As Is - Yes Alexander
Good Morning, Uterus!
I can't tell you how happy I am to see your sloughing today. All week I've been dreading the inconsistency of the red wave, knowing my hormones have been gathering in diabolical meetings, plotting an overthrow of my Sunday marathon. I believe I have a tiny bit of PTSD from the half marathon where y'all decided to commence a week before your "scheduled" arrival. Setting out in the rain that day, trudging all those hills amid a blanket of fog with cramps to top it off? No fun. So there's one fear off my back.
Yesterday was my last long training run before the race. It was slow going, although, turns out it was the day before I got my period so that makes sense. The good thing about it was that every hurdle from this entire process showed up, and I kept going.
"I can't" brain.
Too many layers.
(I KNOW. Running hecklers. Assholes.)
It's funny how 8 1/2 miles became a short run in my mind. Oh I only have to run 8 1/2 miles today, says the weird delusional woman, as though she is walking to the post office. I forgot that 8 1/2 miles is a long fucking way to run. 26.2 miles is an INSANE amount to run. I have gotten lost in a bizarre perspective here. Only Eight Miles. That's not even useful in real life. But here, here in One Week Until The Race Land, that's exactly what's going on. I finish my run and think, Next week I'll still have almost 18 more of those to go. Actually at first I think 15 because I am so tired, I can't do remedial math. I am then treated to an Izee's Grapefruit soda by my friend Jenny Tender who has met me at the Ferry Building. She goes to give me a hug and is immediately grossed out by the soaking wet shirt. Who can blame her? I'm gross.
Anyhow, back to the run. Let's call it Promenade with Demons. The length of the course was mentally and emotionally like a medley of hit songs, a mash-up of flashbacks or a montage. But instead of seeing things or hearing them like in songs, I felt them. The realm of the physical began with the heel as it always does. I focus on how my left heel is never going to make it. How the thing is just a surface of green and purple bruised meat and every step is pound pound pound. I also notice by mile two that I have adjusted to the feeling and it's irritating, but totally bearable. I also know that mile 15 is a whole different story when the dogs bark louder, the hips begin to give out taking the brunt of the weak heel pressure. The lower back snarls its protest, and my mind, at the helm, attempts to assuage the pain of all parties, including itself. Mile 15. Still 11 after that. And then .2.
You can see how the anxiety enters. If I feel pain and doubt at mile 4, at mile 8, and begin a limp at 15, how do I rise above? How do I, a mere couch potato in a sausage outfit masquerading as an extreme person, continue to put the one foot in front of that other foot? Somehow yesterday's shorter version of this crisis brought me some hints. I hit reset on my brain a lot. I had to corral the thing into the present moment, do body scans to see how really, I was ok. Sludgy and uncomfortable, but ok. I had to pull back from all the mind's failure fantasies, my friends gathered at the sidelines as I walked by them, the sobbing sausage. I pictured Gus, and how in an open field, he runs away, free and happy tearing at full tilt to some invisible outer edge, then pulls his sleek muscled body around in a wide circle, herding me to him, and then off in the sun and the wind again. That's like my mind. It's just doing the thing it is born to do. It's thinking. It gallops away because it can, because that is the design of the spaghetti thing in there, it stretches and bends and projects. It's doing its job. Then I go get it and ask it, like Gus, Sit. Stay. Take in the sights. Count to 8. Then 16. Then 24. 32. 40. 48. Just get to 88 and then you can go away again. But the mind doesn't listen. It does it's thing, and at 64, I forget where I am and start over. I got nothin' but time, right?
Sometimes instead of counting numbers, I'll feel an urge to give up and instead I will catalog all the people who didn't. I start with Caster Semenya. Beautiful Caster Semenya. I work my way through a photo montage from my friend Rose Hill, a performance artist I met in school who fought cancer for a third of her life to Dr. King. I think about Michelle and those stacks of papers she totes to a cafe in her fabulous Jeremy Scott bag. The books don't write themselves. I see Harvey Milk and sometimes even those monks on fire in the streets of Beijing. I watch my brain conjure Dr. Hawking and Ashley from The Biggest Loser. She didn't quit. There's the drummer from Def Leppard who didn't quit, there's Helen Keller who didn't quit, there's Renee Richards, Muhammad Ali, Marina Abramović, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Ellen. If they didn't quit their whole lives, I can make it 8 more steps. 16. A mile. Four. Build it.
But it's been so difficult to get to a place of peace. I've been there so I know there's a path to it, but the closer I get to race day, the more elusive that calm feeling is. The place I need to find where any outcome is okay. Where there is actually NO outcome at all, there is only the moment in which I step, and then step again. There is only the street and my sneakers and the sun. There is the sweat and there is my breath. The bridge. The city. This is my life right now. It is more and more difficult to arrive there for me, and I pray that along the 6 hour or more route, at my pace, I will find it again and again, because for this to really work, that's the peace. I will not win. There is no winning. There is only trying.
Yesterday my friend who studies in the Zen tradition reminded me that my inexperience with this process is a great gift. Shunryu Suzuki says In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's, there are few. And so it must follow that in the beginner's run, there are many possibilities, and one of them must be joy. And so I remind myself, on 3rd street out on the long stretch of desolate pebbles, that my race will contain attending moments of joy along the course, with the pain I am assured. I will have what I have, and while I cannot know, imagining only the struggle is well, horseshit. And wanting the race to be without pain or struggle is just dumb. Here I am, I have brought myself to the brink of a freefall, and I have made enough mistakes on this journey to not make them twice, and so, I will either find new mistakes, which are nothing if not interesting, or I will not. But regardless, I have made up my mind to try. It would be helpful to bring that spirit not to the entire race, but just to each step.
I am making an attempt to be kind to myself in this week leading up to the marathon. Ginger is out of town on a family/photo adventure along the Gulf Coast, safely distanced from my PMS/neurosis combo meal. Good for her, I say. I can't wait to see her pictures. I digress. I am here at the house with my friend Gus and neither of us talk at all. It's quiet here. I make lists. I need to because I cannot retain anything in my head.
Get coffee thing for Sam.
Plan Birthday Party.
Write up Photo show opening.
Sweep and Mop.
Pillow for couch.
Drink more water.
1/2 and 1/2.
Plan solo trip to Kabuki.
Get marathon shirt.
It's too much to have it all swimming around loose, a bunch of thoughts like twirling hippies at a Dead show. I need these things more tailored, some in smart suits if I'm get get a goddamn thing done at all. Ginger gets the 1/2 and 1/2. I had to have a latte this morning with milk for Christ's sake. The clothes are in the basket waiting to be folded and Gus walks around them each time looking at me saying with his eyes, Come on, just fold the damn things. It'll only take like 5 minutes. I need to keep things normal and also have something to look forward to.
Which reminds me... I got my marathon shirt! That's right. I went ahead and got myself a sleeveless running shirt for the big day. It meets all my needs besides branding. It's the right material. It doesn't have a flimsy "bra" built in that really stops being helpful after 3 miles, it's just a shell. It's mostly mesh so it's kinda like wearing nothing, but I don't have to actually run in just a jog bra, from which my ego would surely crumble. And it was on sale. So other than being not of the Adidas family, it's perfect.
And so the days wind down.
At least my period will be over.