “we are practicing today so that we can practice tomorrow.”

Today, I live more to learn. I'm beginning to live to explore instead of to achieve. To be present instead of receiving presents, as it were.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get praised in yoga class my mind still lights up like the Fourth of July. But nowadays I feel as much of a thrill when I can nail an chaturanga or when my warrior two pose feels strong. Or when I can balance in half moon without the support of a block, or pop up into wheel pose with grace and can breathe through it.

Or, honestly, when I know intuitively that my body needs rest and I curl up in a child’s pose for the better part of class.

And why does it always have to be at the expense of others?

I also dug into the verse and realized it’s directly against something I’ve found myself saying more and more recently: that a rising tide lifts all boats.

I’ve seen the mindset that this verse presents play out in our country - people believe that they must have their way at the expense of others. It’s the idea that if there is a winner, there must certainly be a loser.

And we don’t take too kindly to losers in today’s world.

It’s a dangerous dichotomy to believe in, especially with the things that are at stake. Civil rights, freedom, safety. The right to the pursuit of happiness.

Because how can people pursue happiness when there are people so dead set on “winning” that they’re willing to shit on everyone else to get there? How can people pursue happiness when there are those actively working against their basic rights as human beings?

What I’m trying to say is that I read this verse and felt so much pushback about the individualistic piece of it. It’s not about winning, it’s about making sure we can all finish the race in the happiest, safest, and most supportive way we can.

If that means one of us crosses the finish line before the others, we should circle back and run with them as they finish. Or at least cheer them on from the sidelines.

While I'm riding this derailed train of thought, can I just ask why is self knowledge such a bad thing?

I never got praised for knowing myself. I got praise for being myself, sure, but had people explored that any further, they would see my actions coming from places like deep insecurity, protecting myself from scrutiny about my depression, or just plain people-pleasing.

I love that some schools are integrating yoga and meditation into their physical education curriculum - I sure would have benefitted more from learning those kinds of things over line dancing and how to manually score a bowling game.

There has been a certain charge in my life ever since I left my comfort zone of Indiana, and after sitting in that hot room with that old shirt in my lap, I realized what it was:

I’m actually starting to grow into my real, true self.

And I love that I’m changing right before my own eyes.