Small Life, Slow Life: Have Compassion for the Runners.

Image credit:

Image credit:

They were always running. Even their sprint toward you was them running from something else.

For a time you were a safe haven, an escape from the flames. You relaxed into their embrace, even while anxiously hearing the crackling of the fire, much too close for comfort.

But do you know what happens when someone on fire stands still?



So they’ll run from you too. And oh, believe me, they’ll tell you it’s your fault. You suffocated them, you “just don’t get” them, YOU’RE the one who is actually on fire (they’ll say), and they can’t stand to be around you anymore. They want something different, they just don’t feel the way they used to, they need a break, they need some air, just give them some time.

But you know what’s happening. You’ve had a sinking feeling all along.

They’re just running.

You warn them. You say: You can’t escape yourself, you’re just running, and it’s all going to catch up to you. You have to face this part of you who runs, you say. It doesn’t matter where you go, you tell them, because you’re going to take yourself with you.

They’ll tell you the hundred reasons you’re wrong. The worst part is that you’ll listen.

But hey.

Have compassion for the runners.

Runners can’t enjoy the present moment. There’s always the next thing and the next thing, and the next. When that thing happens, I’ll be happy, they say. But then that thing happens, and they’re not satisfied. The world moves too slow for them. It feels too small. They want more, they want what’s next…always what’s next.

“If you can orbit the planet, why can’t you see
what makes the human heart happy?
Is it art or is it sex?
Or is it, as I suspect, just keeping going

from next thing to next thing
to next thing to next thing
to next to next to next to next
pulsating stupidly to outlast time?” 
–Dan Chiasson

They’re sprinting through the track to a finish line that isn’t there.

What you need to know about the runners is two things. Firstly, they’ll be back. Runners always come back, because runners are always afraid of missing out. Sometimes, runners come back and try to be with you, and then you’ll need to assess if they’ve learned the lesson from all of that running or not. Sometimes they have, sometimes they haven’t. You’ll have to decide whether or not to take the risk.

The second thing to know is that you’re a runner too.

Don’t scrunch up your face at me — you are a runner too.

You don’t remember all those jobs you left, because you decided that they “just didn’t get” you, or they weren’t paying you enough, or it wasn’t worth it, or whatever?

You don’t remember taking the people you loved and making villains out of them? You don’t remember looking back a year later and realizing it was all in your head, that you had become a wrecking ball for no reason and hurt people without just cause?

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 10.52.30 AM

You don’t remember those hearts you broke and stepped on, you don’t remember how you made someone’s deepest feelings insignificant? You don’t remember rolling your eyes listening to the voicemail when they confessed their feelings to you? You don’t remember deciding not to call back because you “just didn’t have time?”

You don’t remember looking at the new person, so shiny and alluring, and pushing away the old person? You don’t remember looking back a year later and realizing the gravity of your mistake, and suddenly feeling so deeply regretful that you’d ruined a perfectly good person?

You ruined them. You don’t remember?

You don’t remember calling/texting/emailing, desperate to tell the old person how sorry you were? You don’t remember their chilly reception and casual indifference when you apologized, practically on your knees, wretched, abject?

You don’t remember that feeling that something is just off, something is wrong, something is missing, something isn’t right? You don’t remember searching and searching, pushing people out of your path, leaving one place to go to another, trying an endless combination of things to try to bring about happiness, until one day in horror you looked in the mirror and realized the thing that just wasn’t right, was you?

You’re a runner too.

Have compassion for the runners.

A time will come when runners will need to stop running. It’s exhausting, they’ll be all torn up from the brush and thorns and branches scraping them all the time, whispering softly and then louder + louder: Slow down, you’re missing this; you’re wrong; it’s all in your head. 

They’ll be forced to stop, eventually. Maybe just in time, maybe just too late.

The path ahead won’t look so promising anymore. A new person won’t fix the hole, a new city won’t erase the mistakes, a new job won’t re-spark the fuse.

The runners will look back and see a trail of destruction. Black ashes and charred landscape. Bodies strewn about, abandoned. They’ll be horrified, and ask:

Oh my God, who did this?
Who burned all of this?
Who destroyed this?
Who hurt these people?
Who started this fire?!

And like the climax of a horror movie, they’ll get it.

Sinking feeling, mouth dry, heart pounding, shaking hands, breath caught in the throat, beads of sweat forming, ice-cold feeling stabbing the gut.

Oh my God, I did this.
I’m on fire.


Have compassion for the runners.

For the runners you meet, and the runner you are.

15 thoughts on “Small Life, Slow Life: Have Compassion for the Runners.

  1. This is so well written and divinely timed! My former boyfriend left a few months ago and he’s trying to be back in my life and I’ve been asking how to have compassion for him (because he jumped ship when things got hard) and then I came across this article and realized the things I am angry at about him, are things I am guilty of too… just in different ways. With that said though, it’s incredibly hard to know if someone is going to stop running — how do you do it?

    • Hi Sara,

      Well, there’s always a risk that someone is going to run. Always. Even if they’re stable, even if everything looks perfect.

      I would ask yourself if he’s exhibited this behavior before. Look at his life right now as you’re talking to him — is he running from something else BACK to you? Or does he truly realize he made a mistake in leaving? Is he in the habit of facing his circumstances or is he ignoring them?

      When my ex, who is now my husband, came back to me, his grandmother had just died and he was going through a time of really facing the messes he had made and wanting to atone for them. In other words, through talking a lot with him, I clearly saw that his running days were over. He was open about his pain and patterns, he was apologetic, and he was taking a very hard look at his life. That being said, it still took me a long time to let him in and an even longer time to rebuild the trust.

      When you’re talking with your ex recently, what does your gut tell you? When you check in with your intuition, what does it say?

  2. So he did come back to apologize. I spoke about him to you a few months ago and I dared to believe that I could find greater love in someone else though I was hurt and broken. I cried for several months. He came back to apologize for speaking badly to me and I’m too bothered by how hurt I was and that it never occurred to him how he hurt me when he strung me on, didn’t give it a name and just left me hanging and told me that I brought the “worst” out in him. I moved on and I’m a bit stronger but I know the pain I feel belongs to me. I am guilty of running, in the past but I never ran for a long long time. How do I deal with a runner whose intentions I don’t understand now ?

    • Yes, I remember you! 🙂 So glad to hear you’ve been doing well.

      You don’t need to understand his intentions! Accept his apology if that’s what he is offering you, because forgiveness is ultimately for YOU and not for him. Just because he feels the need to apologize doesn’t mean that you need to let him back in. You can kindly get closure from him and tell him that you’re focusing on moving on with your life and that you’ve been getting happier and happier everyday, that you forgive him but at this point that you’re not ready to be interacting on a regular basis. Know that a few months probably haven’t given him enough time to totally change, and just keep following your intuition when you’re interacting with him. Protect your peace and happiness at all costs. ❤

      • I did. strangely I wake up with jitters and I shudder at the memories. I still wonder why it all happened. He clearly went on to say that he takes no responsibility for his behavior before the last unpleasant conversation. I told him Its all just a bad memory for me now, and I’m happy since I’ve been away from him and that Im dating another man – after which he abruptly stopped Conversing. It has taken a lot out of me to get to where I Am today

  3. Hi Jen,

    Insightful post yet again, running running running – have compassion for the runners and in doing so I guess we will end up having compassion for everybody in the world at some level

    I’m a runner – if this article revealed to me anything its that. I.AM.A.RUNNER

    Running is easy…..or at least easier than staying, standing, inspecting the environment, dealing with the mess, embracing the pain and staying with it long enough until the process completes itself and healing is found

    I’m a runner – from pain, from difficult conversations, from rejection and the many multiple imagined issues I fear and worry will happen which often never actually do
    I’m a runner – never digging deep enough for a strong enough foundation let alone building on that foundation once it’s been dug up but instead I hastily run on to dig another foundation and another then another etc forever running
    From what?
    Being alone, for fear that I won’t be enough by myself
    I need that person, that success, that income, achievement and any other thing you can think of in order to feel complete or at least allude to it…..

    My feet are tired though, I not only want to stop but need to stop running, it’s not worth it in the end
    And when I do stop running it dawns on me that I’m okay, more than okay I’m enough just as I am….yes I can aspire to express myself more and be and do more but ultimately I’m okay as I am today

    Great post jen, sorry for the lengthy comment but that’s what came to mind after I read it

    Hope you’re well


    • Please don’t apologize — what you’ve written is so beautiful and so truthful. This is how most of us are — running from what’s uncomfortable or what brings up fear. The present moment is rarely adequate enough to satisfy us and so we try to escape from it in all kinds of ways — television, our phones, eating, smoking…you name it. Softening into the present moment is uncomfortable, but as you’ve said, there is an incredible beauty there and so much opportunity for us to love deeper and feel more! I acknowledge you for your bravery! And thank you so much for sharing this!

  4. Hey Jennifer… Words can’t explain how much you inspire me. Was feeling so low today and all I had to do was pray and read your recent articles again and I became Okay. I would love to send you a mail. I need to talk to someone, If you don’t mind. How do I reach you? Thanks for inspiring me in your own little way.

  5. On to new roads.
    Jen ! Hi !

    I really have tried to start dating other men and I’ve realized its possible to Very very happy alone or with another man . The ex isn’t the issue. The fact that we lost ourselves and our power was always the issue. Even though I’m reaching out, I seem to only find out later that the men I’m attracted to or even are attracted to me are with someone else in some capacity. While Im not desperate for a relationship right now I do feel the need to connect with a new man. I feel I’m ready for a new healthy connection. Where do I begin and what s a good way to start ?

    Much much love to you for your writing. 💕

    • Hmm, if you’re attracting people who are unavailable, you’ve still got some self esteem work to do. All other people are mirrors for what’s going on with us inside. So if you’re drawing in people who can’t truly commit, you’re still not owning the fact that you deserve deep, 100% commitment. Keep working on yourself the way you’ve been and the spectrum of who you’re attracting will change ❤️

  6. This is my first comment, even though I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year. I’m usually not compelled to comment as I’m more of a quiet reflector, but I just had to after reading this post. This. is. AMAZING. This is exactly the right analogy for what I feel like I’ve been dealing with my whole life. Saying it resonated is an understatement. It probably also helps that I am a runner, both physically and metaphorically 🙂 It also reminds me of this song I ADORE by Wolf Parade – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son.

    • Hi Lisa!

      Aww, thank you for your comment and for being a reader for so long! ❤️

      I’m so glad this one resonates with you; I remember writing it in a fury. It just poured out of me.

      I have NOT heard that song but I am absolutely going to immediately listen to it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s