Just The Way You Are - Billy Joel

I have run over 200 miles in preparation for the race. 
And now begins the real work. 

My brain is always the most difficult. I have a sneaking suspicion that my body could make the distance right now, if some runner's brain was borrowing it. The brain might be a touch on the irritable side with the new vessel, but it would make do. It would proceed in a dogged manner, not worry so much about stride or form, but just get the thing done. However, it's not an athlete's brain up there. It is rather the brain of a woman who at one point realized the most fulfilling bonus about being a committed smoker was that it reminded her several times a day to take deep breaths. A brain which decided standing on a couch in Isla Vista, California to take in six feet of haze filled with THC through a plastic tube was going to be great fun. This is a quitter's brain in general, that, in its natural state, avoids discomfort with a vengeance. This is a brain with some hardcore training in avoidance and denial. A brain medaling in both events. But if Eric Heiden can change from being the most accomplished speed skater in history to being a champion bike racer, I can make the change from being the definitively talented couch parsnip I discussed earlier to a marathon finisher. I don't need to win or even get a good time. I am convinced that all the road work is to mostly rewire my head. Which for a sunny kind of lady, can really highlight some dark neighborhoods. 

During this training period, the running has brought me many unexpected gifts. And I will employ the word gifts even to things that may seem less than celebratory, because one of the the things the running provides is a sense that I can believe in things through extrapolation, even though I have never seen them happen. Even though I have no proof. Some people call this faith. I suppose about a billion people do. I believe I can finish this race most of the time, even though nothing at all has happened to prove this to be the case. In fact I will not prove this until the very day of the race. I am not just hoping to finish, I actually know that I can.

Which brings me to the book. The novel started out to be about this very concept. See, our hero Pandora has this jar the Gods of Olympus gave her supposedly filled with the world's evils. Zeus, the crazy bastard, sends her down to Earth to be the downfall of mankind with her fancy jar. Supposedly the thing holds treachery, deceit, gout, murder, jealousy, rape, Alzheimer's, theft, and so on, while nestled in the very bottom of the jar lives the concept of Hope. Common interpretation implies that even among the worst of the worst, hope lives on. Well, my book set out to say that the gods put hope in with the worst of the worst because that's where it actually belongs. That hope is the thing that keeps people clinging to concepts that rob them of their choice to remain in reality. It manifests as a longing for things to be different than they actually are. And one time, years ago while New York was chewing me up and hocking me onto 2nd avenue, I heard a man in a windowless room say that happiness isn't getting what you want, it's wanting what you have. That was when I began to believe not only that everything would be ok, but that it already was okay. It wasn't awesome to be sure, but it was okay. I realized that even though things seemed hopeless to me, hope was actually not the issue. 

Fuck hope. 

I'll just try and live now and not in the fantasy that life will someday be some way that's not my life right now. Because here's the hilarious part: everything changes. All the time. Of course life will be different. That's what life does. The sun, she rises and she sets. It's her jam. Ours is change. So there was my challenge with Pandora. What was I going to do with a lady lugging hope around New York City? How did I get her there? I began to work backwards, believing she had a job to do here with me or she never would have arrived on my page. I stopped hoping I could write the book, and I wrote the book. 

Did I mention that one day on a run I realized the way I was writing the novel was unsustainable? That many things had come together to prove themselves unworkable? Well, I didn't realize it so much as I accepted it. I had suspected it since I went to Mexico with the RADAR Lab last year. I would have to put down the 75 pages I wrote and begin anew. The longest single piece I had ever worked on. I just jogged along, crying a little bit because a) there were a lot of endorphines at work, b) I felt afraid I would fail, and c) I was happy to just take the book on its own terms and be willing to let it change.

Thursday night I have a reading debuting things at Michelle Wallace's new reading series. Things that have come about since I packed up the first 75 pages. I suppose this is a second draft? Or maybe a new first draft? Whatever. I'm excited about it. Maybe you'll come.

In the land of training: I am going to try and get up to about 40 miles per week starting next week. I've been hovering at about 25 with my long runs on Saturdays staying put at around 9-10 miles. They will be climbing eventually to about 20 miles by July. Then I taper off for 2 weeks before the race, eat a bunch of pasta, drink tons of water, and see how the 26.2 works out. It's weird that the common practice is to never actually try the whole distance before you do it, but that's the part my head is training for. And my soul, I suppose. Is that the right word? It's a little overused. It's this part of me I can feel slightly to right of the breast bone, directly above my stomach. I can feel it in the body, but it feels neither physical nor intellectual. Anyhow, It gets a lot stronger from all the nice things people have been saying to me, as if this faith thing is collective. And so I thank you for all your amazing good will, people. 

Also, I began a weekly walking club with my friend Dana Clark. She is awesome. It's her birthday today. So today promises to be a beautiful thing. Just right here the way it already is.

Sara Elise

1 comment:

  1. this was a delicious read.

    and i lost my lunch (literally) when i read this: "It is rather the brain of a woman who at one point realized the most fulfilling bonus about being a committed smoker was that it reminded her several times a day to take deep breaths."

    ha ha ha.

    <3 grant