Years ago, I wrote a story about a man jogging.
I saw him the other day, jogging down my same street, and I wondered about his story, both the real version and the one I invented. Has it changed over the years? Or, would I tell the story differently today?
Friends who read my little post have sent me text messages over the years about the man jogging, bobbing up and down like ice cubes floating in a glass. I sort of feel bad, a little worried if he ever finds out that I’ve labeled him “The Man Jogging” and we’ve made it an adult version of I Spy to spot him jogging every day, up and down, up and down Rowanberry Drive.
Yet, if I had the chance to meet him, I would tell him that I think he’s very brave.
He wears a different outfit these days with upgraded sweat-resistant technology, but he still wears sneakers. I would tell him that I’m learning it’s brave to lace up those shoes every day, to keep showing up every single day to the same story with a new pair of shoes (I hope), as the others have surely worn out of support.
Do I even have permission to tell his story? Of course. He jogs down my street, in my little neighborhood, part of my little world.
And do I have a part in his story? Yes, of course. Why? Because he teaches me about stories, about how every story is the same story told with new sneakers on a new street.
The story goes like this: We leave home to go on a journey. Everything’s going well, until we find out the news as if it’s a new phenomenon that we will face obstacles. We have a choice to make, or many choices to make along the way. How will we fight? How will we work to live a small life that leaves a big legacy?
I once told The Man Jogging’s story with a questioning tone about the woman he walked with at night. I suggested that maybe she settled for a man who must count his strides and jog back and forth every day.
But I was so, so very wrong about the settling.
If I had the chance to meet her, I would tell her that it’s brave to wake up every morning and repeat the same mundane tasks over and over again. It’s brave to do the same thing, but to tweak it as you gain strength and perspective, to move from the sidewalk to the street, to switch from wheat toast and egg whites to a smoothie with power greens blended in a Ninja. It’s brave not to upgrade, not to move to the bigger house around the corner.
Every Sunday, I go to church and I hear the same story told over and over again about a boy who grew into a man, sent to save the world. We’re invited to the same table every week to join in communion with the great saints who already left a legacy, and the ones still out there lacing up every day to build that great story.
I think we’re built for repetition.
It’s the reason country artists release new songs that sing the same lyrics: I met you and fell in love, then you broke my heart but I’ll never stop loving oh-beautiful-you until the day I die.
It’s the reason that they just shared the essay I wrote last year about self-care in this messy life with more than 11 million followers on Facebook. Sure, they told it for new people to click it and read it, but it’s also because we read it again as if it’s brand new. I read it as if I’m not the author. Who is this person who sculpts six-pack abs from laughing so hard, and chooses not to stuff her emotions away with dozens of Oreos? Who is this person who knows she likes eggs over easy, and isn’t waiting for someone else to bring her flowers?
It’s the reason that Martha Stewart Living of 2014 revealed “the secret” of a good night’s sleep: a good pillow. And the Better Homes & Gardens of 2017 revealed “the secret” of a good night’s sleep: a good pillow. Year after year, we want decreased tossing and turning, and increased sleep — deep sleep.
We want secrets revealed about how to sleep better and plan more meals efficiently and run faster and live more beautifully. We want to get organized and stay organized, and read more books and read better books, and know who we are and know how to live like who we were made to be.
We want to hear again and again about those who wake up every morning, who figure out why they lace up their shoes, and who choose to jog down the same street again and again to build a rags to riches story about a beautiful life.