On Monday I set out for a shorter run, four miles down the road. I felt a little weird at the outset, but laced up, not being able to totally place the feeling, as frankly, I'm pretty new at trying to live in my body. After 6:21, the feeling morphed into what I would refer to as a headache. By 7:41, I had to stop running as the headache forced a twitch in my left eye, and had moved to my back teeth and jaw muscles, which were, in one short minute, now throbbing. My vision became slightly fuzzy, which might have been pleasant in a movie scene, but in a sausage outfit on Church Street, it seemed not the sensation a girl like myself could embrace. I made my way to a land of tea and had about three cups of peppermint. Magically, the headache disappeared in the arms of the mighty elixir, the throbbing eased up, and my vision sharpened to the point of a tac. I rested with friends for about 90 minutes and decided to run home. Within one mile, the sensations returned. My first experience with true and acute dehydration, it turns out. Not cute. In fact, queasy and kind of scary.
I find drinking water to be a chore. I loathe being pulled out of a focus to pee. I hate being in service to the needs of my body, my hormones, and now my muscle tissue. While coffee, the great dehydrator, spins an entire attending culture in its orbit, water has just become a way to kill Fiji and ruin our already beautiful, dying ocean with plastic. And in my personal world, it's a serious pain in the ass I feel resentful having to give a shit about. Course, it makes sense. The adult female body is about 55% water. Over half my solid body is a liquid. That's hard to wrap my head around, but since I am a person who pretty much blindly accepts scientific facts, let's just call it a fact for argument's sake here. I'm not a scientist. I'm a grocer. So at that kind of level, it makes sense I would have to really keep on top of the liquid intake to keep it real. And by real, I mean to keep from passing out while running.
So I am back to lugging around a mason jar full of water. I try to sweeten the deal by cutting slices of lemon into the thing, cucumber some days. I learned this from visiting rich lady spas on spy missions, stalking the lands of folks sporting what my pal Silas calls "the sheen of the well-off". Also a muddled clump of fresh mint leaf from the garden patch works wonders for a jar of water. I am also using this opportunity to regain a closeness to my Pandora character, lugging around her famous jar, as she says, like a useless barren uterus. I feel her pain. I resent the thing, even with its bobbing yellow and green jewels. This staying healthy gig is a drag some days. It isn't that I long for the days of stagnation and cigarettes exactly, but I am still consistently drawn to a look of a wan, skinny lady, her tattered jeans hanging perfectly off her angular hips, the faded AC/DC t-shirt showcasing an elegant collarbone and dangly earrings. And invariably, a cigarette in her imaginary hand, fingers topped with chipped nail polish. Alas, my cliched fantasy of self-destruction does not truly suit me, and so on my runs, fortified with my completely boring intake of stupid water, I try to rearrange my fantasy life to include a wider version of jeans and t-shirts. And by the way, if anyone is getting rid of any aging rocker shirts, I'm open to salvage.
And frankly, it's not like I think of myself as an athlete who actually needs to regard their body as their main instrument. I see why an athlete would need such specialized tools as hydration and long stretching sessions of tired quads. See, look at these definitions:
a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
[spawrt, spohrt] –noun
an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis,golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.
a particular form of this, esp. in the out of doors.
With the first, I am clearly not engaging in a contest. Just an ancient Greek measurement of 26.2 miles, to match the Greek roots of my novel. Also note, for the sake of argument, that my undertaking has nothing to do with game or even skill particularly. I am not trying to research a better stride, work on my breathing, whittle my time down, or win anything. And as for a sport, while the "race" will play out with 25,00 other people, I have no intention of competing.
The undertaking here is more akin to durational performance art, I believe. It is a plea to my mind to endure, to live in synch with my body, to familiarize itself with its own home, formerly living together separately, like a couple who has grown apart and evolved into living in separate rooms of the same house, finding divorce impossible, yet marriage a profound misery. My mind is through with that bullshit. And so is my body. So my thing is that I simply keep going. It's the only rule. I set a goal and try to reach it. Then I think about the nature of what I learn, what I witness, what I see, and what each step informs.
I am looking forward to how the work of the road informs the work of the page this week. My writing session begins Saturday. Five days of scheduled writing hours for nothing but the book. The work will kick off Saturday after I attempt my longest run yet: 15 miles. And as Mary Schmich, although an urban legend attributes it to Kurt Vonnegut, once warned in a brilliant piece: I won't forget the sunscreen.