I don’t know about you, but this whole business of weightloss, diet and exercise was pretty personal to me. It still is, but at the beginning it was almost sacred. I was afraid of failing, so telling people was terrifying! When I did finally tell people what I was doing, I was surprised at the responses I got from people who I loved and who I thought loved me. Certainly, I was held up and encouraged, but I was also warned of potential failures. I could gain it all back. I could injure myself running. I could get started and get derailed. Many people spoke their own fears to me, laying them on me, one by one, and I absorbed them, worried about them like they were my own before I realized I didn’t have to make their limitations mine, too. My announcement of my commitment to my health was ignored by some of my closest family members and friends, and still I have one immediate family member who hasn’t said anything ever to me about my transformation. It hurts and I don’t understand it, but you just pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. Then there were the people who were competitive. They would good naturedly say things like they ‘had better get going or I was going to catch up to them’. They had ‘better hurry otherwise they were going to become the fat friend.’ That before we knew it they would ‘have to keep up with me if they weren’t careful’. I couldn’t believe what people were willing to say aloud to me as their fears came burbling out. I could also see, very clearly, how I fit into those people’s lives. I could see that I was the one who made them feel better by being the incapable, fat one. If you have a friend who is obese and out of shape, by comparison you look and function better by default, right? And once I challenged that paradigm, people got uncomfortable and they’d say things. They weren’t trying to be mean… I don’t think…
Enough about those people, though, because slowly but surely I’ve been able to create a new community around me. It’s safe to say that I’ve shed most of the people from my past. My parents are still in the picture and I have a very few, like 2-3, old friends who remain from my younger years, but otherwise I have a pretty clean slate. Most of the people who I knew from high school who I am friendly with now are not the same ones I was attached to back then. The ones I talk to now have all become established as I’ve become a runner and through Facebook they noticed, started talking to me and a foundation of friendship was built. From there I’ve created and joined a number of running groups that motivate me and give me daily feedback.
It’s silly, Facebook and Instagram. I was letting it all go in 2016. I was sick of the fakeness, the judgement and the self censorship I was applying all the time so I wouldn’t annoy people with my posts about losing weight, running, eating healthy, playing with my kids and loving my dashing husband like crazy-cakes! But then I decided to experiment by being that annoying person. I started posting Instagram pictures of my runs because it’s what I love to do more than anything besides be a mom and wife, and in return I started meeting people with similar interest and it became a place I love to visit. I created and joined running groups on Facebook, so now instead of a feed full of ads and grumpy people complaining about the election, I see people sharing funny signs they saw at their most recent marathon, questions about training and celebrating victories. My social media has become flooded with empowerment! The same thing happened when I started the accountability group. My feed went from being full of advertisements, random memes and posts about politics to being filled with people’s positive changes they are making in their lives. I SO don’t get annoyed when people write about their run, workout, diet or other accomplishment. I feel so happy for the most part! I may sound overly precious or annoying, but I found Facebook to be a place that I loved that ended up having a lot of rules. I found that if I kind of started clubs full of people with like interests that it became much more user friendly. Do you know how different it is to look at a feed full of celebrations instead of complaints? It’s life changing! (And if you want to be in the accountability group, friend me and I’ll add you!)
Furthermore, I started this blog, right here, and have met people through comments whom I respect tremendously. Paula comments like clockwork and is my girl. She makes me feel like I have a sister in crime out there! Same with Jess and Lesleigh! And whenever a new person comments I always get so jazzed, thinking that this might be a new connection! If I were under the age of 30 I would probably call them my squad or something!
I also started seeing Instagram as a tremendously powerful way for me to connect with other runners. I follow Olympian runners, mama runners, college coaches and competitors, hikers, adventurers, ultra runners, and, let’s face it, some straight up hotties along with everyone else in between. As the views from all of their adventures filter in, I am moved. Moved to run more. Try harder. Go further. Smell more flowers, see more trees, count more blossoms… Somehow I’ve become connected to a bunch of runners in Quebec and we go on rampages of looking through one another’s feeds, admiring and liking the views we share with one another. I feel part of something. And it moves me, again and again, when people whom I admire greatly, great athletes who run far and long, when they come back and comment on my slow burn of a long eight miler, I don’t even know why it moves me like it does but I feel so proud. I feel unexpectedly included.
When Bradley and I stepped away from our negative relationships several years ago it was really scary. We felt like we were so alone. We aggressively pursued friendships and failed, again and again, over and over until we just looked at one another, joined hands and realized our little foursome is as good as it’s ever going to get and that was pretty stinking good. But what I didn’t realize at all was that I could have a different kind of meaningful relationship with people. The connections I have with people now are largely online, yes, but I don’t believe they’re any less powerful. In fact, I believe that because I can be so intentional that I get more from and give more to the relationships I’ve fostered through networking online. I suppose if people can meet, fall in love and get married from meeting on Instagram or Facebook, certainly I can allow my online relationships that foster my love of health and running to have significance and importance in my life, too, and it’s nice to know that I’m very much part of a community. I have a greater sense of belonging than I had ever anticipated. ❤️