Yesterday someone asked me how far my longest distance had been in training to date. I said, truthfully, "Ten miles." The interesting thing is, my entire body felt as though it was telling a lie. Slight increase in pulse, small heat to the cheeks, eyes flit away from the inquirer. I noted my physical reaction to the answer and since then have spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of truth in narrative.
In my mind there are exercising people, and then there are people like me. Also I've discovered that I have a value judgment about the whole thing. Exercising people are a collection of people who glow more than I do, who are more competent than me, have better will power and clearly more discipline, which makes them a more admirable people. Apparently, all these years I have internalized ideas that folks who have an exercise practice are, well, better than me. Even when I spent all that time scoffing. Even when I railed against vanity and insecurity and shallowness of hot body seeking. Even when I professed a legion of ways a nice person could better spend their time, rather than paying fees at a gym, racking up tons of extra laundry, and as I've mentioned, wearing just idiotic looking ensembles. Deep down, I just felt like they could do a thing I simply was not able to do, and I felt like a bad person because of it. And frankly, the story hasn't changed just because I find myself in the outfits pretty often. I am still harboring the luggage of my youth, the steamer trunks that say I am not a runner, but just a person who is running. I am not an athlete, but merely a woman with a new task that happens to require silicone roll-on for intimate spots on the body where one may prefer not to chafe. I am not person that has honestly run ten miles.
I qualify everything:
I don't go fast.
In fact I go sooooo slow.
I don't push that hard.
I'm just trying to finish in under six hours so I don't get disqualified.I only run alone.
I only made it four miles today.
I think I am afraid folks will discover this whole thing to be a big fraud. They'll lend me their support and spend their valuable time and enthusiasm in a difficult day on me, and then they will discover that I am merely a retired smoker who still dreams about having arms like Angela Basset and who will surely choke when July 25th rolls around.
This project has showed me that I have endless stories in my head about myself that may or may not have been true at some point but are lodged in there, giving their subtle input about almost everything. For instance I have this story about myself that I'm overly social and I love big parties. This was true, maybe, for a long time. But now I actually prefer a dinner party or somewhere between four and ten people. Or just a quiet evening with Ginger and Gus. During big parties or at clubs (which I barely ever find myself at anymore), I have to retire to corners often to gather myself, take stock of my newly developing mild social anxiety, and maybe drink some water.
All this to say: I think I can use all this to make sure the book feels true and authentic. I must find a way to tell a meaningful story using characters that were born thousands of years ago on the cliffs of Greece above an impossible blue sea. If I can tell a truth that feels like a lie in real life, then certainly my goal to tell fictional tales that reek of truth is essential. And also it might be a good idea to get behind the real story that I did run ten miles. This weekend I should hit 11.