My sister is running a marathon. I’m thrilled for her and have no doubt she will pound out those 26.2 miles in a red-headed blaze of glory. (And without crapping her pants. Seriously, it’s, like, a thing among marathoners. And I worry about this immensely.)
What’s weird is this: I’m not jealous, because I don’t really have the urge to run a marathon (it seems really hard, and really painful, and while I do run, I have a bad knee that I’d prefer not to have operated on again, and then there’s that whole maybe-you’ll-crap-your-pants thing to worry about…), but, when she and I text about all the miles she’s logging, the races she’s running in preparation, there’s this weird little twinge inside. Despite the fact that, again, I think it’s completely amazing that she’s doing it and have no desire to do it myself.
It’s interesting. In a way, it reminds me of the reaction I get whenever I go vegetarian. (Yes, whenever. I’ve been back and forth countless times on that one, even doing the vegan thing here and there.) What’s funny is, it seems to bother the people closest to me. Despite the fact I’ve never suggested they hold the bacon. Never demanded they cook something special just for me. (Okay, okay. Once I did take my mom up on her offer of making me a special batch of french onion soup, made with veggie broth instead of beef. But she offered! And it is so, so delicious.)
Another friend of mine just quit her job (which she hated) in favor of a new one. We were talking last weekend, and she was saying how surprised she was at the range of reactions she was getting from the various people in her life. She expected universal happiness–and happy-for-you-ness–but wasn’t getting it. Another, out of a bad relationship and not loving her job, has done a bunch of trips overseas, and is thinking seriously about taking the leap for real. Her enthusiasm about this idea is practically palpable, but, again, she’s not feeling the love from the people closest to her.
Weird, right? If I had to put a name on it, I suppose it would be this: Hey, you. Don’t change, please.
But why should we care if someone else changes? What’s it got to do with us?
If I really think about it, here’s what I come up with: when someone close to us makes a big change, we wonder if we’ll have to change too, to keep them in our lives. We wonder about how this change they’re making will affect—read: change—our relationship (will my sister, the runner, forego meals entirely in favor of Gatorade and Goo? Does that mean we can never go out to dinner again??). Maybe we wind up looking at ourselves and our lives in a way that might be uncomfortable (just how bad is this burger I’m eating?). Maybe the change our friend is making threatens our position, our identity in some way? (I’m the impressively employed one!) Maybe something seems a little bit foreign, and we don’t quite get it. Maybe our pride manages to get in the way. Maybe we are jealous.
Who knows? But that twinge is worth putting under the microscope. Because that twinge has to do with you, not them. So listen to that twinge; surely it’s carrying some information. What’s it really about?
For my part, I think my own current twinge has to do with this: I don’t get to see my sister that often, and I still want to have fun with her when I do! But you know what, I can do that, whether she’s in training or not. I guess I could always go for a run with her… and I’m pretty sure she’ll even wait for me at the finish line.