On September 12, 2001, I sat in at a kitchen table in Somerville, MA in a shitty apartment with an array of simple tools at my disposal. Gus was curled on the floor around me, as always knowing something was wrong. He stays close to me, calm, and utterly quiet whenever I feel sad. The dog knows everything about the way I feel. Either that, or he is a perfect creature to project such comfort upon, but either way, he has always been one of the great comforts of my life, big perfect brown eyes lined dark and kind. And on that day, the day a whole nation needed a Gus, he lay still, right there by me and my tools, perfectly ready for any move I made.
My moves, as it turns out, were slight. I held the tips of two stainless steel sewing needles into the flame of a disposable lighter until they seemed cleansed. Then I unwound a length of 100% cotton thread from a spool and found it a new home on the ends of the needles, entwining the two together and leaving a wad of cotton by the bottom with just the pointy heads sticking out. The rest wound up around the shafts of the needles for me to grip. I dunked the contraption into a capful of india ink and poked a small heart into my left thumb. The whole time I cried, still reeling from the way those people jumped from the falling building. It wasn't even the image of the planes that haunted me, it was everything after that. I suppose if I was somebody else, it would have been everything that came before. The heart was a reminder to me. Try to always just start from there, right on my hand with a line to my heart, left side awkward but for that. I figured if I could remind myself to start from there, I could have a little bit of practice in thwarting my own personal war on the "other", whomever that might be. I also decided that day to begin a commitment to a practice that, when I engage it, serves me well. I say hello to everyone, especially strangers in the world with whom I make eye contact.
I had this idea that if everybody began saying that to each other, simply acknowledging the humanity of the person on the sidewalk or at the corner store or passing slowly on a tractor on a stretch of country road, late fall sunlight turning the world a little bit rusty, maybe then we could begin to see our own humanity, our own mistakes and dread and demons. Maybe we could all just say hello, relieve ourselves of the petty assumptions we are bound to make, the silent ways we pick teams, a mean gym class of people leaving the unskilled as a worthless afterthought, or worse, a punishment.
I don't manage it all the time, but I still believe in it, the simplicity of the two syllables. It actually works the best when I don't feel like it, and I do it anyhow. And on my runs, I try hardest, especially when I am hating the run. I say hello to all the runners that trot toward me, try to manage the whole word, although sometimes I just get a nod. Some people just look down, don't let you say a thing. Others look imposing in their focus, then you say hi and their face explodes into a greeting, Mornin'!
Yes it is.
My run, as the hellos multiply, always manages to weed out discomfort. Or change the focus from discomfort to something else. I begin to focus on strange social things, how we all share this city, a diminutive town in an agreement with fault lines and earthquakes, keeping it's skyline low and elegant. I think about how strange it is to not know your neighbors, be crammed on trains sharing scent and space and still pretend there is no intimacy happening. But running, I say the hellos or flash pained grins and the people, they smile back, say
I'm doing this thing too.
I live here too.
You can do it.
We are the same.
These people and their willingness to be with me for a passing stride remind me that as much as stopping seems like it would be a relief, not stopping has its charms as well. Not quitting is a practice as much as quitting. It is not a Herculean effort, it is a moment at a time, just one choice to keep the stride. Then later I may have to make the choice again , perhaps as soon as three strides, but I don't have to make a choice to get over all the hurdles at once.
There is something so amazing about saying hello to someone who doesn't answer. Looks away. Avoids me and my smile. Maybe my offer is ultimately self-serving, intrusive or rude. Maybe it's a way for me to congratulate myself on how evolved I am becoming, stretching my broad shoulder out of the socket to pat my liberal back in congratulations. Maybe I should just save my money up for a Prius and shut the fuck up. Maybe not everyone thinks I'm so great. And that has to be okay too. Because when the time comes that I'm the person that doesn't say hello, the day I close up and don't smile back, act like a shitty neighbor with an ugly fence, well, I have to live there as well.
I know Hello won't save us from ourselves. And since I gave myself that tattoo on my thumb, I had an accident at work last year with, ironically, a box knife that sliced the thing in half horizontally, leaving a thin scar separating the puffy humped top of the thing from the pointy bottom. I look at it some days and I think, it's true that Hello won't save the world, but maybe it can be a salve for some scar tissue.
The lack of text this week owes itself to a terrible thing, although it could have been a more terrible thing. I had a loved one in the hospital with a mysterious creeping crud that stressed me the hell out. The week involved much train riding to and fro, a swath of real estate in my mind occupied with tripping out and panic, and a dearth of running. The run I went on one day was so craptastic, I only made it 1.7 miles and without a "choice" even registering in my head, my legs just stopped. I found myself on Jefferson in the thick of Fisherman's Wharf, enmeshed in throngs of tourists verging on tears for my utter lack of control over almost everything in the universe. Not that I really want to Run the Big Show. Mostly.
I'm happy to report that my loved one was sent home and is well on the way to thriving. I have tossed all the science fiction nightmares away and am back on track with the trek. My last long run lasted for two hours, which I felt pretty good about considering it followed closely on the heels of the 1.7 mile debacle. The long run was strangely satisfying as I felt like my mind stayed gentle. It was so exhausted from its stress, from dreaming up tragic fictions and holding itself in a fist for so many days. Did I mention I also got in a fight with a cab driver who took me to the wrong hospital? I did. As he insisted the mistake was my fault, my blood pressure climbed. At one point I said Like I told you when I got in the cab, I'm on my way to the hospital, so through my destination, you can imagine I'm already having a Very Bad Day. So just stop talking. Be quiet altogether. I rode in silence with the guy while I fumed. I don't often tell my elders to shut the fuck up, essentially. But in this case, I felt ok about it. Anyhoots, back to the run.
I was so worn out, a jogging nub of a girl, endorphins opening up my timid closed terrified heart. Each mile brought me closer to my real fears and feelings, trotting slowly along the water, passing by fellow runners moving gracefully through San Francisco at blistering speeds. Some even in those weird finger running shoes. Me? I kept my pace slow, even for myself. I just focused on my heart unfolding, spring petals after rain, a gingerly look up to the world around me.
It was one of those days where everything seemed like it was made by Hercules. I perceived things in historical contexts, and each time I scanned the pain through my hips and feet, leveling my honest review of it to check whether I should continue toward the day's goal of two hours, I looked around. I let my eyes trace the outlines of buildings thinking, God, someone invented the crane. People figured out how to carve details and hoist beauty into a city skyline of stone moldings. I thought about the resilience of will, the goddamn Wright Brothers. They were so in love with an impossible idea. It had to be impossible, right? But they didn't just brush off naysayers, they brushed off the laws of Physics. Can you imagine the balls or the insanity it takes to say,
Gravity? Eh fuck it. Fuck Gravity. We're going to fly.
I thought about them and I laughed right out loud.
I officially have a blistering case of FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. I have to say no to everything. No going to see your band play. No going to the Wednesday night dance party. No movies later than a seven o'clock, which is actually pushing it. On week days I get up at five every morning, either to get to work by six or to get a run in before work by eight or nine. Saturdays are the long days, reaching past three hours and therefor requiring Friday nights to be limited as well, sleeping takings its slot as the high priority for the night. Saturday nights I could go out, but if I ran for over three hours that day like a good soldier, the chances of my feeling inspired toward that are limited. I have two more months of this "athletic" schedule, during which I also need to pack up my house to move, try and finish the rough draft of the book, and also make sure I actually keep some of my pals.
God, who woke up on the whiny side of the bed?
Somebody better call the whambulance.
Tonight, however, I will be heading out for the RADAR Spectacle. It's the event of the literary season! Michelle is throwing a fantastic show to raise money for the writer's lab. Same thing the run is raising money for. The outfits are incredible. But I think I might wear the sausage outfit, stopping only to ponder which color bandana will work best.
Meanwhile, today's run will feature, hopefully, the Embarcadero, the Wharf, the Bridge, the Park, the Haight, and finally, the collapse. I'm going to attempt to push past the halfway mark into the 14 mile category, obliterating any notions I had of sanity previously. Part of the reason I see this as a distinct possibility is the amazing blessing in my life of health care. I don't think I told y'all that a couple weeks ago I returned to Dr. Sanders' office and have since been wearing my new running shoes. Well, despite their appearance, the pain in my feet has been reduced to almost nothing. It's amazing. She told me the piece of shit Nikes I had bought on sale were almost solely responsible for my pedal misery. I am not supposed to Just Do It with the swoosh.
In other news: Happy Birthday Harvey Milk! I imagine you often, out there somewhere, a supremely gay, brave, generous spirit continually holding the flame of dissent, the spark of uprising, and most of all, the love of each other. Thank You so much.
I can't believe I forgot to tell you this. No, I can believe it. I was in family mode which means all talk of things vulgar having to do with childish elimination events take precendent over everything. Including my book. But during that adventurous run in Albany, New York, the fine capitol of the Empire State, home state of our Hero Pandora and her cadre of companions, in a sweeping gust of fate, the end of my book settled upon me. I actually now know what I am writing towards. It's an amazing feeling.
All this time I have been chugging along in fits and starts, wondering if the book would ever find a plot at all. Hucking out that 75 pages and starting over, that felt incredible. The fear about it was outweighed only by the knowledge that it was the only way I could make the book survive. And now, finally, an ending. A place for Pandora to arrive. Exhausted, eternal, Pandora.
Dear Weird Running Habit I Have Developed in Middle Age,
Thanks for the salty upper lip, the aching hips, the countless hours of deeply interesting solitude, the sightseeing tour of a beautiful city, the sunrises, the courage, the pain, the peace, and all the writing inspiration. Who knew you'd end up being such a loyal mutherfucker?
Yesterday I mapped out my course in a foreign land. Albany, New York. I'm here visiting my folks. This means I spend my days grazing lazily on whatever is in the refrigerator and chatting about odd popular culture facts from 1983. Things like Family Ties come up or constant quoting of John Hughes films ricochet around the kitchen, tried and true family bonding around the television we all watched together. Sometimes we even discuss the good old days of the Steelers, before free agency and expansion morphed the league forever. I digress. Here we speak of running.
Well, after boarding the redeye in San Francisco on Friday night, and after a nine hour day at work, I dozed on two flights, even though I treated myself to a soy latte in Detroit at Starbucks, the Green Beacon. I never go to that place unless I'm traveling during which the ubiquitous logo transforms itself from an eye roll to a ray of hope for me, a green beacon along lonely stretches of highway and beckoning on long moving walkways in terminals. Nonetheless, I fell right the hell back to sleep as soon as the wheels left the ground in Detroit. I figured after so much success with unconsciousness in flight, I would arrive at the homestead, do some power joshing with the folks and then have a small nap. I would awake refreshed and don my sausage attire in time for a long run and then a shower before dinner.
Of course, my subconscious understanding that I was on vacation took over and my power nap stretched its arms into a four hour stint and left me barely enough time to hose down before dinner. My brother and I plowed through a small mountain of sushi and no running was had. Sigh. So I forced myself to turn in at nine, which is only 6pm California time, thinking I might be in a little trouble what with all the sleeping I had already done. But the great beyond has gifted me with a few Very Important Skills, and sleeping through anything is one of them. I put in another eight hours on the pillow, not to brag, and hauled it out at 5:30 am, on to my normal schedule and ready to rock.
I mapped out a ten mile-ish route and hit the road. Something about running a route I've never run before is more psychologically draining than the training I have been doing at home around the marathon course. I have no landmarks to picture, no visual cues to provide comfort. I simply have the meditations and pace-counting tricks with me. And also, I have no bathrooms memorized. Now, did I mention my Dad made me a cup of coffee before I set out? Well, he did. This was so nice. Also it was strong.
Do you feel a sense of impending doom?
Off we go then.
The weather here is gorgeous. The clouds are of the cotton candy variety, huge puffy hunks peppering a clear aquamarine ocean of space above. The trees are springtime lush after rains and flowers are screaming all over the pace like unruly children. Lilacs, roses, lilies... the air is alive with amazing scents and landscaped yards show off at every street corner. I particularly love looking at the brick houses, as earthquake land doesn't showcase a whole lot of the architecture I grew up with. Something about being here, even though this has never been my hometown, provides a kind of joy, I guess is the feeling. Is it joy? It's a quiet thing, but bright. Whatever it is.
Meanwhile, I have no idea about anything on my route like I do at home. I've been doggedly staking out the marathon course and while doing so have made strides in memorizing friendly bathroom stops, drinking fountains, and combination locks for various Green Beacon loos throughout the city. Not here. All I know is that after 4.5 miles, I will come upon a hospital on my left, Albany Medical Center. It has become clear that this will be imperative to my well being. Imperative.
Hark!!! Yonder lies the clinic of angels and indoor plumbing! Somehow in this economy, the hospital has secured funding and is under a great deal of construction. So much, in fact, it takes me a little while to find the side entrance to the emergency wing. Once I am through the door I am met with not the hullabaloo of an emergency unit, but silence. Because I am not in a position to care, I wander off in search of a women's room which is, but by the grace of the goddess, right in front of me! And by a cruel twist of fate, it's locked. I try to turn it a few more times out of a dull sense of denial and of course the onset of panic does nothing to help my state. When I turn to exit the ghostly expanse into the morning in order to seek out more promising and populated fare, the door through which I came has now closed in a way matching that of the bathroom. I begin to hum Hotel California just to retain a link to my sense of the absurd while simultaneously wondering if all the sweat in my soaked bandana is simply the sweat of a slowly jogging middle aged lesbian, or if now it includes the universal sweat of elimination desperation. And ultimately, who cares?
So I focus my energy on solving my problem. A little further along the deserted wing, I stumble upon an elevator instructing me to follow it to the third floor where I will be able to to connect to the "A" wing of the hospital. The doors slide open into yet another deserted section of offices, the entryway bearing a plaque from roughly 1942. "Anesthesiology". It occurs to me that maybe some of the interns have been dipping their pens in the company ink and perhaps everyone is sleeping. Regardless, I find the bathroom, it's open, it's so deeply empty and peaceful that my experience is truly all that it can be. Triumph!!!
And now I cannot find my way out.
I wander around and around seeking the infamous "A" wing the sign spoke of, a girl in a soaked pink bandana, head to tow black spandex, red-faced and disheveled. Eventually I spy an obscure ramp down into a dark place with a tiny sign for the "A"wing. Poor advertising to no one, from a wing of nowhere. I emerge into a bustle of a massive laboratory. Huge. Every color scrubs and a legion of masks parading around in a hurry measuring blood and pathology samples and what not. No one seems to notice me at all, which in Albany is a minor miracle. The grocery store is an exercise in zoology for me in which I am gaped at like a rare marmoset, kind of friendly and cute, but curious and belonging in a cage. Arms covered in tattoos, even the palm of my hand, the folks here aren't quite used to the ink volume, while in San Francisco, I look like a Gap ad, but pudgier. Here at Albany Med, the patients should know: you are getting your money's worth. The people backstage are hard at work, crunching numbers from glass slide results and spinning bodily fluids. You are in good hands.
Finally I stop a woman in her tracks and ask how to get out. She is sporting a pink flowered shirt and solid blue pants pulling the highlights out of the flower pattern. She stop to focus on me, a stranger in a strange land and her face goes sideways. The way Gus knocks his neck to the side when I propose something he doesn't understand. Aha. She's got me registered.
And finally, I am sent out the front of the building, another labyrinth journey through hallways and past single minded medical professionals working long hours in a poorly lit structure. I emerge into the sun, a sad lady sitting on the grass crying into a cell phone. She tries to smile at me in my weird look. I smile back and begin the run home, retracing steps now a little more familiar. It's nice to have everything work out.
And a second cautionary bathroom tale of the running woman.
Maybe I should cut out the coffee in the morning?
Along the path of my process here, I have been blessed by the offers of help from so many great human beings. One of the things people often offer is to run with me. I see people running together all the time. It looks like they love it. They just jog and chat and sweat and bond. And considering the folks who have offered, I would have an amazing collection of conversations to add to my list of awesome things running has provided for me.
But it turns out that at the top of that list is the opportunity for solitude. Who knew? I don't listen to music, I don't bring a phone, I don't pace by friends. It's an amazing feeling to set the world down and choose to be alone. I'm a social creature. Very social. I love people. I love the reality of them, the idea of them, their stories, their cadence and their faces. I love the puzzle of humanity and the courage. I love our failures and our inextricable need for each other. So for me, choosing the alone thing is an anomaly. But I have never really questioned that it's exactly part of the point. I ran with Beth and Chelsea once in my first 5k. Then I ran about 2 miles with Judith one time. And back to alone I ran.
It's funny how the pace of the world works on me. It wears me down, slowly, a little tooth, and I don't notice it until it hits nerves. The running holds the nerve collision off. My brain does all kinds of weird gymnastics and I get to both do the flips, and watch them. I stretch it out, like a hamstring, stiff and resistant until the heat kicks in. Everything in my mind loosens up and eventually it touches its own toes. I get to witness my tendency toward self-defeat and slowly work out an antidote. Then when I'm done running, I can take the antidote back to the world with me and use it in other situations. Most notably, writing. After a day of crappy prose, I don't have to name it crap. I can just accept that some writing is alive to be edited, not to appear on the page, but to lead me to the next crop of words that works. Like growing ground cover to work into the soil. It makes the soil better even though the vegetation itself is not food.
The aloneness also lets me actually arrive in my body. As a pudgy American woman, the world has told me for years my body is not a thing to be lived in, but a thing to ridicule and change. Being a card carrying, flag waving, out and proud feminist, I have struggled for years trying to accept that I am just fine the way I am. Albeit I've tried this from a very sedentary lifestyle, which isn't a particularly healthy way to appreciate a feminist body. That said, I think the running is making me a human who gets to live here, at home in the body. I mean, I can't believe it can do this shit. I carry around 168 pounds for about 3 hours. And the thing just keeps going. Hips, thighs, broad shoulders, all of it. I think I wouldn't really get to come to a place of friendship with this if I was distracted by companionship. Plus I get so happy when I see other zaftig women out there walking and running. We are so badass. This is what a feminist looks like, alright. Sausage outfits for everyone, I say.
And one more remarkable thing about being out there alone is this feeling of being accountable to myself first and foremost. There's no one else. No one knows where I am, really. They can't reach me. Any emergency will have to wait. It's just me. My thoughts. Some strange way to get to know myself each day. And know that I can do things I never thought I could do. Or that it never even occurred to me I would want to do.
People, make no mistake... I still don't actually like the running. But I am loving all the side effects. I never feel lonely out there. Just alone.
Part of the reason I ignored everyone who told me to start with a different marathon than San Francisco, (which leads me to believe some folks are laboring under the delusion that I may attempt this distance more than once) was that I had a rich fantasy about running over the Golden Gate Bridge. I imagined it over and over, warm and sunny, an easy breeze. It would be so beautiful, so absolutely serene up there. I imagined just me and a pile of endorphins chugging along in the early morning July sun, angling perfectly for a survey of my gorgeous city, smiling.
The first time I made it over was the day of the half marathon. If you recall, a big storm hit us that morning and I couldn't see much of anything. I saw the hail cutting across the sky at a sharp angle, carried in high winds into my face. I saw the diesel trucks speeding by me leaving clouds of fuel in their wakes. I saw the girders of the bridge, massive orange twists by the railings. But the weather was so bad, I had to focus entirely on my task, thereby rendering my virgin journey a relatively moot point. Which mimics other virgin experiences I've had. Not to brag.
Saturday was more like I imagined. The wind was tough, but manageable, especially with an utter lack of hail or rain and the sun shining all over the city. I couldn't believe it up there. Heading over to Marin, my brain began to register the the absolute majesty of the thing, an orange amazon beckoning to the world.
I kept thinking about this article I read about jumpers. This was back when I had a subscription to the New Yorker. I had to cancel it because it made me feel like such a slacker. It's just impossible for me to keep up with all that brain power each and every week. It felt like graduate school. But this article stayed with me, held on like a cat with it's pretty little curling claws. Not only is the Golden Gate Bridge possibly the most photographed bridge is the world, it is also the most popular place to commit suicide. In the whole wide world. And that's even with the statistics missing some folks.
I have to say, while I was up there, it seemed a little bit seductive. I had a sense of wanting something from that place, and I could see, extrapolated to its end, along with the perfect storm of despondence, isolation, or whatever group of feelings accompanies a jumper, that this place would call to a person. There might be a longing to merge with such a moment of beauty. The imagination could map out a fictional four second flight, idealize the unknown experience of the water seventy five feet down there, which from the deck doesn't actually look all that deadly. You could face the city or you could face the gate of the world, the fat Pacific with its cold massive water. I don't mean to sound morbid, but it's so gorgeous up there, it's like they built the thing just to hop from it. It seems easy. The railing isn't high, there's no barrier at all.
I remember on September 11th, I was in Boston at graduate school when I heard about how all those planes had taken off from this town I was doing time in, never a home, but a metropolitan hotel for me, really, and they had made their way to DC and New York. I didn't know anyone in DC but I knew a crapload of folks in New York. Like everyone else in America, and everyplace, I got on the phone to try and get ahold of them. I got through to my friend Eileen. She was sitting on the roof with her neighbors watching the towers. The tower, actually, by that point. They were drinking coffee, because nothing, NOTHING, interrupts the need for coffee, and watching the burning sky in the distance, watching the world change while we watched it on television. She took me down with her to get more coffee and when she came up, the tower was gone. That's how I remember that day. I don't know if that's how it happened, but I do know the elements are true: There was a roof, Eileen, height, and then a fall. With a side of coffee. A poet in my ear, I watched a screen while the western world understood just the tiniest bit about Beirut and Kabul. About the fall of Rome, about the details in a massive act of destruction and rage. About a landscape's mortality. About everyone's. Later, in an interview, Eileen would talk about the towers and watching them being built in 1970. About how everyone walked under them. "Of course we saw them falling," she said. "We all saw them falling. They were built to fall."
Is that the thing about majesty? If we can't have it, we try to merge with it? If we can't merge with it, we kill it? Is that the story of assassinations and war and empire? There is a rise, and there is a fall. Tony Soprano sang that song. Top of his lungs, the guy sang it. And on that bridge Saturday morning I could hear the chorus. Not the destruction of the beauty part, but first the urge to be it. The Kurt Cobain thing, to want to be a part of the hugest thing. That was the bridge for me. A tug below my ribs, the expanse of it there live and on foot almost excruciating, the crux of where pleasure and pain merge. The Icarus moment where flight becomes a fall.
I felt so grateful to have it, though, to have that bridge in my hometown, open to feast my eyes on, my legs, my real live fingers on orange steel, everything alive. I felt insanely alive up there when I heard it. A tiny sound at first, confusing. It sounded like a horn, but like a horn escaped from Romper Room. Not big enough for a car. And it wasn't. It was one of those little things like a ticket person's cart, or a golfer's. And it goes back and forth on the deck of the bridge with a uniformed person in it. A patrol of the deck. Looking for the jumpers. Trying to hold back their urge to merge.
May all who walk that beautiful bridge find the way to stay put on the deck and feast on the sight. May they have peace. And may they have kindness.
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Love, and more love,
I feel like I'm well on my way back to making this thing work. I didn't know a big push like for the half marathon would take so much out of me, take so long to recover from. Each time I made an attempt to truck through it, I felt so awkward, cement shoes, as it were. There was no peace in the pacing, no rhythm of progress to find solace in. I imagine it felt the way people must react when listening to me sing: a hunt for a joy that will not be made available. The effort is there, the love of the attempt, but ultimately, the result is a hampered little train wreck of a thing, every tenth stride perhaps accurate by chance.
Saturday kicked the ass of these feelings and I was lucky enough to bid a fine welcome back to a relaxed run that made sense. The pacing was slow and easy, twelve minute miles to the second. Five miles worth. A jog through town to the bay, weaving through clots of Giants fans, all of us holding on to a snapshot of imagined victory. By the time I turned the corner to greet the Bay Bridge, the run's goal was assured. I only had one mile to go, roughly, and my pace was on point. That last mile was the antithesis of mile 13 of the race. For everything I feared, I regained acceptance. For everything I labored over, I glided through, and for everything I erected a wall about, I hacked those bricks apart. Saturday brought me the feeling of that moment where I really believed that no matter what happens on July 25th, it'll be okay. Maybe I won't be able to finish, and maybe I will, but the whole reason I started this thing was to try and do a thing I didn't believe I could do. To try it. And in this process, I have had long stretches of believing I can. It's a crazy feeling to believe in oneself. And when that feeling goes, the loss is crushing, but to have it return is so much bigger than the loss ever was.
And so I am working my way back to that moment I suppose. Or maybe I'm not. Hell, what do I know? But I am back in the saddle of meeting the challenge to learn to believe I can make the effort. I think part of that thing is showing up to be willing to fail on a fantastic scale. Nice people have told me all along that I have already succeeded, and some days that feels true. Other days I am still silently berating the clock that flashed 2:51:58 on April 11th. Some days when I tell people I ran a half marathon, my entire body feels like it is telling a lie. Because the feat is so singular, I have no practice believing I could do such a thing next to the years of practice I have of keeping time on a couch. But I did. I ran 13.1 miles.
On an incredibly difficult route.
In a monsoon.
With my period.
And when I finished, I could see no way at all to how I would make it for twice that distance.
And that's the whole thing about this undertaking. I could never see a way to how I would make that distance. The mind is a hilarious little playground. Always tricking me with its stubborn ego into believe I know anything at all. There is a distinct difference between having faith, and believing I know what will happen. Faith seems more like believing whatever happens, which I have no idea about or control over for the most part, is what is supposed to happen. The experience of thinking I can tell the future about anything, is a bit of giving over the magic of life to the routine. If I can remain in the place where I know I'm not in charge of everything, where I am not the best, where I am not the captain of the ship, maybe I have a chance to really take in the view.
So, while my runs have made their way back to a kind of comfort, I harbor major doubts about whether I can make it through a full marathon. At my pace, it will take me about 6 hours. That would give me time to watch one of my favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, three times in a row, with plenty of space to get up and make snacks. But for today, I feel happy to make the attempt.
Dear Keyser Söze,
Today is my long run day. I have my route planned out and I am going to finish the work of it regardless of if I run, walk, or crawl. I am deep in the thick of inertia and resistance. While recovering from the half-marathon, I developed a formidable sense of fear or some other type of weird psychological block. The last time I ran, I wanted to stop after a half mile and forced myself to do sprints in an empty Blockbuster video parking lot just to get sweaty. Today, and all week, I'm afraid I can't do it. I'm afraid I'll get hurt. I'm afraid to look people in the face who have been so excited for me and so supportive and tell them it just didn't work out for me. But I want to push through this piece and get to work. I think today feels like a turning point.
I mean really,
Tick Tock, Girl.
I'm not telling you this because I feel like I'm in a dire situation or it's really super important in the scheme of life. I do however want to just lay down where I'm at in the name of being true to this process. I think it speaks to all the folks who, like me, are prone to easily get to the place of I can't do that. Because maybe I really can't, but the more probable story is if I can't do it today, I can do it at some point. I just don't know if I can do it by July 25th. Looking back now, it turns out I did set myself up for a fantastically intense challenge here.
C'est la vie.
I guess we'll see what happens in 85 little days.
That makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up
And my stomach flop over.
Nonetheless, the sausage outfit will take it's tour down 16th street today, climb what will be the last hill of July's marathon and head to the water around the ballpark where the Giants will hopefully take to the diamond and bring it on home today. I will do what I can do.
And in the interest of laying it all down, my book is in the same place as my road work. After a great tear across 25 pages of new text, I hit a wall. The sensations of approaching the page are virtually identical to those of approaching the street. The same fear, the same overwhelmed vantage point, and the same emotional vertigo gazing down the horizon at all that could go wrong. I think in some circles this is referred to as "future tripping". The advice of professionals or other folks who have been here would be to take the short view for a moment. Inhale the moment into your lungs and remain in the experience as it happens. A girl could then appreciate her health, her friends, her peculiar drive to tell a story and be filled with emotions surrounding what actually is, rather than all that may or may not come to pass. Instead of living within the experience of the always impending, wasting life on emotionally experiencing a fiction of maybe, I could simply look at the city I run through, tell the story of the moment in the text, let the marathon work itself out later, the novel unfold at its own pace, and I could just slowly return to now.
At least that's what I hear.
Hang in there with me.