I'm back from a fantastic experience in Santa Barbara. Not only was The Women of Color Conference amazing, not only were the students engaged and inspiring, and not only were my fellow performers brilliant, but I saw my old friends, Marisela Marquez, Monica Lopez, and Aaron Jones.
It is a fascinating thing to see loved ones from former times, reflecting back not only the time missed, but the image of what they hold in the sharpest focus: who you were then. I smoked Marlboro Reds in college, among other things, sported short hair and a revolving cast of massive overalls. Poking out from beneath the frayed ends, my legs emerged in striped tights and Doc Martens. My hair was toasted at the ends from bleach and dye and bleach and dye. I was a fired up angry person then, putting the puzzle pieces together as interlocking oppressions and identities showed themselves to be an insurmountable cultural mafia. I was furious about how the things I learned in Hebrew school were hooking up with women's studies rape statistics, how black studies civil rights shortfall were still hard at work in white America and how class struggle was still an unspeakable language. The matrix of injustice loomed in the forefront of my brain and I railed against it, my violet and green hair all burned up like my heart. I must have been so annoying, such an insufferable twit. And I'm sorry to all those customers I was mean to at the cafe. You didn't deserve it. I didn't have any kind of tools to express rage in productive ways, to channel my anger into a hikable path. I had no solutions, just lists of problems and black market pharmaceutical ecstasy on lucky saturday nights. But this past weekend, standing up there in Campbell Hall, I saw all those young women in the sea of blue seats and I remembered how it felt, to be eighteen sitting in the dark with four hundred people, the visceral desire welling up in me to find a way to write my story. Any story, really. And twenty years later, a little bit at a time, that's what I actually do.
I get to do it partly because those friends told me I could. And over the years, i've been so fortunate to continue finding people who tell me I can. And they're right. It's funny because folks talk to me about this marathon undertaking and they often say the very things I have said:
I can't even run a mile.
Yes you can.
Maybe today you can't. Maybe it's a struggle. But you can. I mean, if you want to. And if you don't want to, well, dang, that's fine too. But you can. Just put one foot in front of the other. Run ten paces. Run ten more paces. Cut a deal with yourself to run forty. See how that feels. Then Re-cut another deal. Make yourself a mantra. Do your thing.
Write one chapter. Write another. Edit. And sometimes soon, I'll have a book. I'm starting chapter five this weekend.
I would describe the recent runs as awkward. I underestimated the recovery time from the half marathon. I wish I could just get someone to be Dorothy to my Tin Man and pull out an oil can. It seems that simple. Like things are rusted up, stuck, hoping for a return to glory. I've been drinking a ton of water, mostly with lemon and cucumber slices to kick it up a notch and make a chore feel decadent. I am also still sugar-free and it appears dairy-free as well for the week. Maybe I'm turning into one of those weird eaters, uptight and annoying. I fear this. I want to be a girl who can just have fries with ranch and some ice cream and roll with it. But it doesn't feel good anymore. I daydream about kale.
The day before yesterday, the short run provided me with the return of faith. I would carry on. I felt a light returning, the dimmer switch of my endeavor slowly easing back toward the sky. I loved the feel of being sweaty again, the release of tension and the motion of still limbs. Then yesterday I got up early and set out to finish my usual 3.5 miles before work, and I couldn't make it. My hips were killing me. I had been to the chiropractor for an adjustment and she worked on them, so maybe that was it. Or maybe it was just that day. I remembered that some days are like that. The body just won't cooperate. And had my mind been more sure of it, perhaps a conversation could have ensued in which the two worked together, a give and take of slack where when the mind wanted to quit, the body would shine, proving itself the constant feat that it is, and when the body throbbed, the mind would give it a pep talk, pet its head and cheer it along. But that morning it went like this:
Body: My hips are killing me.
Mind: Yeah buddy, it seems kind of rough. How about you try eight more sets.
Body: Ok Eight's not that much.
Mind: Cool. There you go, You're doing great.
Body: Not really. Not Great.
Mind: You're really slowing down.
Body: It's all I got today.
Mind: Yeah, me too.
Body: You out?
Mind: Yeah. I think so. Take tomorrow off and I'll see you Saturday early before the long drive.
Mind: And Scene.
If you're in the neighborhood at 5pm tomorrow, come see us. I'll be reading from the novel and showing photographs. Campbell Hall. On the UCSB campus. Also I'll be wearing white jeans and you know you don't want to miss that.
I haven't done a lot of writing or running this week until today. Since the race I have run only two miles. My body still hurts, my brain is living in doubt and my will is a little bit on the flaccid side. I think the last mile of the half-marathon really changed me. It hasn't shaken my commitment to attempting the marathon in any way, but it made me sad somehow, deflated and dim, the sheen of my inner explorer wiped clean and dull.
It just really hurt.
And looking back now, I actually understand what 26.2 miles means for my body. I believe some folks are more capable of this kind of work than others. I am not a born running person. While I still believe I can train my body to accomplish this feat and do so on July 25th, I understand this journey will not be solely about this setting a goal and attaining it. I understand now that the total at check-out is going to be more than I thought. While I have the cash saved up, it might cut into my emotional vacation fund.
First of all there is the training. I will start over in earnest with another two mile trot. Soon enough my body will rebound and within a week I should be at a five mile mark for regular training runs with my long weekend runs starting at eight miles and quickly climbing to ten, twelve, fifteen and such until I am out there for about four hours at a time. I know the new shoes will help. I assume that this sort of post-acheivement malaise will lift and other feelings will flood in. I have absolute faith that spots of joy will crop up, that positivity will rear it's freckled face and that in the end, I can do this thing.
But today, right now, I frankly don't want to. It's such a long road. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. My heels hurt and I have dandruff. The irony of it is that it is likely the time off from the endorphins and the exercise are contributing to my mind's stroll in this dark little neighborhood. Once the road work settles into a routine, the whole world changes, like the light keeps knocking around for longer. I get it. But just for today, it looks so very far away and I'm having a hard time getting it up for the roadside attractions.
HOWEVER... on a great note... I have a show at my alma mater this weekend. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara are welcoming Sister Spit and I'll be reading from the novel in progress and showing photographs. The show is in Campbell Hall, where I took freshman English with this amazing professor twenty whole years ago. He taught The Dark Knight and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He had a thing about Heroic figures. He chain smoked on stage even after they told him he couldn't and then he'd go drink beer at the pub with students and talk about stories the way jocks get fired up about football. I wanted to write like that then, and I want to write like that now. Frank McConnell. He was a real handful, that guy. I wish I could've told him he mattered so much. But he was so beloved, maybe, just maybe, he took that with him.
Here's a tiny bit of the work from the new draft. I hope you like it.
There was no weather then. It was the time before we even had a word for weather. There was just the day and the night and a stray thunderbolt when Zeus threw a tantrum. Seasonal cold fronts and twisters and monsoons came later. This was before snow and draught and turmoil. Under a perfect sky we’d read about Orpheus in the bustling agora at the newsstand. He was just a small story then in a new zine these girls from Crete were putting out. While most of the newsstand remained awash in the latest scandals of Zeus and Hera, Persephone and I scoured the back of the stands for journals and obscure quarterlies among the paper-wrapped porn, vomitorium guides and fantastically popular Orgy Advisor. The glossy covers of Ambrosia This Week and Zeus’ self-promoting Rolling Thunder served to re-fix my thrill at my own godlessness. I wanted nothing to do with the roving clots of girls costumed in their various goddess wannabe uniforms. The Athenas had their strong points, to be sure, the home team in Athens with their very own temple to frequent. Ladies with their Aphordite poses were a flush of aesthetic bliss, but for me it was too much to strive for the impossible. And my inherent state of otherness didn’t allow for gang identification anyhow. Still so young at 128, I had at least learned that.
But I suppose if it had to be someone, for me it’d be Artemis. Her groupies had the best style, rippling arms and chests so muscular, their breasts seemed to vanish. They all went in a pack out to the forests at night like famished wolves, their shields at the ready, hauling quivers of hand tooled arrows strapped across their broad backs as if they weighed nothing. When the sun fell, the girls replaced their olive branch tiaras with hearty strips of leather they cut from a group kill, tying back the tresses they ignored during the day. The boldest of the pack hacked off their own pelts and roamed Greece in short hair that stood itself on end, a field of middle fingers toward Olympus, flipping Zeus off in his pursuit of any damsel, refusing to be any kind of woman a God would try to take in a solitary field of flowers.
It isn’t just her worshippers either. Artemis is always good to me in her visitations. She is patient, teaches me useful things for my strange life: tanning hides for long journeys into the tundra, moving through any landscape in relative silence, hand to hand combat, and of course, archery. She is never distracted by affairs of emotional entanglement, uses a pure focus on survival and duty, nothing like her twin Apollo. Yet she understands him implicitly. When they visit together, they never speak as though they are next to each other, but rather intuit the other’s language and come across as one voice. And Artemis never, NEVER, underestimates what a woman can accomplish. People say she’s a virgin, in fact the goddess of the virgin. Unlike the other lady Gods who come calling on me while I sleep, I figure she’s too busy for men. And growing up in the shadow of Zeus’ Olympus, why not? It’s always been difficult for me to understand what any woman sees in the humans who embody his example.
Persephone has her own following of girls, and like my best friend, they wear their togas too low, darken the rims of their eyes with the ash of burnt cedar, and stalk pleasure the way the Artemis girls stalk prey. These girls make batches of lavender and sandalwood oils and dab the scent on pulse points where absolutely no one should be sniffing girls their age. And they too, make their mothers nervous, provoke a feeling in the older women of fear and pride mingled in an anxiety cocktail. All mothers want their daughters to be beautiful, but not dangerous beautiful. Certainly not in a city like Athens. These girls forget that Persephone has no age, that she will remain forever at the perfection of a ripened peach. And when you live forever, the notion of consequence is a continually receding concept, always searching the sea in deeper waters.
But Persephone’s mother never treated her like a goddess, just like any other daughter. Any other bewitching, gorgeous, smoldering, perilous daughter. Demeter had, of course been around longer than her daughter, but in the Olympian culture, “longer” was so relative, it fell away within a few centuries. And while the time issue sloughed off like dry skin, the mother/daughter thing, that never budged. Demeter kept tabs on Persephone like a mortal. She always wanted to know where her daughter was going, with whom, and when she’d be home. She critiqued her outfits as too risque, knowing all the while that it would never matter what the girl wore, everyone would want her, no matter what. Persephone had found her ways of getting around it all. Lying was tried and true, stashing a whole wardrobe at Athena’s temple for adventures, and collecting lovers like chocolates across Greece. And what Persephone wanted that day, was Orpheus.
I haven't run one step since the race. Not one. I did make it to Dr. Sanders who assured me I have been toiling in the absolutely WRONG shoes and that I have heel spurs. What a trip. It seems the body grows bone at the bottom of the heel to compensate for a strange gait? Maybe I'm misunderstanding. There was so much information, I frankly don't exactly know what happened. What I do know is that I exited the good doctor's office with a new sexy night splint and a compression brace to wear all the time. The brace thing is like one of those apricot colored sleeves for varicose veins that you see folks wearing, peeking out of skirts swishing next to shiny walkers, or winking out from the top of a sock garter. I wore it to work all week under my socks, my toes peeking out at the end like a leg warmer, but uglier. But it's the splint that is the real show-stopper, a genuine article of flirtation. Here's a photo, although mine does not sport the ethnic print on the bands, just a nice tasteful blue solid, for which I am grateful. Even the soft voice contained in my skull will catch a reflection and snicker. Ginger found me in it on the couch last night, happily reading, and could not contain herself. She burst out laughing. In her defense, she recovered quickly from laughter to a generous type of pity, the kind where your beloved is cute while enduring humiliation, a cute just around the back entrance to monstrous. It's understandable. Look at this thing:
These items are not doing a great deal for my self esteem, so hopefully, they will do wonders for my health.
Soon I will suit up in the sausage outfit and the tight apricot ankle brace and hit the road. I have to tell you, the journey from last Sunday to today has been quite a ride. My pride has melted into a puddle of doubt, the pain of the last mile flickering across the movie screen of my brain late at night before I fall asleep. I wake up in the morning haunted and wondering how I will ever do it, build the bricks of mileage from 13.1 to 26.2. The enormity of it blinks a bright red, an impossibility in my mind, just as the 13.1 used to blink. I imagine if the one feat was possible, so is this one. But the task is daunting, a time-suck so expansive I suspect it will act as an excuse to avoid the novel. I am not quite sure I'm up to it, staggering the last four miles I imagine, down the stretch of the San Francisco Bay, half crazy with exhaustion and resentment.
A few things rally me into the spandex: my parents are flying out from Albany, NY to cheer me on. My cousin will also be on hand, and perhaps my brother. I will be raising money for RADAR, finally doing a small thing to repay the kindness that has always been the pillow I can rest my writer's head on. And finally, I will only have to do it this once, set the goal and finish a thing, an impossible thing like a hydra, wild and deadly and gorgeous. And I know, that if I can do this, I can do anything. Also, I bet Ginger will buy me dinner.
My instinct is to edit the hell out of my writing from yesterday here. Just pull the whole posting down and re-do it. But I will leave it as is, up here with my fragile leo ego, because it's a nice way to say to myself, it's ok that every writing day is not a victory. Just because I have a victory on the running front heaped with personal revelation and physical, mental, and spiritual breakthroughs, doesn't mean I can come sit at the keyboard and knock it out of the park. And that's the way it all goes, right? Some days are the days of the trudging. The days where you hike in the dark, short on water. You pass expansive unseen vistas, gorgeous wildlife noshing on berries by the side of your woodsy path, perfect clearings to set up you bedroll. You go ahead and miss all of it sometimes because that's part of the trip you're taking. You just can't see it all. But you slowly learn to trust, that even though you don't get everything, you do get to the next elk sighting, the following freshwater pond, the crazy red clay crag overlooking a river where salmon fight upstream. Maybe everything you miss is just a litany of pages you have to edit out to get to your best novel. Because no matter what anyone says, first drafts don't get published as is. One, because editors need to put food on the table too, and two, because the drafts are always a thing that we work from after we work to it. When I was younger, I used to think there was something about purity of how a thing gets spit up onto paper that shouldn't be messed with. That purity of first impulse should be protected at all costs. And you can see from yesterday's posting that while the content had all the material in the world for a lovely little tale, the exhausted brain was not up to the task of exploiting such goods to their fullest potential. This is totally as it should be. Writers, like all other forms of humanity, are designed to be imperfect. It's actually our job. It is not an ailment to be cured. And so together we come to the keyboard in the morning, a hot cup of coffee and a full night's sleep later and we say, God bless the first draft. Or Goddess. But bless more so the skilled editor. I will continue this writing here with no editing along the way aside from grammar and spelling. I am saving my editing energy for the book. Which in the midst of getting ready for my secret half marathon has been idling.
Don't get me wrong, this realization is not diminishing my wonderful feelings about yesterday at all. I rarely feel an unadulterated pride about anything I do without a silent backhand. For instance, Oh that was great, but you could have done this instead. Or, Really? 2:51:58? That's just not fast enough. But yesterday I did a great job of enjoying what I accomplished. I managed, in the monsoon, to keep it cute, remain elated with the finish line as it really was.
This experience brought me a great opportunity to examine a place I visit often. I suffer a lot from a thing Michelle and I have discussed over the years that we call FOMO, or The Fear of Missing Out. Maybe you do too. I say yes to too many things, afraid I'll miss the best book, the funnest party, the most adept conversationalist. I give away all my time for solitude and putzing to try and manage an acceptable wardrobe, be in on a new club opening, go to dinners I can't really afford. Then I have to work more to pay the bills. Then I have even less time. Generally it turns out I'm not missing much. Without this solitude in which to show up for my own tasks, I am provided with a huge opportunity to whack myself with the ugly stick, enraged that I have no time to write. Some days I wonder if I have replaced this time with my "healthy" task of this marathon. The training takes forever. Houras and hours on the roads of San Francisco. But you know where the valuable time REALLY goes?
I play constantly. It calms me down up to a certain point. But then, the calming mechanism will be overtaken by an obsessive impulse. And I'll click on the tab over and over staring the one-minute games in rapid fire succession. One minute. One minute. Another. And Another. Then it's a half hour later and I haven't reached some meaningless goal in the falling exploding jeweled gaming world. And I also haven't written anything in my book. Then I go dick around on Facebook. Then more Bejeweled, which actually lives inside Facebook. I'm pretty good at it by now, but who cares? Dude, Where's My Book? That's the big thing about FOMO. It's a myth like every other thing I tell myself about how I don't have time. I could make the time. I could set limits on Facebook and Bejeweled. I mean, I could at least try. But I do love that game.
Sometimes, when I am at rest, truly at rest, open to painful truths, I realize that all of it is a way to avoid the writing. Because the writing is the scariest thing. The possibility that it will fail, but also the possibility that it won't. Every success about it is also a fear. Maybe people won't read it. But also it seems terrifying that folks might do just that. But this is the nature of my mind. The way I must get to know all these fears and either accept or expel them. They are neither good nor bad. Just scenes on the side of the path. And the easiest way around them is always through them. I've tried around. I've tried around them in bongs, in cigarettes, in road trips and in rolled up dollar bills. Around is also a nice trip, don't get me wrong. I still like to look at all the pretty stamps on my emotional visa. But through them gives me more opportunity to just sit down and do the work.
Anyhoots, I still feel like a train wreck today. But my goal is to go to work anyhow, get some book time in, and then study a master. I'm reading Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. It's my friend Amy's favorite book. And it's phenomenal. Which reminds me, can y'all suggest some other books for me for when this one is done? I got a few.
It's been about ten hours since I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. Since that time, I have been out to a lovely breakfast at Just For You, taken a hot bath in arnica salts, napped like a fairy princess, watch two episodes of The West Wing, taken two Aleve, and had Ginger's white wine and garlic pasta for dinner with fresh squeezed grapefruit spritzers. And despite all that, believe me when I tell you: I feel like I've been hit by a truck.
Yesterday, after waking up with my period a week early, I went to go pick up my number, race gift shirt, and timing chip at Sports Basement. I also got myself some nice commemorative wicking socks. I spent yesterday rolling out my hips and IT bands on the foam roller. Like many things I am learning, recommended practices for the good of the body are often uncomfortable. The foam roller feels great on my neck, but the IT band rolling hurts so bad. And as soon as it's over, my legs feel about five years younger. So, okay. I do it. I gathered stuff for my race back pack including dry clothes and two cans of my favorite organic coconut water to reward myself with when I finished, which I believed was a good possibility. I left the backpack at the door with a camera and directions for Ginger to tote it with her when she arrived on the scene as my personal paparazzi.
My alarm went off at 4:45 am. I hopped out of bed and took care of injured dog first, who is feeling SO much better, thanks for asking. Then I made myself coffee, oatmeal, and a tall glass of water. I gave myself a little extra time for 2 reasons. And I'm warning you that I am going to just go ahead and be honest and graphic about bodily things because no one ever talks about them and they really play a part in life as we know it, so me? I'm gonna give them their due. I wanted enough time for the coffee to do its work and provide some movement for my innards, and I wanted to wait until the last possible moment to change my tampon, because like I said, today is the second day of my uninvited period. This condition makes a woman feel sludgier, slower, bloated, and often crampy. By the time my pal Ange honked for me at 6am, no movement, but on the bright side, no cramps.
I'm going to spare you a complete play by play of the whole 2:51:58 process, but I will give you some highlights:
1. The course was three times as punishing as it looked on the internerd. Never believe those people when they tell you the hills aren't that bad. This course didn't simply head up to the bridge, but up to it, down again, back up, over the damn thing, down a ravine on the other side, and back up it AGAIN. And these were not the only hills. There were many, and they were steep.
2. The race was packed with all kinds of people. Over 2000 and it was amazing to be out there with everyone. There were blind racers, old racers, gay couples, and plenty of my pudgy sisters representing! There were young people, elite runners and limping champions. And folks just got out there and tried.
3. My race began with times well under 12 minutes. By the time I made it up the final hill, I was up to over 14 minutes. I was barely running at all, and spent three tenths of a mile walk/running.
4. On my way back to the city from Marin County, which I had run to on my own two feet, the grey sky opened and the mist morphed into a steady downpour, which was then overtaken by driving wind and a little bit of hail. I still had about an hour to go. I was drenched, in the middle of a bridge I had dreamed of running over, and feeling a little bit screwed. But in such a situation, quitting wouldn't help, hitchhiking seemed unwise, and well, something about it was vaguely exciting. I got really into the essence of the stride and thought about how the rain itself didn't make the running feel terribly different. My body felt just how it always feels at eight miles: fatigued, heavy, and hopeful.
5. Something about finishing the bridge gave me a new sort of energy. I was on terrain I had run before, it felt familiar, and I knew I'd be back into Ginger territory soon. She had found me in the crowd and driven around to various street corners to cheer for me and take photographs. I felt surprised by the sheer glee her appearance produced.
6. I got to Crissy Field and not only did Ginger reappear, but there she was having a tailgate party with Schaefer and Dana! They all did the wave for me and that really cracked the sixty year old lady up who was kicking my ass. Two miles to go. I was a mile past the furthest I had ever run, and I felt like things were starting to seize up.
7. My feet were barely moving. My pace counting had gone from sets of 88 back to sets of eight. I couldn't close a deal for anything above eight, really. My hips burned, my knees ached, my ankles felt stiff, and the bottoms of my feet screamed down every incline. All this pain, and quitting was out of the question. A girl goes this far, quitting is just inefficient. Alas, I had slowed down so much in the wind and my exhaustion that it was unclear whether I would make it in time to finish.
8. They announce your name when you cross the line! My friends went crazy. I got a medal. I made it with 8 minutes to spare. I burst into tears. I have a lot of feelers.
Anyhow... I did it! I'm officially halfway there. Although my fundraising is NOT officially halfway there. Sister Spit is out there on the road bringing brilliance to everyone. Please help this continue. In the name of my big, round, hardworking hips, and my aging knees, and my fundamentally sound mind, please help RADAR in times of arts-go-first economics. Let's get to halfway by the end of the month. That's a little over six hundred clams.
In the mean time, I'll try and figure out how the hell I'm going to run 26.2 miles. It once again seems not only impossible, but a little dumb. Nonetheless, I'll do it.
In other news: Gus finally has his first post surgery movement. Let's hope that's foreshadowing for me because, well, something's still not quite right. Ok, I'm done with graphic. I hope you're ok.
Thanks for all your help.
Something amazing happened on my run yesterday. I set out from my house to cover my standard three and a half mile training route which goes up Church Street, and then straight down Market to the water. My body felt incredibly awkward, at once rested from some time off, yet suffering the agitated side effect of evicting sugar from it. I couldn't get my stride to settle in and even my ankles felt bizarre. But my mind was, for the entire run, NOT ONCE, tempted to quit. This has never, ever, happened.
I know I told you my friend Gus the gay, Jewish, dog was going in to have knee surgery. Well, the doctor had updated me by saying that when he got in there, it turned out the old guy had just obliterated his ACL. It was basically gone. In addition to that, he had also torn his little dog meniscus. A very basketball kind of knee situation. I thought about him while I ran. All these times over the last 12 years I've seen him galloping in glee, completely satisfied to just have a body, my love, and velocity. Especially when he has a lot of room to really open up his legs. The guy loves a beach or an open field. One time we went to visit our friend Amy Yunis in Vermont and she took us on a walk through huge grassy meadows. Gus would run ahead until we couldn't even see him and then circle back around us, his tiny herd of two, making sure we were progressing safely, and then off he'd go to check up ahead, finally fulfilling his country roots instinct, free from urban constraints. He's so gorgeous at a full sprint. Entirely in his destiny, meant to run. Unlike me, meant to converse.
Except yesterday when I was just like him, meant to run, albeit a little graceless. A parade of grateful thoughts marched me through my stilted paces. I felt so excited to get him back, grateful to have the opportunity to take care of him the way he's watched over me all these years. All for some kibble and a little spooning. I felt so happy, at almost 40, to have my health, to have finally made a choice to respect my vessel, to live in it on its terms. Move it around and give it relatively good fuel. I felt honored to have such hearty support from people and to have a place to rest. Market Street at 6am is a great place for realizing all the things that matter. So many folks up all night or still sleeping on cement box springs in doorways. No protection. No health insurance. No Gus waiting for them to return home. I just ran and ran, a spandex sausage of gratitude, an ungainly hippie jock moving down the avenue as the city stirred, waking to a slow sun. And I didn't want to quit.
Gus is home now. I have been carrying him up and down stairs. He wants to do it himself, but he yelps when the leg catches on a ledge. So I gather his fifty pounds up, the same weight as a bag of flour from work, and I deliver him to each landing. I wonder if he knows how many landings he's delivered me to. I bet he doesn't care. It's just what he does. Like herding, born into it. He's so high, too. The pain meds keep him confused and agitated, until he can't fight them, and finally succumbs, canine nodding with a stuffed frog. I'm really impressed with him, I have to say. We're gonna have a nice eight weeks together, I think, with his recovery. And then we'll hit the beach like a LaMotta left hook.
It seems our book group here on the blog isn't taking off. Not lighting fire, shall we say. That's cool, man. I'll just go ahead and start. I'll say what I thought because I suppose that's what I do here, just blather on and on about writing and running and then sometimes it connects with someone and sometimes I just never know.
Haruki Murakami writes a lot. He writes all the time. It's his jam, his full time job except when he is teaching or running. And he also runs a lot. He runs ALOT. A marathon every year. And he's a three hour and change kind of guy, although I get the idea he has slowed as his body has aged. He's sixty one now. I read his book, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle many years ago at the urging of my friend, Page McBee, a tremendous writer and deeply fashionable joy of a person. She has a fancy for elegance in prose and intricacy in concept. She loves people's ability to shake down something insanely difficult into a sparse poem of a thing, like dipping a pan into a rushing river and shaking it until there's gold. So often, when she suggests things to me (which by the way is my favorite avenue for finding new things to read), I bring out a pen and note it in my unwieldy scheduling book. This particular suggestion took me a while to get to because the volume was so thick. I was in graduate school at the time so this undertaking seemed unrealistic despite the fact that I would watch hours of Queer as Folk on Netflix one after the other, beyond my control like little narrative piles of cocaine. It should be noted that I would fast forward through any scenes with the lesbians in there because, of course, on a show about men, they were flat, boring, irritating characters that gave my people a bad name.
When I finally got over my delusions of time constraints, I devoured the book in about four days. It, for me, was so strange and beautiful, it was almost hallucinatory. It was an epic meditation on the search, on the haunting. Murakami led me around time, geography, perspective, and character to a place with utterly different rules than my life. And utterly different rules from any other book I had been to. I just loved it. I finished the text, but remained under its spell for weeks. I talked about it to whomever had read it, whomever would listen at all. I urged others to read it with a sense of the urgency unhidable in my voice. Little quivers ushered from my windpipe, encouraging visitors to his land. I lent out my copy so many times until finally I didn't get it back, and I still have no idea where it is. I don't actually care. I hope it's out there showing itself off in its quiet way. I never read another novel by him. A few short stories, but no other novels. People kept insisting that was the best one, so I left it alone. I had faith that it was enough.
Then this memoir arrived. One concerned with my current undertakings of the running and the writing. Plus I love memoir. I love to hear a person lay out their own version of a life lived. Knowing someone believes their story is worth telling at all. It's really just incredible that a person could do it. I find the act alone to be formidable.
But this? Well. I don't know. I found parts of it interesting. I liked the overarching idea of the writing. I respected the sharing of it. But I didn't love it. I wanted to. It's clear to me the author is not comfortable talking about himself and his accomplishments. It's clear to me that there is something lost in translation, which itself, is always an elegy to me. The ways in which something is necessarily lost in not just a different language, but across a cultural chasm. Even in the his masterpiece I wondered, what am I missing here as I read? What thing, as an American do I not get, as we are not schooled in the text of the subtle.
But again, all of this respected, I thought the book was boring. There, I said it. And I felt kind of jealous the whole time. The guy runs and writes all day. miles and miles of both. And even though he never, EVER sounds like he's bragging, it's just over and over the telling of the same things with not as much viscera as I prefer. One time he even runs over sixty miles. It costs him something for sure, but dang.
I just wondered what y'all thought.
And I think it's his discomfort with the personal revelation that stilts the story. One thing I learned by doing this is that I always suppose I am writing to someone whether I am or not. This is not intentional for me, but it actually is a kind of crux of the work. There is always, for me, the gesture of offering when I sit at the keyboard. I understand that just because there is an offering, it doesn't mean a person has to accept. Rejection is much more common a lesson than acceptance. I have a nice letter from the MacDowell Colony to show for that. I guess it turns out that my belief is in the people of the planet. That it is better to try and say hello than to not. And so perhaps my writing is an effort to go ahead and believe that my hello to strangers is worth something. That each story has inherent value, if even only one human can receive it. Also, I am willing to be wrong about this. It could be an entirely narcissistic undertaking that millions of people feel compelled to participate in. But I doubt it.
In other news: My friend Gus Seinberg, the gay, Jewish dog, is going for surgery today. He is so cute, wondering why I keep not giving him any food. Who can blame him? My sugar-free evilness feels a little more at bay this morning, and I feel safer going into the land of the public. Or rather, I feel the public is safer. And I continue to feel that Mama Sox should take American Idol this season.
PS... Please add to my book suggestion list. Thank You.
PS... Please add to my book suggestion list. Thank You.
I have given up the sugar and my attitude is one of the shite variety. I will spare you my company until further notice. In the mean time, perhaps a nice book group?
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. By Haruki Murakami
Love (with consistent vague, punctuated by acute, irritability),
My alarm went off this morning at 5. I have to be someplace at 10. I thought I could get up at five, be on the road by 5:30 or 6, and be back home and showered by nine. That leaves time for traffic, the train at the end of the run, and general morning lagging. But it's Saturday and I have the day off. So I went back to sleep and got up at seven. There are dishes in the sink, a limping dog who will have surgery on Wednesday, a slide show to work on for the Sister Spit Tour, taxes to do, and my feet hurt. I think I can do my long run tomorrow. Take today off since I usually have Sunday off but this week I have to go to work anyhow so that's already in the shitter. But I also have stuff to do. Will I really do the run tomorrow? I don't know.
It's usually best for me to do the run before I'm really awake. Before the sun is even awake. Then I don't have the rest of the day to try and get myself out of it. It's just done. And it makes me feel good to know while I stock shelves or make orders at work, I already ran five or six miles. I'm awake and bright, ready to rumble. But some days I just want to be a normal person with no strange goals. I want to sleep in and putz around in fuzzy slippers. I want to lay on the floor with the sad looking dog, whispering narratives to him about chew toys and knee recovery. I want to deliver steaming stovetop espresso to Ginger, still sleeping and unfettered by a bizarre mid-life longing to run a distance that would get her from here to Menlo Park. She would surely just take the truck. I thought I could do some dishes, have the kitchen sparkle and get the laundry folded. Maybe listen to some music.
Instead I am ripe with anxiety about not being out there now, not even having a plan to be out there today (although there is a slight chance I could do it still). I don't want to be a go-getter today. I want to be a lounger. A recliner. A chillaxer.
But somewhere in the back of my head, the melody of doubt sings on. And below my ribs a nervousness scratches like a DJ, a constant rhythm wondering if today is the day that could ruin everything. The day that begins the giving up process. Do we even know which day it is? The day the break-up starts? People don't remember the fourth kiss. And they don't remember the Stray Saturday run they didn't feel like doing. No matter how good the coffee is. And at my house, not to brag, the coffee is always outstanding.
Nonetheless, I do plan on dancing my ass off this afternoon for a few hours, and that, I feel exceptional about.
Yesterday I felt so strong. My pace dropped from 12 minutes to 11:12 on a five mile run . My feet didn't hurt, my stride felt even and proud. Even my gut felt taut. Then I get up this morning before the sun and I drag it out there and it's a whole new day. The entire route is constant bargaining in my mind. The counting meditation goes off course like a drunken has-been in a motel lounge, and I'm not sure until I get my watch to hit an hour that I'll make it through the route at all. But I do. And even the time is faster than usual. Still, I felt bad for most of it. And here's the thing I learn when I run: just because it feels labored, doesn't mean it ain't good for me. Just like the book. Just like direct communication. Just like following a budget. I don't do it because it's a good time. I do it for a million reasons, and that's not one of them. It has to be the experience itself, because when I return home, I literally have nothing to show for it.
Of course it takes forever to get used to this thing I am doing. Not only does it go against everything I have taught my body since college, but I get out there and I got none of the things that get me through. No camera. No pen. No keyboard. Sometimes I wish I had a court reporter for my brain with that machine they have there, and a ticker tape running out of it recalling the proceedings. Then I would know what happened, be able to slide the paper through my fingers and click back on all those thoughts and ideas. All the images my camera wasn't there to get. All the times I chose to keep going when I could have chosen not to. I would have proof. Proof that I persevere and exactly what that looks like. Maybe then I'd have some kind of true story about the running. A document that proved anything at all. The thing that ran through my head today a bunch was nothing to show for it, nothing to prove. There is no book to hand to somebody, a smooth matte cover with my name on it. No stack of photographs, color corrected and glamorously lit. No trophy. No nothing. It's the hardest thing I've ever done that I can't show anybody. For all you know, I mist myself down with salt water and pose in bandanas for fun. It is April Fool's Day after all.
But I posit here to you that fools get a bad rap. That we should all take a note from the wise Fool, that the Fool always survived the wrath of a wicked king. So no matter how silly a thing feels, like running after 25 years, being foolish keeps you alive.
Happy April 1st.