Running was once a part of my early morning exercise routine. Now, I am taking up walking instead. I’ve been halfheartedly resisting this change because I’m not quite ready to “grow old gracefully.” I’d rather be the type who “skids broadside into the grave all worn out”. But when push finally comes to shove, I decide to stick to my relaxed morning saunter despite the torment I put myself through.
On one of my particularly guilt-ridden days when I was trying to coax myself back into running, it dawned on me why I was enjoying my newfound workout. There is something about slowing down that is calming. The thing I have noticed about my morning walks is that I get the opportunity to stop and talk to other walkers and, often, get to meet their dogs too. I even get to learn about the personality, affections and eating habits of my four-legged neighbors.
I am beginning to realize there is so much I missed when I ran. And, come to think about it, I run all day every day from meeting to meeting, so I could use this time of slowing down end enjoy the scenery. But some mornings, I still think I “should” be running.
Guilt? Why do I feel this guilt about slowing the pace of my daily exercise routine? I can understand feeling responsible for eating too many donuts or being mean to my friends - but this?
It seems guilt can play a role in our lives when it really has no place or serves no purpose. We wonder if we are a good enough parent when we let our children eat French fries for dinner, we feel ashamed when we watch too much TV, we are remorseful when we don’t make a phone call to a friend or when we say “no” to a volunteer invitation.
But it wasn’t until I read a recent Facebook conversation that I realized that unnecessary guilt can go too far. In a post by my friend, she shared this quote: “When you are resting, because you are worn out, you need to remember that you are not wasting the day doing nothing. You are doing exactly what you need to do. You are recovering.”
A friend of hers responded by saying: “I did that yesterday. I took some time to rest – and then I apologized for it.” Her reply shocked me enough, acting as a lightning bolt – helping me to see my own misconstrued feelings of irrational thinking.
Author and psychologist, Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. stated that unjustified guilt has been linked to needless emotional suffering…. “So, unless guilt feelings are actually necessary for you to take appropriate responsibility for a significant misdeed such feelings don’t really serve you or anyone.”
Seltzer offers suggestions to turn the tide of pointless guilt around and it all boils down to accepting yourself and your own personal successes. Additionally, recognizing the good things that come from what we do and who we are – letting go of perceived perfections is important to our happiness.
So, tomorrow – I will put on my walking shoes and will enjoy the smells, the sights, the sounds, the people and the dogs I will meet along the way – totally guilt-free. Even if it means growing old gracefully.