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One of the great things for me about exercise, especially the kind that is somewhat monotonous, or rather, “trance-like” (as is the case with running) is how it allows my mind to move in ways it otherwise wouldn’t.  Both biking and running seem to get the juices flowing unlike any other type of exercise and even other activities.  I’m not an expert but I’m imagining it has to do with the heart pumping and the blood flowing (apparently, things the experts say are good for us).

Well, I took the expert’s advice, listened to my body today and went out for a run.  As I was running on this brisk lovely afternoon as the sun was lowering, getting ready to set, I ran by a few people (the forest preserve by my house was rather quiet this time of year and day) and waved hello to them…only to be met with little to no acknowledgement of my existence.

I should probably share a little bit about myself here – that kind of thing perturbs me.  I recognize that I’m on the spectrum where little things like this perturb me…sometimes much more than the average person.  I’m a work in progress.  Take for instance my wife…she could care less if people wave to her or acknowledge her existence in the slightest.  So, I know I’m a little different (this will be re-confirmed later on in this story to a higher degree).  

I’ll get to something else I was reminded of about myself further along this run but let me start by telling you “the story” I told myself after this experience.  Really, it’s not so much a story as a title to a story but I’ll call it a story nonetheless because it’s something I made up in my mind.

My story was “People in Chicago Just Aren’t That Friendly”.  It continued along the lines of “If I were in Colorado or someplace like THAT, people would be waving to each other, all friendly-like and there’d be this kind of mutual running in the woods camaraderie.”

I could fill you in on some background regarding me and my relationship with Chicago (the place I’ve lived for the last 19 years) but that’s for some other post or “story” on another day.

My mind does things like this quite regularly.  I know it doesn’t serve me well and in fact can really screw with my ability to live the kind of life I aspire to, and do, live…a fair amount of the time – that of a happy, fulfilling one.

The nice thing is that I’m getting better at recognizing this either IN the moment, at the tail end of it, or shortly thereafter.  So, there is a plus side to my monkey mind (and that’s a good thing in this case because I can’t run that far).

Eventually, as I continued running, I recognized this “People in Chicago Just Aren’t That Friendly” story was a bunch of bullshit.  I also remembered that when I/we tell ourselves these “stories” we end up doing everything in our power to prove that we’re RIGHT!  And, justify how these stories are TRUE!  HA!

Well, I decided to stop the insanity right there and then and instead of trying everything in my power to prove my story right, I would work to prove it WRONG!!!! HA HA HAAA!!!

So, the very next person I ran by I waved to them much more emphatically and friendly and guess what?!…she ignored me utterly and completely – well, good for her gosh dog it!  Who am I to deserve her acknowledgement and wave?!?  BUT I would not be deterred…in fact I laughed my ass off out loud (which is always good for the soul).  

No, I’d work at proving this story FALSE by golly.  And, I’d do it NOW!

Okay, back to what I was reminded of about myself through this experience is that these things, these somewhat trivial things matter to me.  They really matter.  While I can appreciate the part of me that strives for connection with others (even the minuscule kind with strangers) I can see how this can really mess with my more important relationships.  This desire, this need, to be recognized, acknowledged even approved of.  Well someone is recognizing me and this part of me – it’s me, and it ain’t pretty.

But like I said I’m a work in progress and aren’t we all really?

The rest of the run through the forest preserve was quiet, lovely and devoid of humans which is how I normally prefer it (if I’m being honest here) but I was approaching Devon Ave where there were a whole lot of people sitting in their cars during this Friday commute.

Here was my chance.  I had a good 75 yards of slowly moving traffic before I was to turn down my street and finish my run heading home.  So, I did what any normal running human being trying to disprove the negative false story created in their head would do, I starting waving happily and enthusiastically to all the passersby sitting in their cars smiling a smile as big as I could muster, trying to gain as much eye contact as possible.  Boy, did I catch some looks.  BUT, of all the people I waved to and smiled at and looked in the eye, the overwhelming majority waved back, smiled and seemed as friendly as can be.

I felt rejuvenated from my brisk fall run and proud to have disproved a negative story in my head, learn a little more about myself and maybe, just maybe lifted the spirits of a few humans along the way.



  • Craig says:

    Great lesson – thanks for the suggestion to actively disprove the stories we tell ourselves and don’t serve us. By the way, I play that game too, in every city where I get a chance to run… I keep a count of how many people acknowledge or don’t, and then judge that city by the outcome! Happy to say most are pretty friendly. Next time, I’ll try the traffic thing! We’re all works in progress.

  • Jeff Plaisted says:

    Thanks for the reminder that for the most part WE write our own stories and to manage our minds so the narrative doesn’t spin out of control.

  • Steve Kovacs says:


    Thanks for sharing.

    I guess this is a nice safe space to tell you…..I probably don’t smile back. Sorry!

    Now a nice firm nod? Sure all day.

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